The destructive power of anger

by Frank Muller

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It is right and appropriate to stand against sin and injustice for those things that are evil. That is good and true and ulitimately heals.

However, what is destructive is to harbor anger, hold a grudge, defame or gossip about another, to manipulate, to carefully construct questions in order to make another look bad and on and on……

Anger separates us from one another. Anger breaks relationships even if they are still talking. Communication does not mean the relationship is still intact. So often, that dysfunctional communication is simply means of acting out of anger. That lack of mercy, the denial of forgiveness, the callous harm we can cause another because in our righteous anger we feel justified in the justice we exact on someone because of what they did to us.

I get it, we all get it. However, there is a supernatural Truth that should cause all of us to pause. When we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven. When we lash out at another, we will be lashed out against. When we call someone a “fool”, we are condemning ourselves. When we cut others off from our grace, we are cut off the Grace that transcends.

In ancient Israel, the Jewish people would bring sacrifices to the altar in the Temple in order to expatiate their sins. However, this sacrifice was predicated on the fact that the offering became acceptable only after making right what they had done wrong to another if at all possible. The offering itself was a sacramental sign of the sacrifice they were supposed to have made to those whom their relationship with had been damaged or broken.

When we get so angry that we can begin to wreck a relationship we are on the path to personal destruction. Yesterday, a man convicted in his righteous anger towards the Uvalde tragedy and the leaked Dobbs opinion from the Supreme Court believed it was a good idea to murder a Supreme Court Justice.

That same kind of anger drove the shooter in Uvalde. However, this anger is pervasive in so many of us. Perhaps the material consequence does not rise to murder, but the spiritual and moral consequence is the same. We judge and condemn others, yet we plead for mercy and forgiveness for ourselves if called to account.

This is akin to taking a slaughtered animal to the altar yet harboring hate, resentment, grudges and other evil against another and thinking the sacrifice will be acceptable. It will not, in fact it brings the same condemnation upon the person making that very sacrifice. It is the repentance to make right what can be made right and to seek peace with all that have been harmed by our conduct that makes the sacrifice of the animal acceptable.

Justice is demanded on two fronts. One it is owed to those we have acted in anger and judgement of, and it is owed to the Creator that demands justice for all things. The Creator though cares first about Hin creation and that it is rightly ordered in peace and mercy and then will accept the sacrifice to atone for that supernatural sin against the Creator.

On and on, in the news and in every form of media is that constant attack and counterattack of this evil dance of judging and condemning others and then either overtly hurting the other or denying them what they want even if the object is a good. Watch our politicians on both sides of the aisle deny the other party a policy “win” even if they agree it is a good because they desire retribution and that no credit should accrue to the other party.

Marriages, business relationships, families, friends and every grouping on the planet is constantly pulling for advantage and harboring internal grievances or external retributions from the past. Every dysfunction we rail against is a direct result of billions of human beings manifesting their anger, resentment and hate. Harboring that anger is never justified and it can be eternally condemning. Harboring hate also destroys a life of joy, and renders existence merely a trail of tears.

Jesus of Nazareth makes clear this Old Testament teaching that peace and mercy are the measuring sticks of Love. He warns in stark terms that placing a sacrifice upon the altar when one holds an internal and/or external anger towards another will bring eternal condemnation. That is, it is the person who holds the grudge who may in fact be the one subject to the greatest condemnation.

This message becomes intensely personal to Him as he makes Himself the sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. It is no longer an innocent animal, it is the Creator of Existence offering Himself in his body, soul and divinity. If we want to participate in that Mercy, we must exercise that same mercy to others.

These altar sacrifices of the unrepentant and unreconciled sinner with those he or she harbors anger towards with the body and blood of the Creator drives home the point that one should approach this altar with the Divinity of God placed into His holy body with great fear and trepidation if we are not working hard to purge ourselves of hate and anger.

The altar of sacrifice was not taken away. It was made perfect in that the sacrifice is truly sinless (God Himself) and truly repentant (we make amends for the evil we have done to those who were harmed). This is justice in heaven and on earth.

How then do we respond to error or great evil? The answer is not passive acceptance but rather to speak clearly of what the Truth is of the evil being done but not to condemn the sinner but rather the sin. This allows us to stand strong for the Truth but never at the expense of a relationship. Christians should stand as exemplars of cheerfulness and loving relationships even with those we know are in grave error.

We correct those errors through Love, not judgement and condemnation. To do this requires great strength as we must start to restrain our tongue, to stop passive aggressive paybacks, to work around another in the dark, to patiently lurk in the shadows with a plan to just outlast them and the infinite number of ways we commit this evil under the veil of a comfortable self-lie.

True strength is shown by people like Martin Luther King who speaks out against evil and injustice but never once advocates violence or condemnation of individuals. He condemns the sin but never the sinner because Dr. King knew that he (like all of us) are sinners who will desire God’s mercy at our death and God will dispense that Mercy to us if we in fact did the same to all in our lives.

Imagine the impact on the world if the good would tap this strength and grow in character to speak boldly about evil but always through friendship and cheerfulness we persevere in a loving relationship even with a person we disagree with.

More than two decades ago, I was a jury foreman in a capital murder trial in Houston, Texas. The accused stood charged with the brutal rape and murder of a prostitute behind a convenience store. For so many years I harbored deep hate towards this man. To see the gruesome images, to hear the unbearable details, to witness the tears and trauma done to all those affected – I became self-justified in my anger towards this man.

In a future missive, I will share some musings on the death penalty but for today let me attempt to be clear. Any good and just society should have laws and courts that attempt to uphold and protect the common good. Justice as administered by a just society is warranted for temporal offenses as this punishment represents the same sacrifice by the accused to the people, the victims and their families and then to their God.

It is this latter judgement that demands that both the guilty and those victimized by the guilty let go of the hate that binds eternally. This will be the sin that we are all confronted with if we do not deny ourselves and love the sinner and the sinned against even though we condemn and appropriately judge the sin in this world and administer the appropriate consequences for that evil in this world. When we all reach our judgement, we will all want and need Mercy. Pray that we let go of that hate that binds us to unforgiveness.

Occasionally, we see those regrettably rare circumstances when both the perpetrator and the victim (and/or their families) let go of the hate and make peace. This never brings the victim back to life nor does it fully compensate for the pain in this world, but it frees all to love and be loved, to show mercy and to be granted mercy, to express forgiveness and to receive it.

All the while, the appropriate temporal consequences must remain, but the eternal consequences are expiated by that letting go of anger and presenting the appropriate sacrifice of our Lord’s body and blood as the price for the ransoming of our souls from eternal separation due to hate.

So, if there is someone that needs to be made right, make it right so long as it does not do any more harm. If for whatever reason that is not reasonably possible, then work hard to forgive and to pray for their well-being and that one day in the future they may be freed from anger and hate.

When we hear idle conversation like “I can’t believe she did that…”, “Did you hear about so and so and what they did….”, “President…. is a fool and an idiot”, “Someone needs to pay for this outrage……”? Pray for them. When we see a movie and this evil cycle of anger, drama, revenge, paybacks, pity parties and other forms of anger are displayed then please change the channel and turn towards role models who seek peace, kindness and mercy.

My prayer for us all is to be strong in seeking the Truth but be soft with people. The biggest regrets in our lives are the words and actions done in anger or jealousy or revenge or greed. Let us free ourselves and others from this slavery to anger, and when we see and try to live that Truth, we indeed will be free to love and to be Loved.

May Peace with us all.

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