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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Zero to sixty in thirty seconds or less

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. (James 1:19 NLT)
Do you know anybody who can go from "chill" to "overkill" in somewhere under 30 seconds? Uh oh...did I just hear someone say, "Yep, that's me"? You aren't alone, my friend - there are lots and lots of us, sometimes more than we want to admit, that can lose our cool quicker than ice melts on an Arizona sidewalk in summer! Most of the time, the challenge isn't in not reacting - it is in choosing what it is we will react to.
Three concepts are outlined in our passage here, but before we explore these, let's look at something that gets overlooked - the introduction to these words. James has just spent some time speaking about how God blesses those who endure testing and temptation with something called patience. He adds to that thought the reminder it is "when" we are tempted, not "if" we ever get tempted.
This gives me a pretty significant hint that I (and this also means you) am not above temptations to do or say the wrong things. They don't come from God, but from within - because we ALL have a sin nature that gives us just a little bit of a "tangle" now and again that we must work through or get snagged up royally. As James develops this idea of choosing the right actions and not always listening to the selfish desires of our heart, he reminds us that anger is not to have a place in our relationships - because it will destroy the unity we share.
The truth of the matter is that you help me get beyond certain temptations and I help you. We need each other - so when we allow words to get in the way, destroying relationship and driving a wedge between us, we find that our ability to withstand temptation is "altered". We needed the other person, regardless of what we may think about our ability to "overcome" these temptations. We are designed to relate - to stand together - not be lone wolves.
Anger usually emerges when we think we know better than someone else, making it less likely that we will actually listen to what it is they are saying or advising. There are times when advice comes my way and I choose not to embrace it - usually ending up with me wearing egg on my face somewhere down the line! Anger also has a way of manifesting itself within relationship when we are too quick to respond - thinking we knew where the other person was going with an idea or had in mind.
The temptation to follow some desire that may not be the best one for us to follow is there everyday. It is quite possible we are being warned by either the actions or words of another to work hard to avoid those pathways that lead us into deeper and more lasting problems. It is also quite possible we are less than willing to admit we need help and more willing to do things our own way! Let me just say this - if you want to always get what you have always got, then keep doing things the way you have always done them! If not, you may just want to become a little slower to answer, quicker to listen, and less eager to react than you have been in the past! Just sayin!