Peace…Go…Forgive…

John 20:19-23

Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled,  for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”  And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

 Forgiveness, forgiving,  to forgive all these are much talked about in today’s world.  Peace is granted twice in this passage.  What is being presented here?  Can we possess peace of any kind if we possess anger, pain, bitterness or a grudging spirit?  The doors were locked for fear; peace does not imply fear.  What was comfortable, renewing, familiar, their relationship with Jesus was, in their minds, wrenched from them and they were filled with fear that the same actions taken against Jesus would spread to them and theirs.  At the root of this were also the seeds of bitterness, anger and pain for what had been done.  Reacting in that way to events like these in our lives would not separate us from the rest of humanity, it would be an expected reaction  The believer has more to draw from.  The believer has the Holy Spirit given to us to bring peace and the ability to forgive, to see beyond the circumstances.  In the middle of our pain and anger we need the power of God granted through the Holy Spirit; a spirit of peace and  forgiveness, not a spirit of fear, anger, pain and bitterness.  In the middle of our pain and anger we need brothers and sisters in Christ to ‘circle the wagons’; to pray, to intercede for us, listen to our pain, share healing scriptures from God’s Word.  We need to come together, not fall apart.  We need to defeat the attempts of the enemy to destroy what God has built.  “Our Father, who art in heaven, ….forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us…”  Mat 6:14   “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Jesus

“Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

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Anger a virtue???

Be angry and sin not. 

Ephesians 4:26  Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

Reading from The Virtue in the Vice by Dr. Robin R. Meyers, led to some reflection and responses from within me and it is not totally unrelated to the recent events in our nation politically and socially.  I found it interesting to talk about anger as being constructive, even biblical which goes against much of what I’ve heard lately from pulpits around the nation.  The following excerpt started me thinking: 

Without the right rage we can have little hope for real change in the world.  The call of discipleship is a call to do, not a call to contemplate.  There would have been no end to slavery without war, no civil rights movement without Bloody Sunday, and no progress toward inclusiveness in the church without bitter struggle and charged rhetoric.  Even now, little hope exists for saving the environment until angry people realize that we all live downstream and we start marching upstream en masse.

There are times when the right anger brings about action that corrects a wrong.  What action can be taken to right the wrongs being done to the unborn in our country?  What action can be taken to right the wrongs being taught to our children in the public system because it is politically correct? Those are only two arenas to consider action. Even as we find in James to be doers of the Word, not just hearers so in Micah we are given a call to action:

He has told you, O man, 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? Micah 6:8 

Faith is a verb, an action verb.  Doing justice is connected to hating injustice, loving kindness is connected to despising cruelty, walking humbly with God requires us to stand up and walk.  Two angers, one self-serving; one that rants against injustice, cruelty and false pride. 

How do we determine the difference?  Ask yourself, am I angry for someone else?  Do I feel as if I have been insulted, am I taking offense?  Is the anger self-serving and connected to pride?  Conversely, am I angry over what is done to those who cannot help themselves, or over the perpetuation of a lie to the young?  Is the anger sparked by injustice or cruelty?  Be angry and sin not.