We should never live in fear, especially if we believe in an all-loving, all-powerful God. There are however a few sins in The Bible that have such gnarly consequences that we should do our best to avoid them.
For example, Jesus said, “If you get in the way of someone who’s decided to come to me, it would be better for you to have a huge rock tied around your neck and thrown into the ocean.” That’s a good one to avoid. Sad that so many don’t.
Here’s another that should frighten us into obedience but we typically miss it’s meaning. Paul’s letter to the new church in Ephesus says “Don’t let the sun set on your anger.” Some Bible translations have it as “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry,” which is a bit of an unfortunate paraphrase of the Greek text, implying that you have to resolve everything before you go to bed. What happens if you get in a fight with your wife while you’re getting into bed? That never happens…
Immediately following this commandment comes “Don’t give the Devil a foothold.” Regardless of whether or not our anger is justified, we’re going to have to put it to bed at some point, or forfeit control of our life to something else (or someone else depending on what you believe). But you don’t have to believe anything to know this to be true.
We’re all guilty of this at some point. It feels good to feel anger, to be “right,” so we hang onto it. Many religious people live live this way, trying so hard to get God’s approval, to not be “that guy,” to be “holy” at the expense of everything else. That kind of life truly sucks – live it long enough and things like anger will be attractive. Consider the people who support the Orlando shooter, quoting scriptures and condemning the dead. I’ll guarantee you those folk are living some pretty angry, un-Godly, shitty lives. Pray for them.
I’ve attracted an Evangelical Christian to my blog – someone from my own camp – who’s been trolling one of my posts. She can’t utter a word without an insult. You know you’re angry when even the things you write reak of it. We all know someone who’s so beat up and pissed, who’s been holding on for a long time, for whom anger has become a part of everything they do. That’s what happens when “the sun goes down” on it.
There’s a window, a period of time that we’re given to deal with our anger, and if we don’t resolve things within that window, ie, “while the sun still shines” as St. Paul puts it, darkness grows roots and becomes a living part of us.
This is one of the reasons I’ve remained Christian. It’s clear in the scriptures that I have no business living in anger for any significant period of time. I think God has grace when I decide to suckle that teet longer than I should, but it’s patently “un-Christian” to stay there, and utterly destructive to my life and the lives of the people I love. What’s worse, the anger that I’ve entertained for too long is nigh unto impossible to get rid of. There’s still grace, like there would be if I jumped off a cliff, or had seconds at Casa Bonita, but that doesn’t trump the consequences.
Another reason we hang on to our anger is because our culture values “venting,” talking about the injustices others have perpetrated against us – over and over again, while our well-meaning friends say “man, that’s really hard,” or, “I can’t believe they did that to you,” instead of something akin to “That really sucks, tell me how you feel, what’s your plan for letting it go?” “You need to let it go” is anathema in our culture. We don’t value resolution or reconciliation nearly as much we should. Anger’s a lot easier to get rid of than we’ll typically acknowledge, unless, again, it’s hung around for too long.
Personally, when I hang on to anger, it’s because I’ve become convinced that whatever injustice I’m experiencing is something I’d never do. Christianity blows that to bits as well – there is no sin that can be committed against me that I haven’t committed myself – not in God’s eyes at least. See Jesus’ sermon on the mount, specifically His thoughts on the really bad sins and who’s guilty of them. By indicting us all, he’s not trying to be mean, or make us feel guilty, he’s inviting us to let go of our self righteousness so that we might grasp the life He wants for us. The belief that I’m just as guilty as anyone else has brought more freedom to my life than I can say.
Ultimately, The Bible doesn’t give us any kind of a timeline, or instruction on how long we can stay angry before it causes problems. I say best to dump it as quickly as possible. Or be mad for 24 hours then do something about it. Or, give yourself until sundown?
If you can’t get rid of it, get some help. Find someone who is at peace, who’s somehow managed to deal with their anger (in a healthy way – some people merely act like it’s not there). Tell them you want to kick it, vent if you want, then do as they say. While that’s going on, pray like hell for God’s help. That’s a prayer I’d guarantee He’ll answer.