A few months ago I mapped out the series of sermons I would preach for the next few months. I wanted to talk about a simple concept: love.
Each week we would consider what love looks like in a real way. And each week we would look at parts of the story of Jesus to see examples of that love.
Things were going along just fine, and then a little thing called covid happened. Our church closed. Our services went online. Everything we were doing changed.
I asked: “Should my sermons change, too?”
I looked at the topic I had planned for the week in front of me. It was a teaching from the Bible that says “Love is not easily angered.” Hmmm…Was a lesson about anger still fitting for these new, strange times?
With bashfulness as I looked at my own life, I knew the answer was a resounding YES. I had had a week where I was easily angered – a lot.
I was easily angered when my kids made too much noise when I was trying to do online meetings.
I was easily angered when someone stood too close to me at a grocery store (SIX FEET, PEOPLE!!!).
I was easily angered when I saw videos of people flaunting their disregard for social distancing – angered at strangers who were still walking our local stairs, people still having games nights with friends, people saying we were all “overreacting.”
Let’s be honest. This is a season where it is easy to get angry. Some of us are working in cramped, close quarters and it starts to get too cozy. (Actual quote from me to my husband this week: “Have you always typed SO LOUDLY?”). Some of you are out on the frontlines dealing with issues that are infuriating and exhausting and there’s a lot to make you justifiably upset. (Not having enough face masks when working in a hospital is a lot worse than too-loud typing!). For many of us, this season is scary, and it is easy for our reactions to jump to anger when we are frightened.
Of course we are going to get angry. That’s normal.
The question is, how can we show love that is not easily angered?
If most of us are certain of anything right now, it’s that we need all the love we can get. And we need love that is real and tangible and more than a meme saying “we’re in this together.” We need to love each other as well as we can – and I think that includes working to step back from our easy anger.
The story of Jesus I mentioned gives us a good example to follow. In this story, Jesus is peacefully praying in a garden when a crowd of soldiers and religious leaders show up to arrest him in the middle of the night. They are carrying weapons. They are sneaky and underhanded. And so Jesus’ friends jump into action. One of them says “Should we fight them?” And in a valiant effort to protect Jesus, he reaches out and cuts off the ear of one of those there to take Jesus away.
I think this anger is warranted. Nothing that was happening was fair. It was unjust and unreasonable and it made sense that Jesus’ friends got defensive. I would have, too!
Your anger in this time is also warranted. Of course you get annoyed when people are insensitive or acting selfishly or putting others at risk. It’s normal to feel upset when your kids are going off the edge or when your loved one refuses to do social distancing or when you feel like your workplace isn’t looking out for your safety. However, while our anger may often be justified, we have to ask ourselves if our responses in those angry moments are as justified as we may want to believe. That’s when I have to take a pause and know that mine often are not.
But how Jesus responds inspires me here. With the guard’s ear still dripping from its injury, he tells his followers to stop. He tells them to put their swords away. Then he does something truly incredible: He reaches out and heals the ear.
He heals the one who is there to harm him! He heals the one about to take him away to his trial, and to what will be his eventual death. He could have easily chosen violence. It would have protected him. But he choose peace.
As I look at this story, I see that we have a choice of who we will look like in angry moments. We can be like the disciple who attacked. We can choose violence. I don’t mean physical violence (though that is possible of course!). We can choose violence with our words, our comments or our tweets. We can choose to attack. We can choose to namecall. We can choose to shame others. We can choose to say “look at this idiot!”
We can be like Jesus.
We can choose healing. We can choose to reach out. We can choose to respond gently to someone else’s rage. We can choose to consider another person’s perspective. We can choose not to lash out. We can choose peace. We can choose love.
I know it’s not always easy, but this is a time to put away our weapons. This is a time to let go of our easy anger. This is a time to seek healing in all the ways we can.
This is a time for love.
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