Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Be Angry

Normally it's Fr. Hart who posts sermons on this blog, but certain thoughts have been coming to me, once a pastor, but now a layman, that needed to be said. (I needed to hear them.) The following is unashamedly preaching, but I hope it may be heard.

Ephesians 4:23-27 (King James Version)
"... be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
... put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
Neither give place to the devil."

Pilate refused to get angry, or at least to show anger. He asked, "What is truth?", as if the truth did not matter, and allowed a man he knew to be innocent to be killed, not for truth, but for cold and rational expedience. Anger would have been better than indifference.

In the Revelation, St. John reports Our Lord as saying to certain Christians, "You're neither hot nor cold; you're lukewarm and disgusting, I'll spit you out of my mouth." Anger would have been better than indifference.

German citizens under Hitler avoided getting angry when first one group and then another was carried off to concentration camps. Absolute tyranny took over. Anger would have been better than indifference.

In a certain church, step by step the truth has been relinquished. Doctrinal error has been tolerated. Morality has been ignored. The extermination of the unborn has been championed. The ancient order has been compromised by the ordination of women. And so it goes on and on, while many hold their tempers and yield. Anger would have been better than indifference.

St. Paul in the passage quoted writes about a renewal of the mind, about a new man whose nature is righteousness and holiness, about a commitment to the truth. In this context he speaks with a startling and uncompromising use of the imperative mood: "Be angry," he says. There's reason for it. Satan and his fallen legions abound in this earth, and there is evil that is distinctly hated by God Himself. If we are not angry, we have either misunderstood the threat or we have misunderstood God Himself. St. Paul is not making a suggestion, nor is he yielding to the inevitable, but rather he is issuing a solemn command.

There's more, however, St. Paul goes on, "And sin not." Anger can lead to a loss of self-control. It can lead to any of several forms of hatred. It can result in hurtful action. It can produce permanent and needless estrangement. Truly righteous anger does indeed hate the sin, but we have a very clear instruction from Our Lord: "Love your enemies. Do good to those that persecute you. Return good for evil." A righteous anger recognizes that the sinner is enslaved by his sin, that the sin is just as harmful to the sinner as it is to any victim. A righteous anger is controlled, proportionate, loving, and inviting.

There's more. St. Paul continues, "Don't let the sun go down on your wrath, but don't give place to the devil." In short, calm down before you go to sleep. Make sure you are at peace in the Lord. Make sure your motivation is love. Pray for the one who has occasioned your anger. But do not let that mildness lull you into acceptance of the evil. Don't let Satan win this one, either by destroying your peace or by getting his way unopposed.

This is an outline of robust and polite discussion. We'll fail to reach such a lofty standard, but this is the God-given goal that should be regulating our attempts to argue truth in a terribly distorted world. We Anglicans speak much of a "via media" of a middle way. This is not a pursuit of compromise, but of the single truth that lies at the center of living, from which deviation in either direction leads to danger. Be Angry, but don't sin.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is excellent stuff, Poetreader!
Pontius Pilate was the man with perfect anger management! Exemplifying the pagan philosophical ideal of "apatheia." Had never thought of that, but I will certainly use it sooner or later.