Nate Wagner from Acts 29 Portico Arlington writes a blog post on anger that deserves some analysis. Portico Arlington works closely with Eric Simmons’ Redeemer Arlington. This post is a response to what Nate composed and some thoughts about Christians and anger.
“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.
“When angry, count to four; when very angry swear.”
Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’[a] but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.
Matthew 21:12-13 NIV
I have been sitting this post for a while, and as the year winds down I am trying to squeeze things out of my draft box. Not long ago Nate Wagner, an Elder, from Acts 29 Portico Arlington which is here in the Washington, D.C. area wrote an article about anger on the Portico blog. For those who find this post this from Portico Arlington, this blog The Wondering Eagle was born out of an incident from Eric Simmons, Jordan Kaulfin’ and Jon Smith’s Redeemer Arlington. An Air Force Officer who Jordan Kauflin discipled tried to get me involved and then gave birth to a false accusation. I learned why rape and sexual assault are a major issue in the United States military as a result of the incident. To read more I would direct you to “How I Managed a False Accusation Given Birth to by a USAF Captain and Care Group Leader from Redeemer Arlington for 408 Days.” Redeemer Arlington’s relationship with Portico Arlington is incredibly close. To learn more about the history of Redeemer Arlington I would direct you to “The History of Eric Simmons’ Redeemer Arlington: Formerly of Sovereign Grace Ministries now of Acts 29.” The Acts 29 network in the Washington, D.C. area is quite active and I have already written about several Acts 29 churches. You can read about Redemption City Church in Frederick, Maryland here, Sojourn Church in Fairfax, Virginia here and Redemption Hill in Washington, D.C. here. Redemption Hill at this time is the only Acts 29 church in the Eastern District of the Evangelical Free Church of America.
In the course of time I would like to do an in depth analysis of Portico Arlington. I would like to examine its doctrine to its relationship with the local homeless shelter. This blog has deep concerns about the stability and the health of the Acts 29 movement due to its history and problems. It is my contention that the DNA of Mark Driscoll still remains in the network. Yes this is the same Mark Driscoll who taught that women are penis homes. Again, this is the same Mark Driscoll who taught that a repentant woman gets down on her knees and performs oral sex on her husband. In the language of the Neo-Calvinist movement I like to refer to this as the “Gospel Centered Blow Job.” What is telling about many parts of the Acts 29 network is their silence on such statements and beliefs. Even today many Acts 29 churches have not challenged or disavowed such disturbing statements. That I believe speaks volumes about the health of the network. That is why churches like Portico Arlington need a closer examination. Where does the leadership stand on this and many other issues? But that is for another post on another day.
Today I want to write a response to a recent blog post called “Angry Love: How Christ Uses Anger to Reconcile Relationships.” This blog would like to analyze and discuss this post. Plus I also want to consider how evangelicals look at the issue of anger. I am going to comment in red below. Now that we have gotten to this point lets start to think through this article.
Relationships are difficult. Regardless of the type of relationship (parent-child, boss-employee, sibling, friend, boyfriend-girlfriend, husband-wife, neighbor) there will be conflict and offense. We have all experienced the consequences of the difficult work of relationships, and we all know what happens when those fractured relationships are not properly mended… they fester, become infected, and sometimes ultimately destroy the relationship.
Often the fuel that feeds the fire of broken relationships is anger.
Anger ultimately gives us power. This is why it rears its head in fractured relationships. Whether anger is the initiating weapon, or the retaliatory strike, it is present in hurting relationships and provides a false sense of power to the one(s) who wield it.
There are many different reasons for being angry I would suggest, while for some people anger is power. For other people anger is a way to respond to emotional pain. Anger is also how some people react to injustice. While anger can sometimes be bitter other times it can be righteous; but to state that all anger is about power I think is a stretch, after all people become angry over different things.
This anger can come in many shapes and sizes: avoidance, fury, withholding, withdrawal, sarcasm, duplicity, annoyance, frustration, gossip, slander, and resentment to name a few.
