Why do Christians get so nasty?

Christians like to claim we are peaceful, sadly we are not.

If you want to witness heated debate, parliament is a good place to find it. If you want to see nasty, divisive debate, go to a church meeting or poke around on blogs written by Christians. The current hot potato is gay marriage, though women in ministry seems to also be ranking high in certain sectors, and in the US gun control is good to get a reaction.

These are all issues which should be discussed and even debated within the church, but why do people become so astonishingly nasty in their words and even actions over mere issues when we are supposedly all united in Christ?

Reading Philippians 4:7 would make me assume that Christians would be able to enter discussions about even contentious issues with a deep peace that regardless of the discussion outcome they remain secure in Christ:

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7 ESV)

This is particularly appropriate given that Paul introduced this paragraph pleading for some Christians to reach agreement on some divisive issue between them:

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. (Philippians 4:2 ESV)

Instead of agreeing, it seems that many folks take this example of disagreement in the ancient church as license to foster disagreement in the modern church. Perhaps our problem is a lack of rejoicing in the Lord, and failing to let turn over our anxieties to God in prayer?

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.(Philippians 4:4–6 ESV)

More on this topic from others:

The first step to joy

pretty young woman in yellow dress isolated on white

To step out into the world in joy – I had allowed this to become a dead dream, hidden away in dusty archives of my memory. But maybe even I can walk in joy in this world.

The first step to joy has to be seeing despair.

Stepping into freedom requires unlocking of bonds. If I think I am already free when actually I am enslaved, if I think I know joy when all I have is a mirage, what I need most is a reality check.

This is the sort of reality check the Bible is good at giving me.

Is God my greatest joy?

To be a Christian is to have eternal life, and as our Lord says in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”. So the test we apply to ourselves is that. Not, “Have I done this or that?” My test is a positive one: “Do I know God? Is Jesus Christ real to me?” I am not asking whether you know things about Him but do you know God, are you enjoying God, is God the centre of your life, the soul of your being, the source of your greatest joy? He is meant to be. He made man in such a way that this was to be the position, that man might dwell in communion with God and enjoy God and walk with God. You and I are meant to be like that, and if we are not like that, it is sin. That is the essence of sin. We have no right not to be like that. That is sin of the deepest and worst type. The essence of sin, in other words, is that we do not live entirely to the glory of God.
(D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure)

Can I swallow this: I have no right to not be dwelling in communion with God and delighting in Him as my greatest joy.

In theory I have known this for a long time, we are created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Maybe it is the brusque Welsh accent of Lloyd-Jones telling me I have no right to be anything other than joyful which has bumped me out of my defeatist rut.

Obviously I cannot instantly make myself joyful. What I can do is to keep mindful of where I was and where I now am. There was a time when I walked in complete blindness to my need of God or salvation. Then in a peculiar turn of events I had my eyes opened to see that Jesus is the Son of God and I am a sinner. I was asked if I would like to know Jesus better and said, “yes”. In the next few moments, as I was lead in prayer, Jesus said to me as He has to countless others: “your sins are forgiven” (see Luke 7:47-50).

Considering this gives me joy. Perhaps not the flamboyant joy that would cause be to dress like a flower, but definitely joy. Enough to cause me to praise God wherever I am and whatever I am doing. A step in the right direction.

Image of woman in yellow dress: iStockphoto

Give thanks in ALL circumstances

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)

I suppose I expected this eventually, it is logical that eucharisteo would bring me to this point. A convergence of truths which are being woven into my life.

Giving thanks, searching for joy, fighting for faith, conviction that God is sovereign, trusting His word, and struggling with the failings of life. Give thanks in all circumstances.

I began this journey of gratitude as a means to fight for joy, and an act of obedience because I know we are commanded to give thanks but am not very good at doing it. So I began counting God’s blessings as I noticed them. Generally I was noticing the things that I was glad God has placed in my life. Give thanks in all circumstances.

But God has bigger dreams for me than merely being happy. It is God’s will that I rejoice in Him, always (Philippians 4:4).

In His mercy God has gently led me this far. It seems that now there are some lessons I really need to learn. Hard lessons about accepting trials and suffering as a gift from my loving Father who is creating me in the His image. Just as the Son of God learned obedience in what he suffered, I am seeing that this is a path none of us can avoid if we follow Christ (Hebrews 5:8).

