Devotion 7-28-21

Devotion by Kim Wu

I am never very good at the quick comebacks when I’m in the middle of an argument. But my mind stews on it long after the moment has passed, and I think of the perfect response – “the one that will really put them in their place” – much later.

That’s one of the problems with anger. We don’t often release it quickly, as we know we need to do. Instead we relive those conversations and events over and over in our head, and our outrage lingers, simmering just below the surface.

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:14-15)

Anger can be a bitter root within us. It distorts our perspective and can become the gateway to a whole host of other sins. “An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.” (Proverbs 29:22)

We have to forgive.

Part of the process of forgiveness is to recognize we all are sinners. We need to drop the “I would never do that” line of thinking, and stop judging someone so harshly just because they sin differently than we do.

We tend to reduce people down to one-dimensional characters defined only by the way they have wronged us. Instead, we need to ask ourselves what positive things we can park our brain on when we think of them. Broadening our perspective and seeing all their complexities can help us move past our anger and toward forgiveness.

But here’s what I find can be the most challenging part: we have to drop our requirement that they pay emotionally for their wrongdoing, and we have to inwardly pay it ourselves.

Timothy Keller explains it this way: whenever someone wrongs us, there might be a literal debt or a literal wrong that needs to be righted, but there is also an internal, emotional debt that we feel they owe us. And we want that debt to be paid in pain and suffering. It’s schadenfreude – we get enjoyment (or we feel better) when the other person experiences troubles. We get satisfaction when “they get what they deserve.”

But instead, we need to pay that emotional debt. How? By not screaming at them. By holding our tongue and not gossiping about them and slandering their name to others. By rooting for their good. When we are still working through our anger, these actions can be painful, and we can groan with the effort of them. But by doing these things, we are choosing to grant forgiveness, freeing ourselves from the toxic effects of nursing our anger.

This radical path to forgiveness may seem impossible, until we remember what Jesus has done for us. What undeserved pain He endured for us.

Heavenly Father – Help us see where we are holding on to our anger and empower us to let it go and forgive. When we stubbornly hold onto our anger and begin to feel righteous in it, remind us of all that you have forgiven of us through Jesus. Amen.

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