The Issue Isn’t the Issue

James 3:16 – For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 

James 4:1-2 – What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 

A husband and a wife get into a big bruhaha over how and where to spend the holidays. Each is convinced he or she is right and the other is outside his or her mind. The line is drawn in the sand, feet are firmly planted in his or her position, and it turns into a knockdown-drag-out fight.

Let me ask this, was the real problem for that couple where to spend the holidays? Was the “issue” over which that couple fought really the issue? Can you see that there is another problem that has nothing to do with where to go for Christmas? In the Scriptures above, James tells us that if there is disorder and fighting, then something is underlying the current “issue” we are fighting about.

The nation is always divided, we just have a  new issue that comes across the scene over which we can fight. And the same goes for families, churches, organizations and businesses. You have a meeting at work that goes sideways, and tempers flare as you discuss a new project or declining sales projections. Was the “issue” the issue, or are there underlying attitudes that are clearly the problem?

Here are a few things I’ve learned about the “issue”:

  • We will always have “issues.” There will always be things that we will disagree on, and will have the potential to turn into a major fight. Those “issues” are never going away.
  • The issues will change. This is probably the same as the previous point, but we may think we settled an issue, but then a different topic comes along and exposes the same underlying problems. New issues…same relationship and attitude problems.
  • We can agree on an issue, and still not be united. You can see this concept played out in Scripture, in politics, in the church, etc. Folks in a church may all agree on certain doctrinal stands, but are they united? We will find out when other issues hit the fan. You and I might find an issue upon which we can clearly rally. But when the “next issue” comes along it may expose that we were never really united.
  • We have to pray and calmly seek God’s guidance to look past the current issue. May God, the Great Physician, help us to see the real sickness and problem underneath instead of treating the symptoms. I may sneeze because I have allergies, you may sneeze because you have a virus. We have to understand the root problem, otherwise our treatment of the symptom may not work. In fact the treatment of the symptom could be dangerous.

For our meditation today, we can remember that when there are fights and quarrels, there is something underneath the surface that has nothing to do with the current issue.

Fierce Anger

1 Samuel 20:34 And Jonathan rose from the table in fierce anger and ate no food the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, because his father had disgraced him.

“Be angry, and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). Being angry is not sinful. Being fiercely angry is not sinful. It is what we do with the anger. Jonathan had every right to be fiercely angry with his father, King Saul. His father, who was also his King and commanding officer, had just tried to kill him. All Jonathan was trying to do was to defend David. Think of the betrayal of trust and the deep wounds that Saul had inflicted upon Jonathan. Put yourself in Jonathan’s shoes – Saul would not listen to reason. On top of that, he is trying to kill you and your best friend for being a threat to his power and questioning his authority.

Jesus was also very angry at times. This anger came from His deep sadness for the hardness of the Jewish leaders’ hearts. Jesus was angry because of “hard hearts in the face of human hurts” – Adrian Rogers.

Mark 3:5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Moses, the meekest man in all the earth, left the presence of Pharaoh in “hot anger.” If you read how Pharaoh was behaving, you will understand Moses’ hot anger. Pharaoh’s arrogance, stubbornness and rebellion against God was growing while his land and people were being destroyed before his very eyes. He just would not listen. Can you understand why Moses had “hot anger”?

Exodus 11:8 And all these your servants shall come down to me and bow down to me, saying, ‘Get out, you and all the people who follow you.’ And after that I will go out.” And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger.

In these above passages, we see righteous men who were angry, and rightly so. But we are also reminded many times in the Scriptures about the danger of our anger.

Ephesians 4:26-27 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.

James 1:19-20 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

James says our anger does not produce God’s righteousness. So, we can take passages about people being justifiably angry, and justify ourselves saying, “See, I have a right to be angry!” Wait a minute. What are we doing with that “justified” anger? We can say we have a right to be angry, and then use that as our justification for rudeness, avoiding people, gossip and offensive behavior. If that’s the case, then we are producing our righteousness, not God’s.

If we are “righteously angry”:

  • Are we moving toward resolutions and solutions? Or are we just talking about it?
  • Are we seeking vengeance or reconciliation?
  • Are we really using God’s word to deal with the anger and offenses or are we using our own human wisdom to resolve conflicts?

Here are a few thoughts about the men in the above passages who were angry.

Jonathan was angry with his father Saul, but he directed his energy to protecting, encouraging and defending David. He could not change his father, but Jonathan could keep his father’s wickedness from affecting his own behavior. He could also refuse to allow his father’s view of David to affect how he saw and treated David.

