Mad Enough to Chuck God Off the Cliff

Lectionary Reading: Luke 4:21-30 (NRSV)

If I am to be honest with myself, anger is the sin I grapple with the most. My hope is that this is a surprise to most people in that I believe (possibly erroneously) that I cope with it in public very well. I try not to lead with anger and I try not to respond in anger when dealing with people.

In private, I may let my frustrations show more easily. I think this indicates that I have the ability to control my outbursts but I choose not to rein them in as much as I should.

Is anger in itself a sin? The church labeled it as one of the seven deadly sins.

As an emotion, I can see how it can lead to sin but I have always had difficulty labeling our base feelings as sinful. They are more like the storms or the stills that we encounter - they come about due to conditions that are ripe.

Now what we do with it is something else entirely. I can easily see how anger can lead one to sin.

Some of the most damaging words you ever said were likely said in a state of anger.

Even being around angry people can raise a person’s temperature to where we also become tense.

If it is the response we observe as children, we are more likely to follow suit in times of stress as adults.

Is it ever okay to be angry with God? I see a lot of fear surrounding this idea. There can also be a lot of guilt. Yet, if we are close with someone, we will become angry with them from time to time. In order for a marriage to survive, the couple must figure out ways to dissipate the irritation that comes from time to time.

We may respond to God with anger if we experience tragedy that seems beyond our control. I can remember being angry with God over some financial difficulty I had as a young man. I thought, “Look, I’m trying to serve you - can you give me a break here?”

We often resist changes that come about and we may blame God. In the scripture today, the people of Nazareth are not happy to have Jesus hold the mirror up to them. They don’t want to hear that God’s grace may extend beyond them because that may change the way that we have to look at those we define as “the other.” I don’t want to be put in the same boat with people that I have always thought of as inferior.

They try to shoot the messenger. They are mad enough at Jesus so as to throw him off the cliff.

Why didn’t they? We have a rather mysterious ending in that Jesus passes through the midst of them and goes on his way. Maybe he doesn’t feed their anger. Maybe he stays calm in the midst of their aggression and is able to dull it to the point where they surrender their anger. It may be that Jesus is wise enough know when to push it and when to let it go! This reminds me of a leadership quote by Harvard guru Ronald Heifetz: “Leadership is disappointing your people at a rate they can absorb.”

As we look at paradoxes of our faith, I think that vulnerability and strength are often seen at odds and yet I believe that you can’t really have one without the other. Jesus is vulnerable in his honest evaluation of his own people. They are not ready to hear it. And yet, we see his strength also on display in a more subtle way.

How can we embrace our own inner strength through vulnerability?

In Christ,

Sam

Check out more of Sam’s blog articles at precedinggrace.blogspot.com. Photo by budgora via flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.