Thursday, March 14, 2019

Daily Devotion for Lent 2019 - Day 8

Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:13-26 (NRSV)

Today's material is pretty heavy as far as our ability to pay attention to it.

You definitely see Matthew writing to a Christian community with Jewish origins as Jesus speaks of the importance of the law.  We don't see that emphasis in other gospels.

For literalists, there has been a lot of interpretational gymnastics (wait, I thought they read it all literally) for today's Gentile Christians on verses 18-19.  Of course, we read our 21st century understandings of science and measurement into it.  A rabbinical reading of this would include the idea of setting priorities of certain scriptures over others.

Case-in-point, Jesus moves us past murder as a sin (still bad) to the act of anger in verses 21-22.  "Thou shalt not kill" is one of the ten commandments that most people are sure they have definitely not violated.  But when Jesus moves the location from murder to anger, well, all bets are off.  Everyone gets angry now and then.

Is anger always bad?

There were a lot of angry people following the recent United Methodist General Conference on both sides of the debate surrounding LGBTQ marriage and ordination.

All primates exhibit anger.
I have even seen a quote on social media by Sister Joan Chittister, a Roman Catholic nun, saying, "Anger is a holy fuel.  It can strengthen you in the face of evil."  Now I'm guessing she wasn't addressing a Methodist feud when she said this but it could certainly be applied.

As you read this quote, I would guess that no matter which side of the issue you are on, you would feel like you have access to the righteous sense of anger she presents.

What if both sides read verses 22-24 about enmity and reconciliation and took them to heart?

The argument I would hear is "Well, I have really good cause to be angry!"

I think that's the point.  We can always rationalize it.  I've never been in the middle of a rage and thought, "I'm really over-reacting."  That usually comes later when I've calmed down.

But what if people are being hurt?

All the more reason to come to terms with those doing the hurting.

Maybe our day of prayer prior to General Conference should have included scriptures like this.  I bet both sides would have been doing their own interpretational gymnastics in order to ignore this passage.  And if I sound like I'm on a soapbox, I put myself right there with them.

Where are you most likely to rationalize your anger?

What would the situation look like if you didn't?

Prayer for the day:

God, we do get angry sometimes.
Help us to examine our feelings rather than cover them up.
If the feelings come from injustice, help us to set it right.
If the feelings come from merely perceived injustice, help us to know the difference.
If the feelings are magnified from previous wounds, help us to understand our intensity.
And may we give our enemy the same grace we show ourselves.

Photo by Navaneeth KN via  Used under the Creative Commons license.

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