What makes you angry?
It is clear from the New Testament, much like today’s church, things were not always plain sailing and that disputes and even angry exchanges were sometimes voiced. So much so, that James felt he needed to speak up with some advice. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20
The word Anger comes from Middle English meaning grief, pain, trouble, affliction, vexation, sorrow, wrath. That deep feeling that rises from within. It was Aristotle who said, “Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.”
True, the New English Bible in translating the Temple Incident where Jesus overturned the Money Changers tables says that Jesus did this in the spirit of “Righteous Indignation.”
Perhaps it is what we do with those deep rising feelings that is what James is suggesting. Jesus according to Matthew advices that we should not let anger control us but address the situation in love
“I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary” (Matthew 5:22-25).
If we am at all human, we probably find feelings of hurt, resentment and bitterness come to the surface in prayer. People we wish to forget inhabit the spaces of my prayer. Jesus challenges us to reconciliation. This can be very difficult and may not happen immediately. We can always pray for someone sincerely – that is the beginning of reconciliation. The call in a time of prayer is to see the other who has hurt or damaged me as being equally loved by God. This realisation works no easy miracle of healing, but is a step on the road to forgiveness.
Show me my heart, Lord, and the corners where I harbour resentment or hatred or contempt. Then help me to clean them out. Amen