[A]nd give no opportunity to the devil, (Ephesians 4:27)
Almighty God, help us follow you in word and deed so the devil has no opportunity to crouch at our door and hurt our witness about you with sin. In Jesus' name, amen.
Recently, I ran across an insightful video clip by Jordan Peterson about relationships. In it, he shared a nearly sure signal for divorce, and I realized that it applied to all interpersonal dynamics while holding true to biblical principles about anger.
Before we get to Peterson’s quote further down, we should revisit those foundations the Bible offers. Just a few chapters into Genesis, we see anger appearing along with the horrible consequences.
And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering, he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, ‘”Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it,” (Genesis 4:4-7)
I remember hearing one radio pastor describe Cain’s “fallen face” as if his face had a scrunched, screw-like distortion associated with intense anger and disgust. The last few verses of Ephesians 4 continue the warning about anger (and its friends) to Christians just like God did to Cain:
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4: 30-32).
“If you do not do well,” God tells Cain, “sin is crouching at the door.”
Crouching is what a lion does to build up energy in the muscles and tendons. Crouching leads to pouncing leads to death. There is the sting of death as the wages of sin (1 Corinthians 15:56; Romans 6:23).
When Satan is described as a roaring lion prowling in search of someone to devour in 1 Peter 5:8, we think we will hear the sounds and hide. By then, it might be too late. These emotions/feelings described above are the warnings whether we hear a roar or not!
Satan and other demons cannot resist these opportunities since they know it will help them do what they love: to steal, kill, and destroy.
How quickly can these emotions get hold of us and lead us further into sin? Genesis 4:8 says Cain talked with Abel. By the end of verse 8, Abel was murdered.
I would never do that! I’ve heard some say, including myself. I've also heard no sin sounds as awful as the one we haven't committed. Don't think we're off the hook yet.
Since it is so easy to judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions, we need to explore anger a little more biblically before we get to the Peterson quote.
Jesus doesn’t let us off easy with the heart’s intent when it relates to anger and how it is sin (unless it is righteous anger). In Matthew 5:21-22, He says:
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘’You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’’ 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.
Jesus moves us from anger that murders down into insults and name-calling – forms of disrespect to our fellow humans and certainly breaking the second greatest command of loving neighbor as self.
Anger can fill the heart. It can simmer into bitterness, boil into wrath, clamor, and slander, and flow over boiling as malice and murder.
Anger can certainly simmer and appear as other emotions like disgust, envy, covetousness. This doesn’t mean these won’t or can’t exist on their own.
What Peterson shared about disgust stopped me in my tracks because I saw evidence of similar behaviors up to eight years prior to my parent’s divorce. They were married for 27 years so these problems simmered and boiled a good while. While we might not divorce the people in our church or those we work with, we may still create opportunities for sin by not doing as God commands.
“Here’s a good predictor about whether or not you’re going to get divorced: you go into the therapist’s office, you talk – the two of you talk – and you roll your eyes. … If you roll your eyes at your partner, you’re going to divorce them. Why? [It’s t]he disgust response. It’s something like ‘I’m lifting you up with my eyes and throwing you into the garbage.’
“If you’re starting to develop some contempt or some disgust [in your relationships], you… better get on that right away because that is a bad road to go down.”
Yes, it is, just as God warned Cain, “If you do not do well, sin is crouching at your door.”
Praise God, though, that we already know how to do well because His Word tells us.
Whether it is being kind to one another, asking forgiveness from a tender heart, we need to stick to the narrow path of following Jesus. It is the path where a soft answer turns away wrath instead of stirring up anger (Proverbs 15:1). It is the path where we wisely bring calm in the end (Proverbs 29:11).
Just a small part of the abundance Jesus promises in John 10:10 is not having to deal with the steal, kill, and destroy after-effects of the same verse (see here for a connection between John 10:10 and the Ten Commandments).
The only path to God’s promised abundance is through Jesus and his work.
It is through Jesus’s sacrifice and resurrection that God’s love saves us from God’s judgment for our sins.
It is through Jesus we can have peace with God and the strength to love our neighbor as ourselves – even when we don’t feel like it, even if we’ve been hurt.
Praise God for His mercy, grace, strength, and love. May we hear and obey His Word.