Monday, January 19, 2015

Better is the Self-Controlled Man than the Man of Wrath who Changes Culture

by Steve C. Halbrook

For those of us interested in changing culture according to God's word, unbiblical views about such things as society and civil government must be opposed. Sometimes this results in verbal confrontations with others. It may be those with different religions entirely; fellow Christians who likewise advocate a biblical cultural transformation, but who differ on what that entails; or fellow Christians who hardly see any need for cultural transformation at all.

Such verbal confrontations require restraint. For if we consistently uphold a biblical worldview, we cannot advocate reformation of civil government without also having self-government. Scripture says:
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.(Proverbs 29:11) 
Unfortunately, there are some who advocate Christian cultural transformation who strongly neglect self-government. One major problem area is the man of wrath, which we address here.

Avoid the Man of Wrath

When engaging others, the wrathful man who advocates cultural transformation cannot seem to respond to contrary points of view without flying off the handle; he resorts to name-calling and other verbal attacks. Perhaps his mindset is that his cause is vindicated by fear and intimidation; but he does not come across as an ambassador for Christ.

When he attempts to pummel those who disagree into submission with invective, the "culture changing" man of wrath shows a tyrannical mindset: submit or else. His notion of liberty entails the liberty to verbally tyrannize over others. He doesn't want the tyranny of the statebut he doesn't mind his own tyranny.

Self-restraint, then, is vital when it comes to engaging otherswhether it involves matters of culture, or otherwise. Does it disgust us when one's normal position is verbally slaughtering whoever disagrees with him on almost any point? Are we even more disgusted when we find this in ourselves? 

As Christians, we must work to transform culture, but we must avoid the man given to angerfirst, within ourselves (by God's grace as He sanctifies us), and secondly, in our associations. For this angry man leaves a trail of sin and strife in his wake: 
A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression. (Proverbs 29:22)
When wisdom dictates, the man of wrath should be called to repentance; but if he does not repent, he is not to be befriended, as his ways are contagious: 
Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare. (Proverbs 22:24, 25)
One can see how a wrathful man who advocates Christian cultural transformation can easily lead new or undiscerning Christians astray who advocate the same: if they look up to him, they may think that his vitriol is the proper approach to dealing with conflict. 

Not even mature Christians are immune from being influenced by his wickedness: "a little leaven leavens the whole lump" (1 Corinthians 5:6b).

A wrathful man's ways can also be contagious in that those on the receiving end of his vitriol can be provoked to anger and thus react in kind, since "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1). Therefore, not only should the wrathful man be avoided as a friend, but, unless there is a very good reason, also in debating as an opponent.

Some Christians may find it tempting to associate with the man of wrath because he is witty and/or charismatic. It is also easy enough to join with the man of wrath and overlook his wickedness if he is on the same side of the debate; we may even enjoy seeing him verbally making mincemeat of the opposition. We must avoid these snares. 

We must also be charitable and acknowledge that at times, any of us can succumb to the sin of ungodly anger. And, there is a world of difference between the man given to wrath who is unrepentant, and the man who may be wrathful at times, but who struggles with it and strives to repent. "For we all stumble in many ways" (James 3:2a). 

The Man of Wrath Opposes Christ

It is concerning when a professing Christian behaves as a man of wrath without repentance. Christians should love God’s law, and thereby love one’s neighbor as oneselfespecially fellow Christians. And how one treats a Christian reflects one’s attitude toward Christ Himself:
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:37-40) 
The man who would become the Apostle Paul was said to be persecuting Christ because he persecuted Christ's people; and so Christ tells him during Paul's journey to Damascus, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" (Acts 9:4b). And the following is very relevant for the man given to anger:
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:22)
As Christians, we are to be patient and loving with others; and not to turn every disagreement into an occasion for verbal slaughter ("Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God," Matthew 5:9). Scripture calls the one who continually sows discord "A worthless person, a wicked man"  (Proverbs 6:12, 14).

"Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he
who rules his spirit than he who takes a city."
(Proverbs 16:32)

The Angry Man as a Destroyer of Culture

While some Christians are deficient in understanding the need for culture transformation, when they treat their fellow man respectfully, they are better than the "culture transformer" given to anger. The former actually does more to transform culture for Christ; while he may be untaught in matters of, say, civil government, in controlling his spirit, he promotes cultural transformation on a more fundamental level:
Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. (Proverbs 16:32)
He does not negatively leaven culture with wrath, and he sets a good example for others to follow.

Of course, we are not saying that there is never room for righteous angeror that bad doctrine and sinful behavior should never be strongly confronted. Consider Christ's approach to the money-changers (John 2:14-17), and Paul's approach to promoters of a false gospel (Galatians 5:12). But there is a world of difference between this and ongoing vehemence towards one's fellow man.

It is self-defeating, then, when the man of wrath advocates reform of culture when he lacks self-government. He is not a reformer of culture, but a destroyer of it. He constantly sins against others, is a snare to others, and even brings judgement on his own house:
He who returns evil for good, Evil will not depart from his house. (Proverbs 17:13)
The wrathful man may indeed change culturealthough not for the better, but for the worse. 

Dominion not by Rancor, but by Self-Government

May God protect us from the leaven of ungodly anger (including my own, when I am guilty of this); by God's grace, let us Christians begin with our own hearts as we seek to bring every area of life under the dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
When engaging others, let's not forget this sound advice:
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1) 
A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention. (Proverbs 15:18)


photo credit: 

Angry man
© Emery Way / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0) (license)Retrieved January 16, 2015 from

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