Anger Management

Walking into the Middle-East is much like entering a smoldering cauldron of anger. Sandy and I were in Israel a week ago.  We began our first day in Galilee and entered Nazareth just as the sun was beginning to set.  A collision of cultures and faiths characterizes Nazareth quite well.  The city’s connection to Jesus destined it to have a Christian community.  However, the largest demographic group is Arab muslim.  It is often referred to as the Arab capitol of Israel. Our time in Bethlehem was brief.  Our driver parked below the Church of the Annunciation located at the site where it is believed the angel Gabriel visited with Mary and told her that the Lord had chosen her to give birth to the messiah.  As we walked up the hill we passed a very small park, and as the steeple of the church came into view, so did a troubling sign.  Positioned so as to catch the eye of anyone looking for the church is a sign: And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.

It is more than competition. The anger was palpable.  They want to displace the church, if possible.  Now of course, Muslims do not have a corner on anger. Jews and Christians have a franchise of their own and a business that is booming.  Each of us is a shareholder.  We have a part in the expression of anger that continues to trouble not only the middle east, but the rest of the world as well. We saw this in Jerusalem with divisions among Christians and Jews, and of course, Arabs, too.

Now I understand that to speak of this is to bring up the causes for anger. The atrocities are too many to count. And, there have been more in the last week. Jews shot by Palestinians.  A mosque set on fire by a Jewish arsonist.   No one is questioning the injustices perpetrated.  I am questioning the response that is called for.  In the New Testament we read:

19My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 1

What surprises me about the anger problem is that those most angry purport to believe in God.  James first tells us to be careful about becoming angry because anger does not bring about what God wants.  I do not believe that we believe that.  Somehow we think that our angry actions can produce good things.  But, I also do not believe we trust in the justice of God.  We cannot allow the thing to remain with God who alone can settle it.

On October 2nd, 2006, Charles Roberts stormed an Amish School in Lancaster County, PA.  He took hostage an entire class of young girls, and in the a few minutes shot ten of them between the ages of 6 and 13.  Five of them died.  Why did he do it?  He was angry.  He left his wife an note pouring out his anger toward everyone.  Last of all he turned the gun on himself.  In the wake of this tragedy, the nation was stunned by the response from the Amish community. Many members of the Amish community began to reach out to Roberts’ widow to comfort and console her.  One Amish man held Roberts’ father for nearly an hour as he wept.  They established a fund to help meet the needs of the Roberts family.  When someone began to speak with anger about the man who had shot the girls, one Amish man said: We must not think evil of this man.  He had a mother and a wife and a soul and now he’s standing before a just God.

So determined were the Amish to put away any possibility of holding onto anger that they tore down the school building months later and turned the site into a beautiful meadow.  Why did they do this?  Jesus taught them the way to respond to violence and injustice. He taught them the way of love. They believe that God alone can bring about the justice we desire.  This doesn’t mean that we don’t work for justice.  It does mean that we are suspicious of the idea that our anger can bring it about as God desires.

I’d like to keep this discussion as far from home as possible.  The problem is in the Middle-East or Pennsylvania.  But anger touches all of our hearts.  It rears its ugly head whenever I perceive injustice taking place.  It may be when someone is mistreated or abused.  More likely, it happens when my fragile ego is damaged… when someone snubs or slights me.  In each instance, we are wise to be slow to become angry, and question our own belief that we have the ability to set it right.  That’s what the gospel is all about: our inability to bring true justice. God sent Jesus to do that because we can’t. The cross proves God’s dedication to fulfill all justice, and he was willing to do it at his expense.  May we learn to trust him and his ways.  Let us pray for peace, peace for the world, and a peace that begins with me.  What are you doing with your anger?

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Sandy on August 8, 2018 at 2:19 am

    It’s so easy not to deal with even little irritations. But they don’t resemble Jesus.


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