For a long time I have tried to avoid the path of obedience through suffering, it is time to repent (turn) and begin trudging the way I am being led. Not only plodding along, but rejoicing as I do. Giving thanks in all circumstances.

Gifts I have noticed this week:

501) Opportunity to do some outside work today.
502) Sunshine after working nights.
503) Flowers in midwinter.
504) Muscle-tiredness as a welcome change from weary-headedness.
505) Watching old movies of the kids when they were babies.
506) Tired girls after sleep-overs.
507) 2-year-old up in the night unwell – opportunity to show him a father’s love by giving him medicine and cuddles.
508) Depression – causing me to look closer at where my hopes are placed.
509) The neighbour’s dog barking loudly, it is happy (joy) to see them come home.
510) My irritability – a reminder that I am setting my happiness upon trivial comforts.
511) A crisp, clear, cold winter’s day.
512) Noticing the storms clouds before setting out to walk to work (I will take the bus now!)

Image of approaching storm in Shetland Islands: iStockphoto

I don’t desire God…


…But I want to.

God commands me to rejoice (Philippians 4:4), I want to rejoice, but moving from dry to delighting is impossible for me to achieve myself.

Frankly my heart feels more like a desert than a spring of living water. Joy in the Lord is a fading memory, taunting me with glimpses of herself while remaining beyond my grasp.

Fortunately, that fading memory and some rare rational thinking prompted me to watch a DVD of John Piper speaking on this very topic last night. His passion for the topic and sincerity in exhorting his listeners to fight for joy is greatly encouraging. Something he said has stuck in my mind:

You must fight, but only God can give joy

Sometimes God ordains that joy remain elusive. Even so, I must continue to fight for joy.

Satan would have me believe there is no way out of the pit, that life will get worse rather than better. Faith takes hold of the encouragement of other Christians who have traveled this Way longer than I and of the Word of God. Faith acknowledges the struggle, the dryness, and resolves to continue seeking God regardless of how I might feel.

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
(Psalm 63:1-3 ESV)

For now, the best thing I can think to do is to read and ponder God’s Word looking for the glory of Christ in it. I desire to desire God. This is enough to get started.

Image of desert dunes: iStockphoto

Wind and worship

then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:7 ESV)

In the silence while everyone was out today, I picked up my neglected flute and played ‘Amazing Grace‘. As I exhaled the breath given me by God, it hit the silver lip, splitting into octaves, tones and semitones. Music woven back into worship to Him who gave me breath. He breathed life into me, I breathed out worship. In a rare moment I lived as I should be.

You don’t need a flute to do this, voices work just fine (Acts 16:25).

But would I use my voice to worship if suffering and treated shamefully? (1 Thessalonians 2:2) In my  heart I already know the answer, I’d like to think it were not this one but history and knowledge of myself tells me – no, I would grumble and complain, my voice would not be praising God from prison.

Paul, the worshiper, commands:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4 ESV)

I don’t know how to do this. I’m not even sure how to learn how to do this. How will I praise God when suffering unless I can learn this?

Gifts I have noticed this week (371 – 396):

371) Finishing off posts I began writing months ago.
372) Holding the hand of a child when she slipped, preventing her getting hurt – just as my Father holds me.
373) Unwrapping the last Easter egg, anticipation, wanting sweetness, needing life.
374) Rain on the tin roof.
375) Relaxing under the shower of Your Word as it washes over me.
376) A wife who can read me better than I can see the signs myself.
377) A helpful and understanding doctor.
378) rain has finally ceased, I see blue sky, sunlight even!
379) Old smelly dog lying by the fire.
380) Aching emptiness paralyzing – it means something I haven’t yet discovered.
381) Word habits, drawing me back to You.
382) A busy weekend.
383) My little boy’s fascination and delight watching model railways.
384) The adoration of a dog reminding me to worship (thank you, David B.).
385) Audiobook speaking when I’m unable to read.
386) Water resting in torrent-hewn pools.
387) Brightness from even a grey sky.
388) Her example – walk when in the grey.
389) Breathing deeply through pain.
390) Walking slowly, carefully, through slippery miry clay.
391) Forest bursting full with the cycle of life.
392) Swinging legs and arms energizing me.
393) fantails flitting around me, being fed by our Father (Matthew 6:26).
394) Fingers pink and puffy from cold.
395) Coming home to warmth.
396) Life given by God, breathed across silver, creating a song of grace in worship to God.