I went to Blue Letter Bible where it is easy to do word searches in over a dozen translations. Searches of ‘aggression’, ‘aggressive’, ‘aggressiveness’ nearly always turned up zero hits¹. It was almost like aggressiveness was a forbidden quality, thus a word to be avoided.
But not all aggressiveness is evil. If God put that capacity into us, then there must be a good way to use it. Many biblical examples of positive faith involved some element of aggression on the part of the believer.
It is often the quality that gets us from point A to point B, when nothing else seems to.
WHAT TRIGGERED MY RECENT AGGRESSION: A DRY SPELL
It started around March 21, 2013. I was studying the Word daily (my habit), but I suddenly stopped having those “did-not-our-hearts-burn-within-us” moments of discovery. Sure, I was learning new things. Mostly about the Old Testament (time lines, characters, culture, i.e. historical stuff). But nothing exciting. Nothing to spark a new Songsermons™, or a new article, which are normal manifestations for me when something from the Word strikes my heart.
After a couple weeks of this, I started getting perplexed. It was like God had suddenly tuned me out regarding His Word.
I didn’t feel alienated from God. I was exercising daily prayer and seeing results.
I was not burdened by guilt over something. (But, I did a forgiveness prayer, “just in case”.)
I was prospering and protected. My level of blessed living had not gone down.
But, there was this undeniable absence … nothing thrilling from the Word.
It started with an article (timely, for me) by my Facebook friend Jason Amato, entitled Uzziah Sought The Lord, And He Won! ²
Jason opens the article with a key verse about growth with God.
Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
I’ve encountered this verse numerous times in my 40 years with the Bible, but this time I particularly liked the word ‘earnestly’. (In the KJ version, it’s the word ‘diligently’.)
Neither ‘earnestly’ nor ‘diligently’ have the exact same meaning that ‘aggressively’ does. But all three words overlap on some points.
And when you need permission to figuratively kick some teeth in (like when some vague fog is impeding your growth with God), ‘aggressively’ gives it to you more than ‘earnestly/diligently’ does.
THE LORD SOMETIMES GETS AGGRESSIVE
The Lord? Aggressive?
Perhaps this does not surprise many of us. A flood to wash the planet of evil is aggressive.
Here’s a different example … less spectacular visually, but more spectacular in terms of a strong relationship between God and a believer.
“He [the Lord] will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou [the Lord] wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19, KJ. Emphasis added.)
If you are like me, you usually think of forgiveness as more of a passive activity… something done mentally. Something done with a simple decision. Not much physical effort involved.
Here, Micah is inspired with words that capture an aggressive Lord. ³
Not because of any ‘dry spell’ the Lord was encountering.
Not because He was wrestling with His ability to forgive, and needed an extra push.
There was no vague fog He was trying to break through to get from point A to point B.
The Lord’s aggression was for the benefit of His people.
They apparently were the ones fighting a vague fog. They needed to hear how the Lord was ready to kick in the teeth of unworthiness and guilt. If His people could visualize the Lord rising to action, rather than simply dictating truth from His recliner, it might wake up minds lulled to sleep by religious Nyquil®.
The Lord wanted an image of not only stating policy, but executing it as well.
Aggression can be love in action. Don’t be fooled. You will need aggressiveness from time to time to fulfill your walk of love with Jesus Christ.
Remember the woman who wanted to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment? She had to push her way through a packed crowd. Many of those in her way were men, bigger than she was. Her aggression got her from point A to point B. Both geographically, and in regard to her healing.
Remember when Paul wrote to the Corinthians that he was glad he spoke in tongues “more than ye all”? This documents aggression he applied on himself … to keep doing something that is so easy to stop.
Anyone who has participated in an exercise regimen has experienced what it takes to break through to the next level of strength and endurance. A few people I have known played hard metal rock through their earphones during their workout. Aggressive music, that can push fatigue aside, push extra effort into the mind, and push the person to a new level.
Ever watch athletes compete?
