You’ve probably seen one of those commercials where someone is foaming at the mouth upset about something that seems trivial. Then, a friend recognizes their anger and hands them a certain brand of candy bar. They calm down immediately and become, literally, a different person. Ok, the actor playing the angry guy and the actor playing the calm guy are different people. We laugh because we’ve all probably experienced situations where we faced an angry person and wanted to give them a candy bar. According to some scientists, there’s a lot of truth in that commercial. Those angry feelings we get when we’re hungry are designed to make us get up and look for food. One of the problems in our modern world, according to these folks, is that because modern life has provided us with all the necessities in life, our anger is directed at trivial concerns.
These feelings of anger, according to these experts, are part of what allowed people to live in society as they helped people in the society set boundaries. Since many of those boundaries are established by law and custom, except in the minds of those who abuse others, that natural anger is redirected to trivial issues making us irrationally angry and inciting, among other forms of anger, road rage. The experts tell us to calm that anger down by asking if our concern relates to our survival. That may be one way, but God has a plan that’s a bit more specific: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV)
There’s a lot in this section of Ephesians, but this passage seems to point directly at me. While I’ve gotten better through they years, these words of Paul are convicting. We are to get rid of bitterness. It’s easy for bitterness to rise up when you get treated unfairly at work, or if you’ve had parents that obviously loved a sibling much more than you. Rage, including road rage, and anger are to disappear as well. Sometimes I think God’s asking too much, especially if that comment on rage means no more road rage. Brawling and slander – well maybe those aren’t so hard for me, but I can tell you some gossip about some people who will have a difficult time stopping those two. Every form of malice. In short, if it’s done out of hatred or anger, it needs to be replaced by kindness, compassion and forgiveness. These commands would be easy to ignore as the rantings of some crazy guy, but then we’re reminded that wJe’re being called to follow the example of Christ.
If anyone had reason to exhibit all those negative emotions, Jesus would have. Sure, He came down a little hard on the Pharisees, but that’s because He knew that they were so hard-hearted that it was the only way to break through to them. He loved them and cared for them. He showed that by talking to them. He showed that on the cross when He forgave people for not knowing what they were doing when they crucified Him. And every time I think about that truth, I’m convicted. If Jesus can show that kind of compassion and forgiveness for others as He endured all the way to the cross, why is it I get so upset about small things just because they’re a personal inconvenience? The answer, I suppose, lies in the fact that I’ve forgotten who I am, who God made me to be, and the mission that He’s called me to. My call, my mission is to introduce people to Jesus Christ and help them grow in their love and knowledge of Him and it seems like I’m willing to do anything to accomplish that mission, unless it involves grace and forgiveness. May God inscribe these words on my heart and make me more forgiving.
Lord, people need to see my compassion, love, and forgiveness. Help me to show more of all of those.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.