Since this is coming from an Acts 29 church I would very much like to know how many of the above mentioned issues are defined. In a healthy environment things like sarcasm, and withdrawal would mean a lot of things but in this context? Is a person who realizes that their Acts 29 church has systematic issues and trying to leave going to be viewed as angry? How are issues like sarcasm, gossip and slander defined? For more context about gossip and slander I wrote “What is Gossip? What is Slander? Addressing the Issue of Bitterness; Finally the Word Bitter will be Banned at The Wondering Eagle.“ Plus there is also this following Guest Post which is about how pastors gossip about their congregations. “Guest Post: Confession, Gossip, and Ashley Madison; How Pastors Gossip.” But I am particularly interested in how this and many other words are going to be defined in this context.
This is not to say that all anger is bad. Psalm 4:4 tells us to “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.” We see Jesus displaying righteous anger as he entered his Father’s temple and turned over tables. But, like Jesus, the end goal of our anger must be to reconcile and glorify God.
The emotion of anger, and all its associated emotions, is communicating the message to us that something is wrong in our relational world. To ignore this warning is folly. To act on it apart from the grace of Christ can be deadly for relationships. Here are five practical steps to take in the process of using anger to reconcile relationships.
- Reorder your world with Christ at the Center. Remember who you are in relation to the creator of the universe. Recall that whatever wrong has been done to you, an imperfect human, that same wrong, plus all other wrongs were first committed against the Lord of heaven and earth. His response was to send his son for our reconciliation, and his aim was for you to reflect his image in that way. Practically, use prayer as the mechanism by which you reorder your world. This first point I find to be deeply troubling. What I interpret Nate saying is to shut up about your grievance or issue. Yes you were sexually abused in your life, but who are you to raise that issue when you are sinful yourself? Does this explain why many of the Neo-Calvinist movement ignores the blatant and ugly sins of their leaders? Yes C.J. Mahaney may have allegedly practiced blackmail and covered up child sex abuse in Sovereign Grace Ministries but who are you to talk about it when you consider your own sin? Yes Mark Driscoll had such an anger problem that Joanna Petry thought he could allegedly murder her husband if he could, but who are you to speak about Mark Driscoll’s anger issues after all remember your own sins and problems. What I see with what Nate is doing is leveling sin. Stealing a pack of pens from a 7-11 is just as bad as someone raping their wife or sexually abusing their niece. This is part of the reason why I firmly reject Neo-Calvinist theology as in the end no one is accountable for what they do. Does this help explain why my situation with Redeemer Arlington was not resolved? In the end Andrew does not believe he has done anything wrong. After all if the Lord ordains all things, does that include false accusations? The fact that Nate starts his post with this right off the bat raises deep concerns for me for the rest of this post. The sad part is that since much of this community lives in an echo chamber they probably will not see some of these issues.
- Initiate difficult conversations with those whom your relationship is damaged. Whether you are the one in the wrong or you believe the other person to be in the wrong, it is your burden to initiate the conversation if it is on your heart and mind. Waiting for the other person to initiate is a deadly trap that will lead to bitterness. If you find yourself short on motivation to do this, study the ways that Christ initiated with you, Romans 5:8-10: “—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…. For if while we were enemies of God we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” This sounds good but lets consider this in the context of the Neo-Calvinist movement. We have this teaching which many Neo-Calvinist leaders are exempt from. For example I don’t know how many times at SGM Survivors people wanted C.J. Mahaney to stop running, return and reconcile. When the hell will he? That won’t happen because he is exempt from such rules. Though it raises other questions such as the following…when people like John Piper, Al Mohler and Mark Dever support C.J. Mahaney in his sin, it begs the following questions. Why are they teaching? Does John Piper, Mark Dever and Al Mohler have a basic understanding of the Christian faith? Or lets also explore this in another context…what do you do when the other person doesn’t want to reconcile or doesn’t think they have done anything wrong? Then what? My mess with Andrew White and Redeemer Arlington is a good example of that issue. The proof is in the details and how things are lived out. While words sound attractive the end results signal how well people understand the theology. In the Neo-Calvinist camp I see prolific teaching but I don’t see the actions lining up with it.
