Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Losing it

An edited version of my Morning Thought, for BBC Radio Wiltshire

One of the topics for discussion on the show this week is, "losing it". We tend to think that anger as a bad thing. It is associated with outbursts of uncontrollable rage, when we “see red” and really let rip. But anger is not necessarily a bad emotion. Sometimes it is the only right response to evil and injustice. A few years ago, we visited the Imperial War Museum in London. The museum had a holocaust exhibition. Faced with the horror of what happened in the 1940’s, I not only felt sorrow for the victims of Hitler’s “Final Solution”, but also anger at the mindless slaughter of millions of human beings.

You may be shocked to hear me say this, but the Gospels record that Jesus was sometimes provoked to anger. He was angry with the religious establishment’s cold hearted indifference to human suffering. He was so angry at the commercialisation of God’s house, that he turned the money changers out of the temple. Now, Jesus never “lost his rag” out of personal pique. Unlike some of us he wasn’t grumpy or irritable. But Jesus cared too much about human beings to shrug his shoulders and walk away when he saw the vulnerable exploited or oppressed. Anger, then can be a fitting response to wickedness and injustice. Anger in that sense is compassion with teeth.

But, we cannot ignore the dark side of anger. One of the Bible’s many wise proverbs says,

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.
(Proverbs 29:11).

We can allow anger and resentment to burn in our hearts. That is what wreaks lives and ruins relationships. There is a far better way, the costly way of forgiveness. This is not easy. But it is not easy for God to offer forgiveness to people who have turned their backs upon him. He offers us forgiveness because Jesus willingly died on the cross for the wrong things we have done. The forgiving God calls those who trust in him to be forgiving people,

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. (Eph 4:31& 32).

It is far better to forgive than to rage.
You can listen to recordings of this week's Graham Seaman breakfast show here. I'm on about 45 minutes into the programme.

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