We live in an angry world – from road rage to wars, from border closings to bomb threats. How many times have you been brow-beaten by someone with an intransient opinion? Or demeaned by someone with a sharp or contemptuous word? Or reacted quickly yourself with a kick back? Or stuffed your anger inside and put on a mask? To be human is to get angry!
I’m so delighted that Jesus began his teachings to us about being his people by naming our weakness to anger. In Matthew 5.21-26 he describes three levels of how anger manifests itself and calls us to be different. I hear his invitation to us to learn to be First Responders in an Angry World.
First, he says to us, it’s not about killing people with physical weapons – no, most of you won’t do that. It is about how you kill each other with your words, about how you make war with your words. We can be biting or explosive with both our actions and our words. Second, sometimes anger simmers within us and we carry grudges toward others. We engage in negative internal dialogues, rehearsing and/or replaying conversations in our mind, we stew over things that have happened. Third, sometimes we allow walls to develop between us and other people. We don’t want to see them anymore; we completely dismiss them from our lives and see them as opposed to us, to our values and our ways. They are ‘other’ and we distance ourselves.
Three times in this passage Jesus says we are to make the first initiative in resolving issues that come from our anger. Yes, we do live in an angry world and yes, we as humans do get angry, AND as followers of Jesus we’re to be different. I heard a call for us to be First Responders in an Angry World and began to imagine what I’d need to learn to do that. What would a training school for such First Responders look like? From these few verses in Matthew we’d:
- Learn Non-violent Communication skills so we spoke authentic and affirming words (don’t get angry)
- Learn conflict resolution skills to resolve disagreements within our communities (don’t carry grudges)
- Learn to be powerful peacemakers, living non-violent lives within our homes and seeking to correct systemic injustice (deal with your enemies)
I haven’t been part of a Christian faith community who purposefully sought to do this. What does it mean to be salt and light in today’s angry world? I’m just beginning a Sabbath Leave where I’m seeking to listen to the Spirit’s call upon my life. Is it time to open a School for First Responders??! Ah I haven’t even begun my break yet, I’m already planning more action. I really am a mystic who finds it hard not to be in motion! Pray for me please! And pray for us as God-Followers. How are we to be living today to bring a God-soaked presence into our hurting world?
On the journey together
Community Leader, Contemplative Fire Canada