I’m going to interrupt my meditations on Ephesians 5 and publish some “golden oldies” — articles I’ve written in the past but never posted on the Internet while I continue researching Ephesians 5. (Paul tells us to recite psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to one another and I am researching Psalms in the New Testament. It’s fascinating and I’ll share the results with you in the near future.)
Ray was a nice guy. I couldn’t do what he did. Ray was a bus driver and every day had to deal with bad drivers and irate passengers. He was responsible for people’s safety and he took that responsibility seriously but Ray had a problem. He was the angriest man I ever knew.
Playing golf with Ray was a unique experience. If a shot went foul, Ray’s face would turn red. The veins on his neck would begin to flare. A string of profanity would pour out of his mouth and he would bend his club over his knee and fling it into a tree or the water trap. That would make him even angrier and balls and clubs would soon be pouring out of his bag in every direction.
Perhaps it was therapeutic. All day long from morning till night Ray had to be reserved and polite. He couldn’t indulge in road rage and the bus company frowned on their drivers using firearms or martial arts on brain-dead passengers. So Ray would smile and laugh and hold it in until he couldn’t take it any more. Then pity the poor golf clubs and the people he played with on the weekends. He wasn’t pleasant to be around and his wife finally gave up. Who wants to live with a volcano?
You couldn’t say Ray was happy. Life robbed him of joy and his future prospects didn’t look good. What advice would you give him? Here are some of the things we talked about at the nineteenth hole.
God created us with emotions, including our anger. Jesus wasn’t a Stoic and we shouldn’t be either. However, there is often a world of difference between the anger of Jesus and our explosive outbursts. The anger of Jesus was righteous (justified) and he became angry at injustice. Think of the hard-hearts of the Pharisees (Mark 3:5) or the way the merchants took advantage of the pilgrims in the Temple (John 2)
Second, Paul advises us not to let the sun go down on our anger. That means not saving up slights! When I was a little boy, merchants gave out green stamps that you could save up, paste into books and redeem for items in their catalog (like my first pup tent). Sometimes we’re like that. Something happens that upsets us but it’s not a big enough deal to become truly angry about so we just file it away until we have enough little annoyances to redeem for a good fight.
Third, sometimes I go looking for a trouble. The other day Jan and I were in the mood for a great hamburger. The line was long (just like I expected) and I saw an arrogant, rich man walk right to the front of the line and place his order before the rest of us and especially a little family whose turn it was. They were just about to order when this guy and his painted wife pushed by them. I was furious and was just about to say something when he pulled out his wallet and paid for the little family’s meal. “Thanks Uncle Ralph.” The funny thing is I was disappointed I couldn’t express my righteous indignation! I think I was just looking for a fight. Ouch.
No, the best advice I could give to Ray (and myself) is to learn the power of patient forgiveness. Paul told the Romans, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil…. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary:
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” (Romans 12:17-21).
Your golf clubs will thank you.