Sorry if this is a bit long. But I’m learning stuff, and thought I’d share it.
Now that the book is out, I’m getting reactions from readers, reviewers, and interviewers. I’m finding that most people don’t “buy” the premise of the book, that we are never supposed to harbor anger; never supposed to nurse it and call it “righteous”, and we’re never told in the Bible that human anger is a good thing.
That’s not surprising. But here’s what I’m learning:
1. Some people WILL re-think.
And that’s wonderful. They think, “This idea is crazy!” – and then they read a few chapters, and – you know what? “Maybe I need to change my thinking.”
This is a wonderful thing in life. Not everyone is willing to do this. There’s a word for this: Repentance. To re-pent necessarily involves re-thinking. (The word “pensive”, for example, comes from the same root.)
Whether my book is wrong or right, we should all be open to considering that maybe we don’t have the last word on everything. Maybe God still wants to show us things. Maybe He wants us to re-pent, and it’ll make life better, because we’re living the way He wants.
2. Scripture experts suddenly veer off scripture when talking about this.
Seriously. I’ve talked with Bible-believing, Bible-teaching, apologetics-show-hosting, “let’s stand for the Bible” people many times now. They start by using the Bible as their authority… until it isn’t. Once their Biblical arguments are exhausted, which is quickly, the Bible tends not to matter so much.
Kinda goes like this:
Bible Show Interviewer: But the Bible says human anger can be a good thing and righteous.
Brant: Actually, it doesn’t. (Cites multiple scriptures, including where we’re told, point-blank, to get rid of all anger, that human anger is never righteous, etc.)
Interviewer: Oh, so… you’re telling me I shouldn’t harbor anger towards terrorists?
Brant: I’m just reading scriptures and stuff.
Interviewer: C’mon. You’re telling me to get rid of all anger?
Brant: I’m just reading scriptures and stuff.
Interviewer: Are you NUTS?
Brant: Why yes. Yes I am. But I’m just reading scriptures and stuff.
It tends to become a “You can’t tell me I can’t stay angry towards this or that criminal!”-type discussion. I try to point out that Jesus levels the moral playing field, and we’re murderers, too.
Yep. 2000 years later… and no one wants to hear that. Still doesn’t go over well. The Gospel still liberates many, and scandalizes the rest.
3. People sure love to memorize Ephesians 4:26. The first part, I mean. Not the second.
All I’m really arguing in the book is that the second half counts. The verse begins, “In your anger, do not sin,” and experts have parlayed that into entire theological/ethical systems of anger, justifying and nursing it. (See? It says there’s nothing wrong with anger!)
…but doggone it, the verse keeps going. And it says to get rid of your anger before the sun goes down. That means today. That means now. And then Paul says, a couple sentences later, “Get rid of all…anger.”
That’s all I’m saying: We get angry, and we have to get rid of it.
Instead, we replace anger with something called forgiveness.
4. Many people prefer complex to simple.
Let’s face it: complex is often easier.
If you tell me to bench-press 800 pounds, that’s simple to understand. I just – you know – can’t do it. See? Simple to understand. Hard to do.
But we make things complex when we want to get around the simple, hard things. “Ah, but perhaps you can allow me to bench press one pound for 800 reps, over a course of four weeks! Or maybe you mean British ‘pounds’, rather than lifting a barbell. Or…”
“Love your neighbor”, for example, is simple, but hard. So, of course, when Jesus says that, a learned guy says, “Yeah, but who ‘is’ my neighbor, exactly?” I mean, who’s to say what ‘neighbor’ is? The guy suddenly can’t understand the word “neighbor”.
We’ve seen lawyer-politicians suddenly mind-blown by simple questions. (“Well, it depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is,” one famously said.)
We like complex-ifying things. It helps us to avoid the simple.
Jesus says to forgive as you have been forgiven. That means drop your “right” to anger. But people would rather hear a more complex, nuanced, subtle understanding of this whole “anger” thing. “Sometimes, you’re allowed it, if the motivations are such that blah blah, but not when blah blah, but only for a little while, because of the following rules that we just made up, and so forth.” <— We like that stuff.
We like it because we can employ experts, expertly-trained-by-experts experts, who can parse the various rules, and we can study those rules, and studying is easier than doing. We can even drive past our neighbors on our way to studies about loving our neighbors.
Meantime, a child can understand the Kingdom.
HonestIy? I did it on purpose, but the book may be too understandable. I hear, “This can’t be right,” from people who offer no arguments. This I-have-to-forgive idea just isn’t hefty enough.
People like lists and challenges to do more, be more, go further away for missions, check off more boxes, be “radical”. But most of the time, those calls to be “radical” are ways for us to avoid what’s really radical: Pick up your cross and deny yourself.
Deny myself and forgive? Love my enemy? This IS discipleship. “If anyone wants to follow Me…”
This anger/forgiveness issue is not a side issue for a disciple. It’s The Thing.
5. I don’t know what I’m doing.
Yeah, okay, I already knew this. But it’s funny when people ask me questions about book sales or publishing or whatever. I’m clueless.
I always thought if I *did* write a book, I’d understand that stuff. Now, it’s out there, and I still don’t. I’m just asking God to let the book be a blessing to people. I know this forgiveness idea is always going to strike people as crazy, but it’s God’s crazy idea.
I want to be crazy like Him.
I invite you to join us. There’s plenty of room at the crazy table.