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The Right to be Angry

We learn forgiveness and reconciliation through the God that gave us that himself – Jesus.

Stephen Covey tells a story of a time he was on a subway in New York. He states that while on the subway it was relatively peaceful. Most of the people were sitting quietly, reading, or even had their eyes closed. That all changed when a man and his children entered the car.

Covey recounts that they were immediately disruptive. The kids were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s newspapers. To Covey’s surprise, the father did nothing. He simply sat down and closed his eyes. After a few minutes, Covey began to grow irritated and he could tell the rest of the people on the train were too. Finally, his anger boiled over and he confronted the man about it. He said with as much poise as he could, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?” The man turned to Covey and responded shyly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”

I love this story because it helps put life back into perspective. For every moment of life that we get angry, that we believe a wrong has been committed against us, there is another story going on that we have no idea about. Wrongs happen. Sometimes they are trivial – maybe not even wrongs at all. Sometimes they are the result of real evil. What Jesus makes clear within Matthew 5:21-26 is that true righteousness is one that is able to look the wrongs in the face and not respond with anger, but with open arms of embrace.

This is hard when we are stuck in traffic, let alone when something truly evil is upon us. It seems unfair that Jesus even puts what seems to be such an impossible task before us. Yet he wants the severity of this idea to be understood when he states that it won’t just be murder that makes a criminal, but the very attitude of one’s heart towards another human being.

This text indicts us all. We all have those thoughts. We all wrestle with feelings of bitterness and hate towards those who wrong us. We all stand at the feet of the Judge who should rightfully take us away for our anger.

So how do we get rid of our anger? We give ourselves over to the only one who can change those inner attitudes and motives. We immerse ourselves in the one who had every right to be angry, and yet not only sought us out but became the offering himself. We learn forgiveness and reconciliation through the God that gave us that himself – Jesus.

“On the cross, the dancing circle of self-giving and mutually indwelling divine persons opens up for the enemy; in the agony of the passion the movement stops for a brief moment and a fissure appears so that sinful humanity can join in.”
– Miraslov Volf

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