“You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.” (James 1:19-20, NRSV)
In a 2007 episode of the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, Dr. Miranda Bailey, the African-American chief of surgery, is faced with a challenging case. Not because the surgical needs of the patient are a medical mystery. But because the patient is a Neo-Nazi, and does not want any African-American person touching him.
TV medical dramas being what they are, the patient’s condition becomes so dire, that Dr. Bailey is the only surgeon who can do the most good. She easily could employ the same anger the patient showed her. Instead, realizes that if she responds out of anger, she will be no better than her patient. Dr. Bailey tells the medical staff, “We will rise above.”
Sometimes showing mercy to others means we have to set aside the anger we have, rise above the situation, and be Christ-like. Anger can be like an over-boiling teakettle. You have no idea when it’s going to run over or who it is going to burn.
The holiness code in Leviticus 19 begs us to not hold a grudge, to not seek vengeance, instead, love our neighbors. When Jesus was being persecuted by the Romans and nailed to the cross, instead of rising up against the Romans in an aggressive display, Jesus uttered these words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
When Jesus concludes the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), he asked the lawyer which of these men showed love for his neighbor. The lawyer answered, “The one who showed mercy.” Jesus responds, “Go and do likewise.”
Go and love your neighbor. Go and share mercy.
Go, and as James says, “be slow to anger and quick to listen.”
Go and rise above.
What situation in your life requires you to set aside anger and share mercy?
Lord, help us to be slow to anger and quick to listen. May we rise above the anger that resides in our hearts and share mercy, even to those who anger us. Amen.