Imitators of ChristDan Doyle
Well, you sure can’t beat the logic of this passage. It makes eminent sense. We know by experience that holding on to anger does no good to either our physical or psychological well-being. Yet we do get angry like this and, in many cases, we do so with self-righteous intensity. Anger like this is rightly identified as one of the seven deadly sins. It is blinding and ultimately damaging to everything including, ironically, to the angry self. We have all known the experience of this kind of anger. And we have known, too, how useless and ultimately unsatisfying it is to be caught up in it. So why do we do it? In the end, we do it because we have not yet reached a true maturity either in our character, or in our faith. Paul knew this. The Holy Spirit knows this. And this beautiful passage is the Holy Spirit’s way of gently challenging us to reflect on the dangers of such things.
ʺTherefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another.ʺ (Ephesians 4:25) Falsehoods, otherwise known as lies, are one of the things that cause great anger to rise within us and between us. We hate to be lied to, but the ironic truth is that not one of us is guiltless in this matter of lying. Lies manipulate, they coerce, they do great damage to us and to our neighbors. We know this by experience too. When we are injured by the lies of others, we have a legitimate right to be angry. But Paul writes here, ʺBe angry but do not sin. Do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil… All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.ʺ (Ephesians 4:26 and 31)
None of us gets through this life without having suffered from the poor decisions of others. Nor are we free from the internal suffering of a guilty conscience that comes from the realization that our actions or words have caused injury to others unjustly. But what we can do is learn from our suffering. We can transcend it by letting go of our anger through the liberating experience of forgiving one another. Bitterness only sours our hearts. Fury is the father of damage and destruction. Shouting is a waste of breath; the louder it gets, the less comprehensible it becomes. We can only revile the other from an attitude of arrogance, and ultimately the arrogant find only loneliness. Malice is the inner desire to inflict harm or suffering on another and it is like a malignancy to the soul. It eats away the soul’s natural and eternal dignity. Why would we, in our right minds, do this to ourselves? Indeed, when we hold on to our anger, when we let the sun set on it, we are not in our right minds.
How do we remedy all of this? As Christians we have both the calling and the graces to address these failings in our lives. We have the gift of intellect which, coupled with faith, gives us the capacity to see the wisdom of remedying these things in our lives. We have the example of Jesus Christ, and we have the clear guidance of the scriptures, just as in this passage from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. This passage teaches us some of the remedies for anger with the power of simple logic: ʺBe kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.ʺ (Ephesians 4: 32) As Christians we know that we are called to be imitators of Christ: ʺSo be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.ʺ (Ephesians 5: 1-2) The logic is clear here: Love others as Christ loved us. How can we do this? By treating our neighbors in the manner that we would have them treat us. In this way we would be imitating Christ in our daily lives. What better place is there to practice these remedies than in our own family relations, in our own homes. If we learn these things well there, we can practice them everywhere.
Lord give us eyes to see this wisdom. Inspire us with the gift of a faith that not only sees, but helps build up in us the inner character to love all others as Jesus loved. Grace us with the strength that comes from humility so that we may forgive all injuries and never let the sun set on our anger again. We pray this in your name, Jesus. Amen.
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