When Anger Drowns Out Hope
"We are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." --Matthew 5:14-16
What happens when the public face of the private Christian is an angry one?
I find myself pondering this question too often lately, when the Holy Spirit finds me moping or complaining about somebody who got something I didn't; or resenting someone who keeps getting away with something they shouldn't, or that gives them an advantage over me. Sometimes, I'm even tempted to start shouting at somebody whose views or actions offend me.
Have I forgotten the sins Jesus wiped clean when I met Him? Have I forgotten how broken I was before He put me back together? Have I forgotten how tired I was before He gave me rest from the guilt and the pain?
At any moment, heaven may be waiting to restore a broken heart in the circle of people who witness my life. Is my anger in the way? Does the Holy Spirit have to work around me instead of through me?
Does any of this sound familiar?
Against this backdrop, waiting are people stripped of purpose, safety and/or sustenance. While Jesus calls us to engage in active efforts to feed, clothe and make safe the struggler (Isaiah 58), He also reminds us that "the poor will always be" with us (Mark 14:7). So, beyond trying to fix what's broken, which we're clearly commanded to do, we must also be talking about the hope that carries us forward past every trial; the hope that shifts our focus from the sometimes-overwhelming distress of the present to a day when all sorrow will end for believers in Jesus Christ.
Many of the hurting may be just one conversation short of the same hope we share (I Peter 3:15); the kind of hope that enabled slaves to see eternity and sing hymns in captivity; the same hope that turned frightened believers in the early Church into courageous martyrs whose blood watered the seeds of faith like no human strategy could.
So when the public face of my personal faith is anger, I need to be reminded of the grace and mercy I've been given--and I need to pass it on. Pay it forward, so to speak.
Jesus even gave us an outline of the kind of traits that work both here and in eternity, the character to turn from self-absorption to servanthood: "Blessed are the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers..." (Matthew 5:5-9)
The good news for us is that God is already waiting to greet us when we make the turn.