Thursday, July 29, 2021

How to Live with-and without- Anger: The Words of Jesus

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. Matthew 5:21-26

How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. James 3:6

Don't believe the tired old line that Jesus lays impossible teachings on us so that we would turn to God. God is God and is always there to help us, but that does not free or excuse us from Jesus' wisdom and direction on the matter before us.

Apparently Jesus called his disciples to exhibit a high level of self-examination. Much of Jesus' teaching (and above is the perfect example) requires that I be at least reflective enough to know how my angry words and actions affect others. How does anyone claim the faith and yet, become less thoughtful. Self-examination is parent to integrity and peace.

Following Jesus also requires honesty and courage. When wrong, promptly admit it. For Jesus, once it dawns on us that what we said or did was injurious, making things right between us and another person could cause us to exit worship- in the middle of the offering! 

Top priority is righting the wrong. And let's be clear, there's nothing here about telling someone their fault or waiting for an apology. No no and no. It's about going to the other party and making our apology- asking for forgiveness- for something we did or said- or perhaps something we neglected.

Here are some ideas:

1. Take Jesus at his word. It is in our power to make things right, to be reconciled. Realize that the process Jesus lays out will lead you to greater harmony in your relationships and movement to personal integrity and a less angry world.

2. In our attempt to right the wrong, we are not responsible for the responses of others. They are not required to forgive us, etc.

3. Do not use your apology as an excuse to manipulate or minimize or judge the other person.

4. In reflection and prayer:
  • Ask God for the wisdom to recognize one person you have wronged. What was done, what was said?
  • This may be for another time: ask God for the wisdom to know the best way to simply and honestly, admit your fault.

How to Live with -and without- Anger: Why It Matters (1)

Don't confuse feeling angry with words spoken and actions taken in anger. We are not bad or sinful because we get angry. It comes with our being human. However, our bodies are not meant to maintain a perpetual fight or flight response. Anger may feel good for a short time as it floods our bodies with adrenaline. However, it’s not by accident that the Scripture gives this important distinction between feeling- and feeding on- anger. “So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” Ephesians 4: 22-25

When is anger no longer "fun?" For me, it's when I'm tired of being angry. There's depletion, exhaustion, depression, and fatigue.  

A family, marriage, or friendship is often damaged and sometimes destroyed by people acting or speaking in anger. Road rage between complete strangers seriously endangers freeways. Vehicles are used as weapons and bullets fly because of a real or perceived aggression. 

Too,  The Big Book of AA mentions  "resentment" or "being burned up" as not only very destructive to spiritual health, but the number one offender in drinking again. 

The physical costs of anger are well documented in the classic, Anger Kills by Redford and Virginia Williams.  In most cases, when our anger has been triggered, we have already told ourselves one of two things (or maybe both):  1) the situation is not fair and 2) it's out of our control. 

What can I do with anger?

1. Recognize anger’s danger and destructiveness- for you and others.

2. Admit and identify a trigger—only when you are not angry.

3. Instead of venting it out, walk it out. Venting often makes me angrier. Walking can help me release the toxic overload of stress hormones and come to my senses.

4. Is my anger justified? If yes, is there any way I can work to improve the situation? If not, how can I diffuse anger- with wisdom, and even laughter?

5. Own your anger. I can’t expect others to deal with something I want to avoid. If I have hurt someone in anger, it is mine- not theirs- to go to them and make it right- simply, honestly and quickly. 

6. Don’t lose sleep! Each evening, I can tell God my thanksgivings for the day, confess when I was ungrateful and dedicate my rest to God.

7. I can continue to choose what my spiritual legacy will be. What role will gratitude play in marking my life and character? What memories and words will describe my life?

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Sacrament of Ministry

No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father." John 10:18

I wonder if anyone can really claim to be a servant without the element of sacrifice. Caregivers have their "bill of rights" and if you Google "compassion fatigue," you'll find training programs dedicated to its symptoms and remedies.

I'm afraid that we've used the word sacrifice when it's convenient for us- and usually on others. We pull it out to manipulate others to give more, be more, and do more. 

For example, in focusing on the sacrificial death of Jesus, we often overlook the New Testament teaching that Jesus willingly and freely chose it as his way out. Take that away and Jesus is sub-human.  And so are we when our battles are not freely chosen. 

True sacrifice is not coerced but results from willing and love. It is in Philippians 2:7 where Paul teaches that Jesus "emptied" himself. What Jesus emptied himself of was "being in the form of God," not his humanity. 

Some ask whether we are called to servanthood- or friendship- with Jesus. Why not have the best of both without losing either one? No one is more concerned about your well- being than the Paraclete who stands beside us, with us, and for us. And being a true friend of Jesus will prompt us to act in ways so that the well- being of another doesn't have to be sacrificed.

Oldies but Goodies