Thus says the Lord:
‘If the wicked man renounces all the sins he has committed, respects my laws and is law-abiding and honest, he will certainly live; he will not die. All the sins he committed will be forgotten from then on; he shall live because of the integrity he has practised. What! Am I likely to take pleasure in the death of a wicked man – it is the Lord who speaks – and not prefer to see him renounce his wickedness and live?
‘But if the upright man renounces his integrity, commits sin, copies the wicked man and practises every kind of filth, is he to live? All the integrity he has practised shall be forgotten from then on; but this is because he himself has broken faith and committed sin, and for this he shall die. But you object, “What the Lord does is unjust.” Listen, you House of Israel: is what I do unjust? Is it not what you do that is unjust? When the upright man renounces his integrity to commit sin and dies because of this, he dies because of the evil that he himself has committed. When the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding and honest, he deserves to live. He has chosen to renounce all his previous sins; he shall certainly live; he shall not die.’
Jesus said to his disciples, If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.’
Anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court
A pair of siblings I know have stopped speaking to each other. It all started harmlessly enough. The sister asked her brother if he could give her a ride to an event. He was having a bad day and, in a fit of irritation, scolded her for how her children were ‘so irresponsible’ not to have provided for her conveniences that she had to trouble him. Taken aback by the force of his hurtful remarks, she was in that instance dumbstruck. Rehashing the conversation in her head though, she came up with all manner of sarcastic responses and all the clever things she should have said to ‘give him a piece of her mind’. The more she thought about it, the angrier she became. Neither brother nor sister spoke to one another. They avoided each other during family gatherings. When they were forced to speak to each other, words were few, cool and civil. The tongue is a terrible instrument. One careless, angry utterance and years of brotherhood is thrown into dysfunction.
Anger has many faces in Scripture. We see it as Jealousy (“God was well pleased with Abel and his offering, but towards Cain and his offering He showed no pleasure. This made Cain very angry and downcast”, Genesis 4:4-5). We see it as Resentment (“The elder son became angry and refused to go in.. the indignant son said, “Look I have slaved for you all these years…yet you have never given me even a goat”, Luke 15:28-29). We see it rear itself in Fear (“Saul had his spear in hand… pointed it at David thinking, ‘I will nail David to the wall’… Saul saw that God was with David and had left him. And he was afraid”, 1 Samuel 18:10-12).
Scripture makes the distinction between Anger that is sinful and Anger that is sanctified. Jesus was angry too, frustrated by his lack of success with turning around the Pharisees – “Jesus looked around at them with anger and deep sadness because they had closed their minds” (Mark 3:5). On occasion, he was even given to fits of rage, “Jesus went into the Temple and drove out all who were buying and selling in the temple area. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the stools of those who sold pigeons” (Matthew 21:12). There is a marked distinction though, between the Anger that Jesus experienced and the Anger of Cain and Saul. Cain and Saul were bitter men. Bitterness when full grown manifests itself as Revenge, and Revenge unrestrained leads to Violence and Death. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay’, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19)
“Be angry but do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26-32). Scripture says, “Do not let your anger last until the end of the day, lest you give the devil a foothold.… Do not sadden the Holy Spirit of God, which you were marked with… Do away with all quarreling, rage, anger, insults and every kind of malice: be good and understanding, mutually forgiving one another as God forgave you in Christ” (Ephesians 4:26-32). Holding on to our anger only makes it stronger. Like a poisonous plant, Anger grows bitter roots when we rehash things over and over in our heads – we imagine how we could have said this, how we could have done that to get even. Anger is our most instinctive defense mechanism, like how animals bite when they are threatened. But we’re not animals. We’re His children and we’re supposed to be vessels of His love and His light. This Lent, “leave your gift at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother” (Matthew 5:24). We owe it to ourselves, our beloved Christ and our loved ones to undo this bitterness. Let’s not let a few angry words do more harm than they have already done.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for the magnanimity to be the first to say, “I’m sorry. Can we call a truce?”
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the examples of ‘anger management’ that Scripture provides us.