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Putting anger in its place

Friday, February 18, 2005

Matthew 5:22,26
Jesus says,
"Anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. ... Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary."

I might not have a problem accepting gifts from someone who holds grudges or is bitter toward others, but God certainly does. I should too, of course, since we are all brothers. The bite of bitterness affects me as much as the one who holds it, as much as the one it's directed toward. We are all made less by unforgiveness.

Why would I stay angry, anyway? Old anger is responsible for colitis, indigestion, headaches, impotence, depression, listless relationships, and spiritual deadness. My prayers bounce off the ceiling. No one wants much to do with me.

Maybe that's at the crux of the thing. I feel so alone in my indignation. No one cares very much about how I have been unfairly treated. This is not just self-pity; it's usually true. So I have to stand up for myself. And I can't let go of that anger too quickly, or I'll get beaten down again.

Jesus' sermon on the mount consistently returns to the theme of brotherhood. We are responsible to each other. Love is not something to be reserved for family members or any other grouping we apply to conveniently limit our responsibility. Love one another, Jesus says to us all together.

In this heavenly kingdom culture, anger is not so necessary. Or rather, protecting myself is not so necessary. Anger becomes what it is meant to be, the rare expression of disappointed expectations which allows both parties to modify their behavior and improve their relationship.

Lord, when anyone around me is angry, give me ears to hear the pain and arms to reach out in love.

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