Sunday, November 16, 2014
“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” ― Mark Twain
There was a man at church this morning who has stolen from the church, maligned the pastors, and run off new members. He has done more harm to that church and to the denomination than any other single person, and yet he still comes. His wife has left him, his children (all grown) will have nothing to do with him, and the government forced him to retire. Yet, there he sat, smiling. I became angry inside. I kept a smile on my face, but inside, I was telling him off, recounting his sins, and wishing all sorts of bad things to befall him. I was off on an internal mind rant when someone spoke to me, jarring me back to reality. It was the pastor asking me to pray for all those who were sick. Then, not before then, but at that very moment I realized that the man I with whom I was so angry was indeed sick. I was sick, too, because he had infected me. I had given him the power to shake my usual demeanor, to stop loving, to no longer be present in the presence of God, to make myself sick. So, when I prayed for the sick, I especially prayed for him and for myself. He hadn’t said or done a thing this morning, it was all me filling myself with hate and all the poison and bile that accompanies it. That’s the horrible thing about that kind of anger, it spills over and makes you turn on even those who love you. Powerful thing, anger, but it can be tamed. It can be controlled and directed where it is meant to be. William Arthur Ward says, “It is wise to direct your anger towards problems -- not people; to focus your energies on answers -- not excuses.” He’s absolutely right. There are things that should make you angry like racism, intolerance, hatred of others not like you, and many more that are the opposites of love your neighbor. For some minutes this morning, I allowed anger to defeat me. I allowed it to turn all my energy away from loving and caring and feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit, and to harden my heart. It couldn’t do it without me letting it. Sort of like the vampire myth that says they can’t come in unless you invite them. Thankfully, having to pray for someone you dislike goes a long way to diffuse that dislike. It won’t make them stop being the bad people that they are, but it does give you protection from the evil that hating them brings with it. I was reminded that back when I was counseling the recently divorced who were hurt and hating that they must first forgive the person who hurt them. Then, they should pray for that person every day. Then, they should protect themselves to avoid being hurt again, and then they should forgive themselves for whatever they had done to make things worse or failed to make better. Those four steps really work, and many men and women came to me after doing them to thank me for their newfound freedom and new life. Yet, I had done nothing, they had to take the actions that Christ would have had them do—I was only putting Christ’s words into modern terminology. We must be angry at the right things and never let anger poison us from the inside (see quote above). In forgiveness is freedom. In hatred and revenge there is only death, the death of the soul and the death of the spirit of Christ. Forgive and let Christ live in your heart. It is the way of peace.