Thursday, February 23, 2017

don't be mad, bro

In today's reading from A Year with the Church Fathers, St Tertullian tells us about anger.

He says that we are commanded not to be angry in the Bible. Wait, you might say. The Bible actually tells us TO be angry. You might say that the Bible says, "Be angry, and sin not." And you'd be correct, it does say that. And this points out that our emotions are not sinful in themselves, but how we act on them.

However. We are also taught by Jesus not to call people "fool", or any other harsh word. While our emotions are not sinful in themselves, we CAN control our emotions by what we focus on. It's not a sin for a lustful thought to pop into my head. It IS a sin if I dwell on it. The same is true with anger. If someone cuts you off in traffic, you might become angry about that. But choosing to dwell on that anger and seethe about it until you become irate... that's where you've crossed the line into sin.

So how do we avoid that? Well, as I mentioned in the paragraph above, it has to do with focus. If someone annoys me, it's better if I don't focus on them. If I keep thinking about what they said to me that bothered me so much, I will have a hard time losing my anger. But, if I focus on God, and remember all of the amazing things He has done for me throughout my life... I will eventually gain the perspective that allows me to see that what that annoying person has done is not so bad after all.

Now, you might think "But what about Auschwitz? How can those who survived such atrocities forgive those who committed them?" And, to be honest, I don't know how I would fare if I were in their shoes. But those who DO forgive the torture committed at concentration camps (such as Corrie ten Boom) tell us that holding on to anger and vengeful thoughts is like holding on to acid. It doesn't hurt the person you're angry with. It hurts you. Forgiveness is healing... not just to your relationship with the offender... to you, in your own body and soul.

So let us forgive. Let's focus on Jesus, who is so much greater than our anger that He helps us let it go.

God, thank You for teaching us to forgive. Please help us to do so when it's hard.