Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 98; 146, Deuteronomy 8:11-20 (or Deuteronomy 18:15-22), James 1:16-27, Luke 11:1-13
“Your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.”
What sobering words from James. Don’t we all have the capacity to work up a righteous (or self-righteous) anger? Shouldn’t evil and injustice make us angry?
Though wrath is reserved for the Lord, anger is an inescapable part of the human condition. We may spend a lifetime trying to master it – or trying to make sure it doesn’t master us – but on some level we cling to the belief that anger gets things done. Maybe we need to ask if they are the right things.
Anger is the beast that rips the wings off the better angels of our natures; the saboteur that dismantles our mechanisms of compassion and reason just when we need them most. Anger is the self-devouring fear we experience when forced to face the truth of one power we all lack: the power to undo. We get angry because something has happened, something we would have prevented if we could go back. When we are angry about what may happen in the future, it’s because we can’t change an event in the past. If that event is of our own making and anger turns inward, we find ourselves caught in a barbed net that draws tighter the more we struggle.
But Christ … Christ redefines the past. Christ transforms the cross – the murderous embodiment of the anger of an entire corrupt empire – into a sign of new life. Christ tames the beast, foils the saboteur. Submitted to Christ, anger is resurrected and refocused as a drive for justice, an energy for radical love, a passion for mercy, a courage for truth. Our anger does not produce God’s righteousness, but God’s righteousness can produce amazing things from an anger we are willing to turn over.
In the heat of the moment, anger may be unavoidable, even necessary for survival, but the most necessary armor will eventually suffocate us. Know when to peel it off, when to seek the breath of life, when to beat the sword into a plowshare. What we cannot undo, Christ will not leave undone.
Comfort: Your anger does not have to define you.
Challenge: Read some articles or books on managing anger.
Prayer: God of peace, take my anger and resurrect it as love. Amen.
Discussion: How do you usually deal with being angry? Shouting? Silence? Violence? How do you feel about it?
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