On Righteous Anger

When anyone is disturbed or saddened under the pretext of a good and soul-profiting matter, and is angered against his neighbour, it is evident that this is not according to God: for everything that is of God is peaceful and useful, and leads a man to humility and to judging himself.

-St Barsanuphius the Great

What can I say in response to this other than to repeat the protest of the disciples when the Saviour told them that in order to inherit eternal life, the must eat of his Body and drink of his Blood? 'This is a difficult teaching. Who can accept it?'

The truth is that I have no response to this. I do not understand it. When our hierarchs and priests teach and practise things that we know are contrary to the saving Faith, it causes pain and confusion, and yes, sometimes anger, because we know that what they are doing is wrong, and we know that they know that it is wrong, and yet they do it anyway. So how are we to respond to that? The anger is detrimental to our spiritual well-being. It eats away at the soul and affects our relationship with God and creation, and when we recognise this it is very easy to become resentful of those whose actions have elicited these feelings in us. Yet only we have the power to choose to leave it behind. God will strengthen us to do so but not against our will. We must shed the anger and bitterness and seek the peace and love of Christ in our hearts.

But does this mean that we are to remain silent? As Christians, baptised into the death and resurrection of the Christ, and one with our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, are we to stand idly by, humbly remaining silent while our beloved brethren are led astray? The Saviour tells us:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
Matthew 7:15

How do we retain our spiritual composure and our focus on the path of humility while simultaneously facing the reality of the dangers that confront us even within the life of the Church? I do not know. Perhaps it is a balance that we are not called to find. Perhaps it is not for most of us to challenge the heresiarchs, and perhaps we should leave it to those who have the spiritual gounding to face them, to the Ephesian St Marks and the Studite St Theodores of today. But what if St Mark of Ephesus and St Theodore the Studite, and others like them, had said the same thing?

This is a difficult teaching. Who can accept it?

4 responses:

Daniel (New Life) said...

Yes indeed. This is a mightily difficult one Michael. I usually hold it in till I suddenly explode. It happens just when I think I am doing so well by holding my peace. But then the burning fire, so hard to contain, engulfs me and I burst into flame. All are consumed and I leave trembling with the hurt of regret. "Oh no! I've done it again."

Then out of the blue, an apology from one honest hearer: "forgive me," he says, "you were right". But my victory is not sweet, for I fear I've lost the others whom I feel I must now pursue to say something like, "forgive me also, I was really too rigid; I could have been more civil". Amazing really! Oh, to state my case intelligently and without so much emotion; so much rudeness of speech; such rustic mannerism...Oh God help!

Thank God you've come away thinking and praying about it and seeking advice, maybe now you can put your thoughts together... you know, arrange them on paper with appropriate words for more effect. Maybe that will help and you will feel better at the end of it. Maybe then your victory will be sweet. Alas, I know the other.

Michael said...

Thank you so much for this, Daniel. This is largely my problem as well. I don't quite know how to say things. It is an area where my unapologetic West Indian forthrightness clashes with my English reservation. Like you, it either gets bottled up and festers or it gets said in a way that will cause upset or offence to others, which is not my intention.

Reasoned writing is perhaps best. You can write it, think, pray, revisit it and re-write it later before anybody sees it. A spoken word cannot be taken back.

Bruce said...

I'm enjoying your blog.

If we accept our anger seperates us from God, the real opportunity for our growth lies in letting go of the false belief that we can control outcomes and produce results in others. (acknowledgement, forgiveness, others getting it,etc.). When we begin to see our challenges (including this one you're describing) as Teachers who drive us to depend more fully and completely in Christ, we find a way to be truly grateful for these people and cirumstances. The lesson of learning to "Bless and Love our Enemies" goes a long way to defining the destination, with God's help, we seek. If we're blessing and loving our enemies, they're no longer enemies. I actually think you said it extremely well in a couple of sentences from your most recent post:
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The answer to overcoming our struggles is not to condemn others whose struggles are different from our own, but to turn to Christ, and prostrate ourselves, acknowledging our complete dependence on Him for our salvation.

It is not our place to try to force people into conforming their lives to the will of Christ because they have been threatened with prosecution or are afraid of ostracism. That does not seem to me to be the way of the Saviour. Rather, it seems to me that it is our duty to love people into Christ: to show them through our lives and example what it is to be one with Christ so that they may follow Him through the genuine desire of their hearts, and model their lives accordingly, because the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in them.

Michael said...

Bruce, thank you for that breath of fresh air. Everything you say is true, about letting go of our desire for control and submitting what happens to Christ. Sadly, this I also find a hard treaching. I think it just says more about the journey I still need to make than it does anything else. (sigh)

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