- Don’t dismiss “small” feelings. Often we will put off confronting our brothers and sisters because our feelings are small. By minimizing our internal experience, we alienate ourselves from the grace of pulling weeds while they are small. If we believe that the wrongs we commit or are committed against us will heal just with time, we are kidding ourselves. Those “small” weeds will turn into trees requiring invasive means to remove as more time passes. Keep short accounts, and be mindful and sensitive to those around you. Begin a daily habit of reconciling through forgiveness (both giving and seeking) in all of your relationships. Not a whole lot I disagree with here.
- Ask for forgiveness rather than “apologizing”. By now we are all familiar with the “non-apology apology”. The words “I’m sorry” have become trite and represent a person who is more mournful that they were caught, or do not truly believe that they have wronged someone. When approaching someone after wronging her, ask her for forgiveness. State plainly the wrong you have committed and do not seek to justify it or minimize it. This will be a game changer in your appreciation for both causing harm and in increasing how you value genuine forgiveness. Now here is the problem with this section. What makes this part all together horrific is that Christians don’t practice forgiveness. They don’t say that they are wrong. You can’t practice reconciliation without repenting or owning your mistake. I have written about Christians and forgiveness in “How Mistakes are Opportunities…Why Don’t Evangelical Christians Say they are Sorry? Why Don’t Evangelicals Repent and Own their Mistakes Today?” But what makes this worse and what I believe perpetuates the problem is when Christian leaders reinforce this as well. For example lets look at C.J. Mahaney again….when has he reached out to people and asked for forgiveness for his alleged criminal activity? Do you know at SGM Survivors people have written reportedly as to how they wanted to see that happen. All these years of teahcing and he can’t even do that at all. Here’s another question if he as a pastor is supposed to model it for others why then is he teaching? I would love to have an answer for this as well. People want to forgive, the problem is that today people don’t ask for forgiveness. This is one of the reasons why Christianity is so sick in this country today. In my case all Andrew has to do is reach out, take initiative ask for forgiveness and understand what he did and grieve the pain he caused. I think that applies to other situations as well where people are hurt and situations unresolved. Many Christians want to have people that have wronged them reach out and ask for forgiveness.
- Give forgiveness in abundance. Ultimately, your have been set free to forgive. No longer do you have to hold grudges, value your rights above all else, or seek justice for yourself. Don’t believe this? Study the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35. Remember the debt that you have been forgiven, the price for which you were purchased, and respond by forgiving abundantly. Not only is this a good and proper response to grace, it is also freedom from living as one who is more concerned with their “debtors” than they are with God’s glory. Here is the problem with this segment, if Christians do the hard work, own their mistakes and grieve them than forgiveness comes naturally. The reason why is because people want to forgive. If this is done then all this will be resolved naturally. Its not that complex and its not that difficult. Yes its difficult in that it requires humility and that will be hard if you are too prideful. In reflecting on all this maybe C.J. Mahaney shouldn’t have published that book on Humility after all.
Christians and Anger
Anger is a natural emotion and I would suggest it is healthy as well. Anger indicates that something is wrong, something isn’t right in the world. Many Christians have made anger to be sinful when it should not be. Likewise one should be angry when they are wronged. One should be angry when injustice occurs. One should be angry when people are hurt and wronged. People get angry over ridiculous things and ignore the things that they should get angry about. God’s heart I believe is about righting wrongs and brining about justice. I would suggest that many Christians are in sin when they ignore pain, injustice or tragedy in this world and have the flippant mentality of “God will deal with it in the next life.” It is long overdue for Christians to have a discussion on anger and why they can and should get angry today over acts of injustice. You know I honestly wish some Christians would become outraged over domestic abuse just as they get outraged over abortion. Are some Christians really pro-life when they ignore that kind of behavior which can kill a person’s soul and possible even end their life? Again these are just some thoughts I have, as always feel free to leave any comments. As always I love you guys!