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Category: Relationships

Don’t let the sun go down on your anger

While visiting a Bible study, a couple shared how they dealt with conflict in their marriage. “We don’t let the sun go down on our anger.”

When I heard this, my first thought was, “Is that in the bible?” There are many sayings attributed to the Bible that aren’t actually there. For example: “God helps those who help themselves,” isn’t in the Bible. It’s from Ben Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanack.”

A quick search of my Bible revealed that it is actually there. In the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus he instructed them:

“Be angry, and do not sin”:
do not let the sun go down on your anger. – Ephesians 4:26

Many a couple has spent a sleepless night trying to work through a fight with each other based on this passage. They’ve been taught that Paul was telling them that they can’t sleep until the problem is reconciled.

But that is not what Paul was saying. The command was for each person to take responsibility for their own anger; not to make sure that there is no anger between them.

This is an excellent example of how the Bible gets distorted, even with good intentions, to mean things it doesn’t say; sometimes causing great harm. And it is an opportunity for us to untrain our eyes in an effort to see more clearly what it is actually saying.

Paul’s audience was not married couples. He was speaking to all relationships. It is so important to learn that we have no control over other people’s actions. If they are angry, there is nothing we can do to control that. We aren’t responsible for their anger. And they aren’t responsible for ours. All we can do is take responsibility for ourselves.

When people insist that a fight be resolved immediately, they are trying to control each other, saying “You need to meet my need to resolve this issue. We can’t leave this conversation until you do.” That is focusing on yourself. Because you have no control over whether or not another person will resolve an issue, you may never sleep.

The better way is to ask yourself “how can I do my best to resolve this?” Your focus is off of yourself and on to the other person. The conflict still might not be resolved, but now you know, it’s not up to you to resolve it. Simply do your best. If you aren’t able to find some resolution, the next step is to follow Paul’s advice to make sure that you are not carrying anger away from the conversation. But remember, you are not in charge of the other person’s anger. If they continue to be angry and push the issue, then politely decline. The sun may go down on their anger, but it doesn’t have to go down on yours.

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Forgiveness

In a documentary on the Holocaust, a leader of the Warsaw ghetto uprising talked about the bitterness that remains in his soul over how he and his neighbors were treated by the Nazis: “If you could lick my heart,” he says, “it would poison you.”

Researchers are finding that this Holocaust survivor’s sentiment is not necessarily metaphorical. While the biblical practice of forgiveness is usually preached as a Christian obligation, social scientists are discovering that forgiveness may help lead to victims’ emotional and even physical healing and wholeness.

Radhi Al-Mabuk, Robert Enright, and Paul Cardis published a study in 1995 (Journal of Moral Education, Vol. 24, No. 4) examining forgiveness education with college students who judged themselves to be deprived of parental love. The college students who underwent the more rigorous forgiveness program had “improved psychological health,” including improved self-esteem, hope, and lowered trait anxiety.

In a different study in 1997, Enright and Catherine Coyle sought to determine whether men who identified themselves as hurt by an abortion could benefit from a “structured process designed to facilitate forgiveness.”

The processes involve 20 separate steps, including confronting anger, a willingness to consider forgiveness as an option, acceptance of the pain, and the participant realizing that he has needed others’ forgiveness in the past. After leading their subjects through this process, researchers found significant decreases in clients’ anxiety, anger, and grief.

When Lewis Smedes a theologian set out to write a general book on the theological aspect of forgiveness, he soon discovered that “almost everything that was written about forgiveness was about how God forgives sinful people and how they can experience his forgiveness.”

Today’s text said “Whoever’s sins you forgive, they are forgiven them. Whoever’s sins you retain, they have been retained.” John 20:23

This is a quintessential Christian practice. Jerry Cook thought forgiveness so important to the church he made it one of the three core elements in his book “Love, acceptance and forgiveness.” Jesus made it a central ingredient of the kingdom of heaven.

“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared this…

a king decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.

“But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.

“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.

“His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.

“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.

“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”

You might be struggling today with forgiving someone. Someone in the church. Someone in your family. A friend. It might be something that happened years ago. Or only moments ago. So we’re going to look at forgiveness today. First we’ll look at a couple myths about what people think forgiveness is. Then what forgiveness actually is. And finally some steps you can take if you are struggling to forgive someone.

Prayer. Lord, you forgave me. You forgive me. You forgave us. You forgive us. Teach us Lord to forgive each other. To forgive our family. Members of our church. Our friends. Open your word to us Lord. Amen.

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How cellphones have changed the way we communicate

Our cell phones have really made the distance between my family and I a little smaller. (more later on the experience of temporarily living solo). This article from Smartmobs demonstrates some of the lesser qualities of cell phone usage.

How cellphones have changed the way we communicate:

The Wall Street Journal looks into the many ways the constant presence of cellphones has changed how we communicate. And, unfortunately, not all of them are good ones.

“Drunk dialing is one of those things that can make you wish you didn’t have a cellphone, but it’s just one of the ways the ubiquity of cellphones is changing how we communicate socially. These are just a few examples:

— Spontaneity Over Planning – People don’t stick to their plans/appointments any more, they can change them on the fly when something better comes up

— Can You Help Me? – Cellphones will get you out of jams, but they also encourage you to not bother avoiding getting into jams. It’s so easy just to make a call.

— Voice Mail – Suspicion: If you can’t reach someone on their cell phone, not only are you indignent, but become suspicious. Is the person filtering you out, ignoring you or with someone else?

— Me, Me, Me – One of the great things about cellphones is they let you fill up time that would otherwise be wasted: taxicab rides, running errands, and so forth. Whatever happened to looking up at the world around you?

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Standing On The Promises

51whFdmHY9L15 years ago, Deana and I learned that we were going to be bringing our first child into the world. Oh how I wish I had this book back then. Deana and I have always parented from the hope found in scripture that there is an endurance of Godly heritage in passing the faith on from one generation to another. In the face of many Christian families whose children had walked away from Jesus, we held on to the scriptures characterized by the verse “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

The implication is clear. We can parent with the hope that God is using us to pass the heritage of faith in Jesus successfully on to our children.

How different this is from the modern belief that our children are individuals guided solely by their choice and providence. No. God has placed them under our care where we can trust that through His power they will persevere in their faith.

As I came into the Mennonite Church, I found a similar hope, especially for young children. In the face of persecutors declaring that by refusing to baptise their infants, the Anabaptists were condemning their children to hell, they turned to scripture and saw that Jesus blessed and welcomed children rather then cursing them.

This book is a wonderful treatise on the scriptural foundation for such hope and the heavy call that God puts on us as parents to fulfill His promises in our family. Neither does it turn a blind eye to the choices our children may make as they grow older. But our culture has turned so far away from the providence of God that we mistakenly believe that hope is only in the individual choices each of us make and in those our children make. This book is a corrective to that notion, centering us back on the hope that God has placed the solitary in families. We are not alone. Our children are not alone. And so they have a gift of spiritual growth that they would not have if they were raised in heathen homes.

I recommend this book to all parents looking for guidance as to the foundation of hope upon which they parent their children. I believe that in our culture of blind humanistic optimism and individualistic Christian pessimism, this is an important topic.

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