I tend to not be a particularly angry person. Actually, I don't really like to get angry. You always seem to do something that you will regret later when you get that emotionally whipped up. I do at any rate.
(I made it a rule to never grade student's papers when I was in a bad mood. I also think it is a bad idea to reprimand or punish someone when you are on the cranky side of things. You simply aren't being rational at that moment.)
WELL, have I got a story for you!
But two items to cover first: #1. Tonight at work, one of the Produce guys said that he liked to think of all of us as characters from The Simpson's. He told me that I would be Flanders, because I am normally in a happy mood. (I could think of worse characters to be. And I won't comment on who he thought was Mr. Burns or Barney.)
#2. I will tell you exactly how to make me pop a bolt almost instantaneously. Either tell a very nasty lie about me, and try to spread it around, OR be dismissive or condescending towards me. It would normally be best if you moved quickly away from me at that point, because I will be sorely tempted to ask Jesus to go wait in the back of the car while I deal with you.
Well, tonight someone tried the second of those two options with me.
The fact of the matter is that I simply don't get angry very much. I can get annoyed pretty easily. (People that dump their trash in the parking lot. People that park in handicapped spots when they are fully functional...things like that.)
You see, the types of students that I worked with for so many years kind of squeezed out my interest in getting too upset over stuff. After the 200th time of hearing a variation of "Mr. Conrad, go F**K YOURSELF!" it just loses it's charming sting.
Seriously, it's to the point now that I will simply respond with either, "Hmmm, seems like you're having a bad day. How bout ya just chill in the hall for a bit and we'll worry about this later?" Or, one of my personal favorites, "Huh, that's IT? Jeez kid, I can do better than that. Allow me to demonstrate."
So on to the story:
I'm sitting in the breakroom trying to get something to eat. All of a sudden, I was getting calls that I had to respond to every few minutes. I honestly did not get a single moment of more than 5 minutes at a time to eat anything. Now at the same time, there was another fellow sitting in the next room who is SUPPOSED to get those calls too. Did he once get off his well proportioned back side to lift a finger? Nope. Finally, on the forth call I got up and on my way to get the call I barked at him and told him that he COULD help out if he felt like it. (He eventually did...after the problem was solved.)
I gave up trying to eat anything and just went back to work. I'm coming down the stairs, as Mr. Helpful is coming up. He points his stubby little finger at me and says, "Listen, any more emotional outbursts like that and you'll be having a talk with the Store Manager." Naturally, my mind raced with delightful visions of his form being hurtled by me down the rest of the staircase, and then dribbling the remainder of his carcass like a sizable basketball all the way back to the dumpster.
Instead, I found some friends, let them know my mood, and then proceeded to vent it all out. Perhaps that was not the most immediately gratifying method, but certainly the best legal option at that time.
Up there on a hillside in Galilee, Jesus is talking to a large crowd of folks. He says to them, "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, "Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement." BUT I TELL YOU that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother "Raca" is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says "You fool!" will be in danger of the fire of hell." (Matt. 5:21 & 22)
So in other words, if I get angry and stay angry, I am deserving of hell in the eyes of Jesus.
Ouch, man! That's pretty strong stuff. Who is that guy to tell me I should go to hell for having a temper problem? That all sounds pretty judgmental. I mean, we live in a world where people lose their cool all the time. (Ooo, I forgot a third way to make me angry. Drive real slow in the left-hand lane and refuse to move out of the way. Works every time.)
Let's take a look at the three ways Jesus is looking at anger in these verses.
"Anyone who is angry with his brother" = I don't recall the exact words for this, but the basic idea is that of a smoldering fire...like a camp fire that is still warm the next morning when you wake up. It just keeps simmering until you can put some more wood on it, and then it's good to go. I suppose that it's kind of like the grudges that we cling to, and we slowly gather more twigs of resentment & such.
"Anyone who says to his brother "RACA"..." = The term Raca essentially "Empty-Head." In other words, this person is an idiot, a moron. You view this person as intellectually inferior to you. I am particularly guilty of this one when I am driving. I will dismiss other drivers as being idiots who have no business being on the road because they can't seem to understand the concept of merging. (Apparently, this would include the vast & overwhelming majority of Minnesota drivers.)
"Anyone who says "You Fool!" will be in danger of the fire of hell." = This is the term for someone who is morally inferior to you. You can dismiss them because they are the adulterer, the addict, the thief, etc. You are morally superior to these people, so you have the right to cast them off as a fool.
And yet, Jesus says that if you do any of these, you should end up in hell.
Most people like the Jesus who hangs out with "Sinners." Most folks seem to forget or ignore that he also preached ON, and warned OF judgment. So what gives him the right to say something like that to me just because I'm pissed-off at someone?
Well, two thoughts:
In The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is announcing that the Kingdom of God is at hand...and he IS the King. John asserts in his Gospel that "Through him all things were made." Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. He is God. As such, he gets to say what's what. Simple as that really.
But there is more to it than that.
#2. If the Old Testament law..."Do not murder," was set up to protect life, then Jesus is actually going a step further with all of this. Jesus wants to protect "Personhood." The bible states over and over that ALL humans are made in the image of God. As such, we are of great value in the eyes of God. This is why Jesus takes such thoughts so seriously.
I'm really going to try and flesh this out more tomorrow, because I'm working on a paper of sorts to present to a prospective employer. So stay tuned, more on this later.
However, what this does point out is that in the eyes of God, every person on earth has great dignity and worth. It doesn't mean that we are all wonderful people who fart out rainbows & pepperoni. But it does mean that the wino sleeping under the bridge, and the runaway teen doing terrible things to survive on the streets is more majestic & beautiful than Lake Superior on a clear summer day.
Most of us will go through life with out actually killing another person. But, let's face it, we slaughter people in our minds everyday. (OK, maybe you don't...but I do.) So what should we do? I mean, for most of us this simply is beyond any possibility of achieving.
Well, if you keep reading after verse 22, you will notice that Jesus actually gives some very practical advice on this subject. But more importantly, I would tell you to go back to the very beginning of his speech. It is certainly no accident that Jesus begins it all with what is perhaps the strangest thing that anyone has ever said, "Blessed are the Poor in Spirit."
God isn't stupid. He knows that we don't have what it takes to make it. So he makes an announcement that says that all of us Spiritual Zeros, fakes, frauds...and those with temper problems are blessed, because he is on our side. He knows. He has paid attention. And he extends his grace to those who will bow to him and follow him into his kingdom.
This guy who pushed just the right buttons in me today, this guy who I wanted to toss down the stairs, this guy who...
This guy bares God's image. (Wether he recognizes that or not is between him and God.)
God loves this guy. Jesus gave his life for this guy. This guy is annoying most of the time, and infuriating often. But he is also more majestic than Lake Superior on a clear summer day, because God can see his image in him.
So as I go to bed tonight, I suppose it would be wise to simply turn it over to the one who can actually do something about my frustration.
P.S. As I mentioned at the top, I don't get very angry very often. However, when I do, it can be quite spectacular. Here is some rather grainy and not well done footage of me loosing my cool from a few years back. Have a giggity-good noodley-night!