Most of you have probably heard about the situation that happened this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. And you’ve probably also heard a lot of reactions and opinions about why it happened, and who was responsible, and what we should do about the issue of race relations in our country. I have purposely not said much about it, as I’ve learned over the years that it's better to listen long and hard before speaking, so that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
But as I’ve listened, one thing has become very clear: people are angry. I listened to folks who are angry about the original protest, and folks who are angry about the counter-protests, and folks who are angry at the media, and folks who are angry at the president, and folks who are angry at the church for not being more engaged, and folks who are angry at anyone who disagrees with them. I even listened to someone who was angry at folks who aren’t angry!
At first, I was a bit discouraged by all the anger people were expressing, but then I realized that it’s actually not unusual for our world today. Lots of folks, believers included, seem to let anger and frustration rule their lives. Whether it's directed at their families, or at their bosses, or at the government, or simply at the driver in front of them - there seems to be a lot of anger floating around out there. And it's an anger that directly impacts our actions and how we live.
This growing, unchecked anger is not a good thing, because not only does anger make situations worse, it also goes directly against how God calls His children to live. The Apostle Paul makes this point in Colossians 3:8, where he writes, “You must rid yourselves of all anger.” Pretty straightforward instructions: if we belong to God, we need to get rid of the anger in our lives - even the anger we feel towards those who disagree with us over issues that we hold dear. Our anger will not help us convince someone else that we’re right, and it definitely will not convince anyone to join us in walking with God. Instead, it will do the opposite.
So the question is, how do we keep from letting anger rule our lives? Well, there are all kinds of answers to that question, but the one that I’ve found to be the simplest is - we forgive. It’s not a difficult concept - if we want to keep from getting angry, we need to let go of whatever it is that’s making us angry, and we need to choose to overlook it. And one of the best ways to make that happen is to forgive whoever is making us angry. So - upset over the protests in Virginia? Forgive those who marched. Angry over the way the President is handling our country? Forgive him. Angry at social injustice in our world? Forgive those who perpetrate it. Whatever it is that makes you angry, choose to forgive the people involved, because through forgiveness we'll be able to keep anger from ruling our lives.
Now, notice that I didn’t say this would be an “easy” solution - just a “simple” one. The truth is, it will be very difficult, because forgiveness requires humility - and it also requires us to trust God to handle situations that we cannot control. But the other reason this so difficult is that forgiveness doesn’t release us from the responsibility we have of working for justice in our communities. Micah 6:8 makes this clear, as we're told: "He has told you what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." God wants His children to be working for justice - so we need to be doing it. But, we need to be doing it without anger. And forgiveness will help us do that.
But that isn't the only reason we should be people of forgiveness. We should also forgive others because that's what God has called us to do. Why? Because He has forgiven us. And He’s told us to live like Jesus – who loved an unworthy world so much that He gave His life to offer them forgiveness. So today, let's ask Him to help us live that way as well. Let's ask Him to give us the ability to forgive and to let go of all the things that frustrate and hurt us. Let's not be people of anger, but instead, be people of love and grace and mercy.