The following is a talk I gave at Sunday Night Alive on February 22, 2009. SNA is a youth worship service once a month provided by New Season United Methodist and the Steve Kropp Band.
Anger, according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition, is “a strong feeling of displeasure or hostility.” There are lots of things in our lives that can cause us displeasure or hostility. For example: getting grounded by your parents, your lunch money is stolen, a teacher accuses you of cheating when you didn’t, you see your bf or gf at the movies with someone else.
Anger is considered by the Roman Catholic tradition as one of the seven deadly sins.Which is tricky, considering that anger is a very human emotion.But even the most “holy” of the Bible have expressed this emotion.
In Exodus 32, Moses has been spending some time hanging out with God at the top of the mountain.For the Hebrew people at the bottom of mountain, Moses has been hanging out with God too long.They start to get antsy.They plead with Aaron, Moses’ brother, to make them a god.So, they take all the gold in the camp and create a golden calf.When Moses comes down from the mountain he turned into the Hulk.For Moses to be angry is perfectly human.Moses’ anger burned hot and he broke the original 10 Commandment tablets.
Genesis 1:27 says that in the image of God, God created humankind.In Judaism, and likewise in Christianity, there is this understanding that my relationship to you is also my relationship to another image of God.
In the Hebrew Bible when anger leads to cruelty, violence, oppression, or persecution – things that distort my relationship to another image of God – then anger is a sin.It is sin when it disrupts our relationship with another image(s) of God. Look at what Paul says in Galatians 5:14.
The whole law is summed by that one commandment.Leviticus 19:18 is where that commandment is originally stated.At the core of Leviticus 19 is a summons to holiness – a call to live a holy life.Leviticus 19 starts off with God saying live a holy life, for I am your God and I am holy.We are created in the image of God, the image of God dwells within us, God is holy, we too can be holy.
In Luke 10, Jesus tells a story,a story we refer to as the Parable of the Good Samaritan.This was a surprising story to hear at the time.Jews and Samaritans hated each other!They did not associate with each other.
In telling this story, Jesus, as Jesus tends to do, shatters all the categories of who are and who are not the people of God.It was the Samaritan, the unclean, the social outcast, and the religious heretic, that followed the commandment to love your neighbor.It was the Samaritan who understood that his relationship to the Jew was his relationship to another image of God.
Rise above what anger can lead to.Remember the holiness code in Leviticus 19 – do not hold a grudge, do not seek vengeance, instead love your neighbor.When Jesus was being persecuted by the Romans and nailed to the cross, instead of rising up against the Romans, instead of calling on the power of the Creator, Jesus uttered these words: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
Anger can be like an over boiling tea kettle, you have no idea when it’s going to run over or who it’s going to burn.
Dr. Bailey realizes that if she responds out of anger, she will be no better than her patient.She could have responded out of anger to her patient, and her anger could have revealed itself through cruelty, violence, oppression, or persecution – distorting the image of God in others.Instead she says, “We will rise above.”
When Jesus concluded his parable, he asked the lawyer which of these men showed loved for his neighbor.The lawyer answered the one who showed mercy.Jesus, the Great Teacher, knew that as long as we are on this earth, we are never done learning and growing.Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”
Go and love your neighbor.
Go, and as James says, “be slow to anger and quick to listen.”
Go and be holy.
Go and rise above.