When I was growing up, my brothers and I had a knack for getting into trouble. We were always rolling around like a pack of puppies and inevitably one of us would run into the house crying and bleeding. But my parents had a way with dealing with us and parental disappointment in our family. My parents didn’t hold grudges like some of the parents of my friends did. They didn’t believe in punishments lasting for months. And if they found out about something years later, they didn’t get angry with us. There was always this sense that no matter what we did, our parents always loved us and our relationship would be restored to its natural balance.
In the same way, we were taught that we don’t hold grudges with one another and that it was unhealthy to hold on to anger. Fights, disagreements, and anger aren’t worth hanging on to for days. I have seen too many people hold onto their anger for so long that they no longer remember why they are angry. I have seen anger split apart families and in the end everyone suffers from the severed relationships. This is what Paul was talking about in our scriptures this morning. Avoiding damaged relationships is part of the task of being Christian. Healthy relationships based on forgiveness and love, is what we should be seeking. Last week we spoke about some of the tenants of Christianity meekness, humility, and patience. Today we will be talking about what this really looks like in life, what this looks like in practice.
Paul wanted his congregants to understand just what it looked like when people lived into these tenants and just what we are called to do. How faith and new life in Christ was to change our lives and our relationships. These weren’t necessarily new ideas. They existed before Christianity and appear in many Hebrew Bible passages. However, overall they were often ignored and not lived into. And in our lives, in our relationships: whether personal, familial, or community based, are not lived into today. Our 2 Samuel reading deals with such stories of times when anger should have burned hot but it didn’t. David’s eldest son sought to overthrow his father’s rule in Israel and sought to kill him in order to take control over Israel.
For those of you who might read about ancient history, you might be thinking that this was so common it was almost clique. But think of the betrayal there, the pain that David must have felt about the breakdown on this relationship with his son all because of greed and desire. In many other situations, the child would have been killed at the command of their father. But this was not the case with David. His love for his child prevented that anger from burning too harshly. He wanted the life of his son to be preserved. Unfortunately David’s men didn’t follow orders. David grieved the loss of his son. He did not allow for hate to take over. He did not allow the actions of another to determine his emotions. He was forgiving of his son right from the beginning. He was trying to approach the situation from kindness and not revenge.
We are called to approach life from the basis of kindness. The Dalai Lama wrote, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible to be kind”. David lived into his love for his son. We are called to love and forgive as we would for someone who is close to us. Paul encourages us to expel anger from our hearts. Anger taints our ability to live in harmony and only causes harm. He calls for extravagant love embracing even criminals into community encouraging them to change their ways and to live honestly and productively. Paul goes on to say that when we live by anger and not forgiveness that we grieve the Holy Spirit.
When we act in faith, when we act in the teachings of Christ, it shows because we try to imitate God’s love in our everyday lives. This means we turn away from bitterness, harshness, quarrelsomeness, and maliciousness. We turn away from the ways of anger and we turn towards learning how to better live into God’s kindness with each new day. This shows it’s self as tenderness of heart, and readiness to offer forgiveness.
Let us approach life with compassion in our hearts. Let us approach life with forgiveness and let’s oust the bitterness that sometimes sets in when dealing with the world around us. Let us rid ourselves of all that hinders our ability to live with harmony and happiness. We cannot allow for the actions of others to affect our spiritual practices and as long as we harbor resentful feelings in our hearts we are still giving those individuals power over us. We are encouraged to let go of those emotions and to model our lives on God’s actions in our lives and in our world by acting in kindness, living in love, and embracing the new life being offered to us every day. So remember the words of Ephesians, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you”. Let these words guide your days and temper your actions. Live in harmony with others and let God’s words of life fill your souls and guide your decisions and free your hearts from the stresses of this life.
 Dalai Lama, 21st century.
 Ephesians 4:31, RSV.
(Based on 2 Samuel 18: 5-9,15,31-33 and Ephesians 4:25-5:2)