Last night's Lenten service focused on our Personal Baggage: Anger. We talked about how we pack our bags full of our anger, trying to justify our anger, making ourselves the "right" person who has every "right" to be angry. Then we looked at the One who truly had the right to be angry over the situation of His life - Jesus Christ. Yet, in the midst of that which would make us furious, turning red with anger, he didn't offer up an angry word. Instead He offered up, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34 NIV) We could really learn something there. The Lord unpacks our bags that are filled with anger and replaces them with His love, a love born to the cross, a love covered with His blood, a love that is not filled with anger. We listened as God said to us, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32 NIV)
Thank You Lord for unpacking me and my anger and for repacking me with Your love. (The challenge really comes in when we don't "feel" like being unpacked. We want to hold onto our anger a little longer. There are times when we wallow in our anger, feeling as though we want it to keep ourselves focused. That, my friend, is wrong. It is simply put - a sin. If you are holding onto anger over something your brother or sister, father or mother, friend or neighbor has done to you or said to you, take that to the cross. Look up at the cross and ask yourself, "Is what he/she did to me worse than what I did to Christ? Then why would I hold onto that anger? Christ didn't. Instead He forgave - me. Gulp. Me? Yes, me. He forgave me my sin - which includes the sin of anger - and therefore, should I be holding onto that anger? If I want to hold onto it, then Lord, hold onto the anger against me. Do not let it go. Punish me instead of Jesus. Let me carry my own sin of anger. Don't forgive me either. Do you really want to say that? Didn't think so. So why are you keeping your bag of anger locked tight? Let the Lord unlock that anger and give you true peace instead. Pray to the Spirit to move in your heart and let the love of Christ fill you - towards that person who has caused you such anger.)
I was asked after service - "What do you do if someone is angry with you?" Listen to what the Lord says, "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23-24 NIV) Go to the brother and work it out. Ask for forgiveness. Ask him what is wrong. Ask him what you have done to make him upset with you. Do everything in your power to work things through with him.
What happens if you have done that, tried at least, but he still refuses to let go of his anger? What happens if he refuses to be unpacked by the Lord? Have you tried everything you can to work things out? Have you offered up your apology? If you have done all you can, then it falls on your brother. You cannot change him. You cannot "make" him become "unangry" with you. It is out of your hands.
But keep asking the Lord, "Lord, please work in me to make sure that I am not the one that is standing in the way of reconciliation. Help me to not pour fuel on the fire by my words, actions or attitude. And Lord, please, O please, help my brother/friend/neighbor to be reconciled. Please unpack his/her anger and replace it with Your love." Keep your heart pure. Keep your motives pure. Let the Lord repack your life so that you are not the one causing the hurt or anger. And as much as in you lies, "Make every effort to live in peace with all men." (Hebrews 12:14a NIV)
Unpack me Lord. Repack me with Your love, peace and forgiveness. Let me share that wherever I go.