As I write this, I reflect that today was my kung fu teacher’s birthday. He passed away two years ago. As a teenager, I began studying martial arts and was heavily invested in them until my mid-twenties. I eventually achieved the rank of instructor (sifu, as it is called in Chinese). My teacher taught me many things like punches, kicks, sweeps, fighting, weapons, board and brick breaking, but most importantly self-discipline and anger control. You see, I used to have a very hot temper. You could say I had a Krakatoa-level volcanic temper. But John taught me that the person who is controlled by anger has already lost the battle. Rage may make a person feel powerful, but it robs that person of his/her greatest weapon – the intellect. There is a reason that the word anger is synonymous in common use with the word mad. To be controlled by a wrathful nature is to lose control of your mind. Madness is defined as being mentally off-balance, being prone to foolish behavior, and being in a state of chaos. Being prone to fury is something that must be overcome or else a person will live in a state of frequent chaotic foolishness causing multiple problems for him/herself and for others. My kung fu teacher taught me how to control my temper, but he couldn’t teach me how to change my temperament.

That task required Jesus Christ. Only God had the power to transform my violent tendencies into loving, patient, kind, and reasonable choices. My anger did not leave me just because I became a Christian, it took several years and a lot of lessons and help from the Lord. One of the biggest keys in this victory was when I began to try to love other people as Jesus loves them. I’m not saying that loving people never become angry, but I would contend that they are not mercilessly controlled by such feelings. Love does get outraged at abuses done to others. Love that controls anger, however, does not seek to respond out of proportion to the situation. That’s the problem with a hot temper; it overreacts to wrongs and frustrations the person perceives. An irksome nature does not stop to reflect or give another person the benefit of the doubt; it explodes because deep in the person’s core they are in chaos. The causes of this are many, but the umbrella for this chaos is a sinful nature.

The sinful nature can only be transformed by the grace of Jesus Christ. Until the peace of Jesus Christ rules our heart and mind, deep inside ourselves we are like a pool of seething, roiling, churning, turbulent magma ready to erupt when we feel that our will or way is being challenged. The problem with merely controlling anger is that this often means that we stuff it down into the boiling core of our emotional turmoil only setting us up for a bigger blow-up sometime later. Forcing powerful emotions down can lead to health problems like blood pressure or even heart trouble.

You can’t punch or kick your way out of a disordered temperament, you have to encounter a love stronger than ten million exploding suns such as we find in the grace of Christ. When I became a Christian, I had to stop practicing martial arts because, even though I had greater control over my wrath, I couldn’t practice fighting others without reinforcing violent feelings in myself. That’s what I needed to do, not all people would need to do the same, but since I wanted to let God change me for the better, I had to set kung fu aside.

I have learned that love burns hotter but purer than anger. And where anger is an outburst against others, love is an outflow of benevolence, goodness, forgiveness, peace, patience, kindness, compassion, and self-giving for the benefit of others. Anger feels powerful but is really weak like a balloon venting air and flopping randomly around the room accomplishing nothing worthwhile. Love is powerful and can withstand hurricane-force hatred and overcome. Anger shrinks us in upon ourselves making everything about us, but love enlarges us and makes everything about what is good, noble, best, blest, and helpful. Anger doesn’t need to be taught, we are born able to throw fits. Love can only be caught and then taught by receiving the new life that Jesus Christ offers to those who believe in Him, confess their sins, and allow Him to lead them into passions that are no longer chaotic or foolish, but that is focused and wise. This is a journey but with every step in the right direction, there are great rewards and increasing joy. I want you to have that joy, so consider all that Jesus has to offer you!

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