Out of the Heart the Mouth Speaks

This past month, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling in favor of Westboro Baptist Church‘s right to protest at a soldier’s funeral. Over the past several years, I’ve seen videos and news articles of this group’s hate-speech, sign-waving demonstrations primarily directed towards homosexuals and cringed each time, wondering what’s behind this method of presenting the gospel. This can’t be what Christ intended when He said, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News…” (Mark 16:15) And they’re not the only group or individual I’ve seen act in a similar fashion: That is, focus almost exclusively on a particular sin while condemning those committing that sin. When I compare the life of Christ to their actions, something just doesn’t add up.

Out of the Overflow of the Heart the Mouth Speaks

When an individual or church only focuses on one particular sin AND their emotional responses around that sin are consistently filled with anger, outrage and/or hate, this says more about the condition of the person’s heart (Luke 6:45) rather than the severity of the sin they’re attacking. Most of the time, Jesus responded to the lost with compassion (Matthew 9:35-38), not anger. Christ reserved the rough stuff for the religious leaders. There are many in the Church who feel called to speak out against specific sins such as abortion, alcoholism, or domestic violence. But they express a variety of emotions with compassion often leading the way. I’m not concerned with them, only with those who can’t let go of their anger towards a particular sin. This almost always is a red flag that something’s not right with their heart.

What’s Beneath the Anger?

Howard Olsen, a professional counselor with CrossWays Ministries, states that we only experience three negative primary emotions:  Pain, Shame, and Fear and that Anger, along with other emotions normally considered negative, is really a secondary emotion. Generally, we become aware of our anger long before other negative feelings as a means to help us regain control of the situation. With pain, shame, and fear, we feel vulnerable and exposed, unable to protect ourselves. Thus with anger, it’s always important to ask the question: What’s beneath the anger? What are the issues (wounds) and emotions I’m trying to avoid by hanging on to my anger? Matthew 7:3 gives us a clue where to start. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own…?”

What Wounds Am I Avoiding?

For example, if I consistently rage against homosexuality, hatefully attacking those committing that sin, maybe what’s simmering beneath the surface is a fear of my own homosexual impulses. Or maybe it’s the shame of past homosexual sins or the painful memories of a molestation at a young age by someone of the same sex. Maybe the homosexuality reminds me of a painful wound that I desperately want to avoid. And instead of pouring out my heart to God like King David did after he sinned,  and confessing my faults to those in the Body of Christ, I hide my wounded heart by pointing to the failures of others. I control my behavior by attempting to control yours. And when I do, my wound never heals.

Search Me O God

An unhealed wound blinds us to the condition of our heart and makes it easy to deceive ourselves into believing that we’ve moved past the sin or the traumatic event, past the pain-filled, shameful memories that defile our lives in so many areas. David knew this about himself when he prayed in Psalm 139:23-24 (English Standard Version), “Search me, O God! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous  way in me…” He knew that only God saw the truth of what was really inside his heart. So the next time I see a Westboro Baptist Church or other individuals rage against the sins of others, instead of cringing and shaking my head, irritated at the speck in their eyes, I’ll take the opportunity to have a ‘David moment’ and pray, ‘Search me O God and show me my heart and any unhealed wounds hidden inside.’

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