Photo Credit to my cousin, Everette.
I have a confession to make, I am a self righteous angry man.
When I was in High School I was a marching band kid. There is a part of me that thinks about it and is a little embarrassed because I know that it wasn’t the cool thing to do. High School in general wasn’t my favorite time. I went through it with a lot of angst. I was full of fears and insecurities. I think I probably had an experience like most people in High School. I wasn’t bullied or anything like that, I was just a hormonal teenager.
Even though I wasn’t a model student and citizen, I still went to all the marching band events because, while I had my misgivings about my reputation, I loved music and preforming in front of other people.
During freshman year I remember being in the band bus going to one of these tournaments. Some of us were sitting in the bus talking about whatever it was that I talked about as a high school freshman. I remember very distinctly complaining about something I did not like, whatever it was. This girl in the bus then told me, presumably to shut me up, that I didn’t like a lot of things. I had been talking about a lot of different things that I disliked on that particular trip.
I remember I felt that hot feeling in my face, and I am sure my face turned beet red. Needless to say, I shut my mouth. I was embarrassed. Despite my embarrassment, I didn’t stop being negative after this happened. No. There are many times that I am still embarrassingly negative. Those fears and insecurities from high school never left me even as an adult.
I think it is a life long battle to look at the world through a lens of love. It is probably more natural for other people, but for me it is hard. Especially now that I’m older and I can recognize things that evoke an anger that I perceive as righteous. Every time I read a story about a person who is undocumented dying in an immigration detention center it pisses me off. I blame everyone. Trump, His Supporters, GEO, ICE, etc. Every time I hear that there was another shooting I get mad at Republicans and Democrats for doing nothing about this problem. Every time I hear a story about what I perceive as an unprovoked assault on Christianity I feel that I have a right to be angry. Arianne could tell you that the thing that probably makes me the most upset is when Christians attach to Christianity decidedly non Christian things.
Arianne knows all about this because she usually gets the full extent of my rants all about the injustices in the world. I think I have had this feeling of self righteous anger my entire life. I would even go so far as to say that I consider it part of my personality. I used to say that I’m an “idealist.” It is part of who I am deep down to my core. The truth is that I have a lot of anger in my spirit, and none of it is righteous.
I spent a long time after Donald Trump was elected being angry. I was angry at him. I was angry at the people who voted for him. I was especially angry at the Christians who voted for him. That anger lasted a long time.
Finally it died down when I stopped going on Facebook. Slowly it went away and I was able to remove the vail that had been cast over my eyes for so long.
I was during this time that I really thought about the people who voted for Trump. They were people too. They had their own life experiences. They have had all kinds of struggles that shaped them into the people that they are today. I am sure it was a combination of all those life experiences, good and bad, that made them decide that Trump was the best option. I finally realized the fact that anyone who I harbored ill will towards had their own significant experiences that formed them into who they are. To take this even one more step… GOD helped form them too.
They were just like me during all my phases of life. I hated Jesus and Christians before I met Arianne. She opened my world to loving Christians, the truth of the Gospel, and the love of Jesus. I hated Christians because I thought my interpretation of the Bible was correct and theirs was wrong. I had insecurities about how Christians acted because I thought that others would view me in a false light as portrayed by other Christians.
then it hit me, Jesus wasn’t just an advocate of loving the people you like, and He sure wasn’t concerned about how others viewed him. When asked what the law entailed he said:
“The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namelythis, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31
There is no greater commandment than these two things. Love God and Love Neighbor. That is from the mouth of Jesus. But he didn’t stop there. He also taught this:
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48
This is quite a radical teaching for today. Jesus says that it is through loving your enemy that you become perfect. This is a way God is and he has called us to also be defined by the way we love. Jesus even takes this idea that Hate is the wrong paradigm by equating hate with murder. (see Matthew 5:21-22).
If you are like me you may be asking yourself, “So what do I do from here?” Well I was asking myself the same thing for the last month. How do I take this anger deeply engraved in my being and separate it from myself without shutting myself off from the world like a desert ascetic? The answer came to me this past Sunday. I was at the Church I have been attending for a few years now and the pastor was talking about vows. For him, A vow is something you can only do with God’s divine help. You cannot accomplish these things on your own. He gave some vary practical examples of action in the service.
When he gave the church an opportunity to bow our heads and consider what our vow would be, the thought of shedding all my anger was the first thing that popped in my head. My initial reaction to this idea was, “No, that is something I have to do on my own.” My second reaction was “No Sean, that’s nonsense. You NEED God for that more than anything.” So I gave it to God in that moment that I would no longer let my “self righteous anger” take control of me. Some people say that insanity is trying the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. While I am not sure I agree with that sentiment, I do believe that I was being foolish to think that I could get rid of something that I have always struggled with. I need God to help me. It is such a freeing feeling to let these things go to God.
I have thought for a long time that we as Christians need to manifest our faith in a very different way than many of us do. We ought not to tell people what to do. We ought to take up our cross and follow Jesus every day. That means sacrifice and love. not dissension and anger and fighting and murder in our hearts. We need to meekly go to the cross gently, slowly marching towards our own deaths, saying to our God, “forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” I still have a lot of work to do before I will show that kind of love for everyone, but I know God is here to guide me to a place where I can emulate him. Where I can take up my cross and follow him on the path of love.