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24, NIV)
Would ‘a way to get the prize’ be by running 24/7 in a relaxed jog?
Ever watched the front lines of football teams? Detect any aggression there?
Jesus got aggressive when he overturned the tables at the temple. But I see that as mild compared to the aggression he applied in his face-to-face dealings the Devil and his crew, who were ruining the lives, and futures, of people. You just don’t win those confrontations with lukewarm.
The Devil was just as committed to defeating Jesus as Jesus was to defeating the Devil. Like the front lines of football teams, they frequently crashed into each other.
Assuming their aggression levels were equal, then the reason Jesus kept winning the scrimmage line battle was because he had a wiser Coach, who could diagram the perfect plays that kept leaving the Devil knocked on his butt, asking, “What happened? How many men did he have on the field? Ref! Throw a flag! Unnecessary roughness!”
MY PEST-DRIVEN DECISION TO GET AGGRESSIVE
And so, to end my dry spell, I decided to get aggressive. Not because I suddenly understood how aggression fit into a walk with God. That would come after the decision to get aggressive.
No, my decision to get aggressive was more self-centered than intellectual. I was simply tired of the dry spell.
To put it another way, my decision was based more on annoyance. The dry spell had become a nuisance … a pest, that (à la Micah 7:19) needed to be stomped on and torpedoed. (see The Message translation in the Footnotes)
Growing with God is sometimes like going through the forward gears of a manual transmission. Early on, you are in first gear. That gets you up to a certain speed, but there progress seems to level off.
If you reach this point and know it, that may flag you in God’s eyes that you are ready to shift gears. He may put something in your life to prompt you to kick it up a notch.
In my case, it was a dry spell.
I have no idea what gear I was in. But the concept of getting aggressive was definitely a shift up. Aggressiveness has rarely been a part of my personality.
When I made the decision to get aggressive, the action I included in that decision was, “I’m getting an article written. Period.”
WAS I HOOKED ON A FEELING? OOPS. MY BAD.
This article that you are reading is the result of me getting aggressive.
Was it ‘thrilling’ material, I was burning to present? Oddly, not like I’ve been used to over the decades.
Which makes me wonder something else. Have I been studying the Word for a ‘feeling’? Has my hunger been for a ‘feel good moment’, rather than for the knowledge of God?
Was I just after something to quiet, at least for a while, the bummer side of life? If so, was that what hooked me on the Word 40 years ago?
And if that’s the case, then my shift to this higher gear means some cool things:
1- I was ready for this step in maturity. ( I got ‘flagged’.)
2- I no longer need the warm fuzzy feeling to maintain my love for God and His Word, or for resulting productivity.
3- I have learned a secret … that in some aspects of life, aggression yields results ‘on demand’.
Aggression. The pure stuff can be some good sh**. Try a hit.
¹ The NIV was one exception, where the words ‘aggression’ and ‘aggressive’ show up a combined three times, all from Isaiah. However, their usages never refer to godly growth of the individual.
Isaiah 14:6 “[wicked rulers] which in anger struck down peoples with unceasing blows, and in fury subdued nations with relentless aggression.”
Isaiah 18:2 “which sends envoys by sea in papyrus boats over the water. Go, swift messengers, to a people tall and smooth-skinned, to a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers.”
Isaiah 18:7 “At that time gifts will be brought to the LORD Almighty from a people tall and smooth-skinned, from a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers—
the gifts will be brought to Mount Zion, the place of the Name of the LORD Almighty.”
² The Rise and Fall of Uzziah There is a ‘Part 2′ to Uzziah’s life. Remember when I wrote, “… not all aggressiveness is evil” ? Uzziah crossed a line. It could be an example of ungodly aggressiveness … to the Lord and His priests, no less!
³ Here are a couple other (contemporary language) translations, better capturing the aggression in Micah 7:19:
(NIV) “You [the Lord] will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
(THE MESSAGE) “And compassion is on its way to us. You’ll stamp out our wrongdoing. You’ll sink our sins to the bottom of the ocean.“