Jesus was angry with the Jewish leaders, and righteously so. Jesus prayed for them. He wept for them. At times He confronted and rebuked them for their hypocrisy. But again, just like Jonathan, Jesus went out and continued to do good for others, specifically those “others” that were hurt by the Jewish leadership.

Moses was very angry with Pharaoh, and he rebuked and confronted Pharaoh. But Moses clearly knew that Pharaoh’s heart was full of rebellion against God. This wasn’t against Moses, it was against God – Moses knew that. Moses could not take his own vengeance against Pharaoh, he knew that God would take care of Pharaoh. Moses kept doing what God called him to do, and God dealt with Pharaoh.

We may be angry, and we may feel very justified in that anger, but what are we doing about it?

You Are Free to Be Misunderstood

I heard someone say this week that “You are free to be misunderstood.” He followed that statement with something like this, “If you are free, then others are free too, and they will misunderstand you at times. If you go around obsessed with correcting everyone’s misunderstandings then you become enslaved.”

That’s pretty good stuff.

We are free. And with that freedom comes the reality that not everyone will like us, not everyone will understand us, and that others will have a complete misunderstanding of our thoughts and motives. We can’t chase that around and make it our obsession to right every wrong, because then we are truly enslaved. Enslaved to how others view us. Enslaved to what others are saying about us. Enslaved to correcting every misunderstanding.

Here is a great scriptural example of this concept. Nehemiah had led a group of captives from Persia to Jerusalem for the express purpose of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. As he led the people in this great work for God, he faced every opposition imaginable. One form of this opposition came in chapter 6 when people were making up stories about Nehemiah to get him off the wall and do him harm. Read what the text says.

Nehemiah 6:1-9 Now when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner. In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand. In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah.’ And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.” Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.” For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands. 

Did you see that Nehemiah recognized the great work of God he was doing? He could not come off the wall to come down with those who were just trying to cause problems. He also knew that the stories others were telling were just fabricated in their own minds. Nehemiah had the focus, strength and wisdom to keep on the work when lesser men would have come off that wall to defend themselves.

You are free to be misunderstood. There are times to clear up misunderstandings, but then there are times you realize that you will just enslave yourself going around trying to change everybody’s misconceptions. Even Job got caught in this trap, he got lost in justifying himself instead of defending God (Job 32:2; 40:8), so if it happened to Job, it can happen to us.

Shop Around

We were listening to an oldies station online a few days ago, and the song “Shop Around” started playing. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles released this catchy tune in 1960. “My mama told me, you better shop around…Shop! Shop!”

The meaning I get from this song is be very careful before you say “I do” and get married. Make sure that this person is the one with whom you really want to spend the rest of your life. Great wisdom! There are other parts of this song someone might take issue with, namely that you should not marry the first girl you date / court. Some of best and strongest marriages have come from that “first love.” Regardless, the lesson in this song is powerful and relevant to our young men and women as they consider marriage. Be careful! Don’t be sold on looks, “pretty girls come a dime a dozen…”

Click here to watch the YouTube video of the song performed live.

Shop Around

When I became of age my mother called me to her side,
She said, “Son, you’re growing up now pretty soon you’ll take a bride”
And then she said, “Just because you’ve become a young man now,
There’s still some things that you don’t understand now,
Before you ask some girl for her hand now
Keep your freedom for as long as you can now.”
My mama told me, “You better shop around, (Shop, shop)
Oh yeah, you better shop around” (Shop, shop around)

Ah, there’s some things that I want you to know now
Just as sure as the winds gonna blow now
The women come and the women gonna go now
Before you tell ’em that you love ’em so now.
My mama told me, “You better shop around, (Shop, shop)
Oh yeah, you better shop around” (Shop, shop around)

A-try to get yourself a bargain son
Don’t be sold on the very first one
A-pretty girls come a dime a dozen,
A-try to find one who’s gonna give you true lovin’
Before you take a girl and say I do, now,
Make sure she’s in love with-a you now.
My mama told me, “You better shop around.”

Ooh yeah, a-try to get yourself a bargain son
Don’t be sold on the very first one
A-pretty girls come a dime a dozen,
A-try to find one who’s gonna give you true lovin’.
Before you take a girl and say I do, now,
Make sure she’s in love with-a you now.
Make sure that her love is true now.
I hate to see you feelin’ sad and blue now”
My mama told me, “You better shop around (Shop, shop)

Don’t let the first one get you
Oh no ’cause I don’t want to see her with you
Uh huh before you let her hold you tight, ah yeah make sure she’s alright
Uh huh before you let her take your hand my son
Understand my son, be a man my son I know you can my son I love you”

Songwriters: BERRY GORDY JR, WILLIAM ROBINSON JR.
Publishers: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Lyrics data from Lyricfind.com