I had a bit of a realization regarding this passage. In my youth, I heard Phyllis Diller say this meant, “Stay up and fight!” which was a comic line that got a laugh. Funny how things you hear in your youth can pollute the meaning.
I think she’s almost right (and she probably knew it), but this morning’s thought is: don’t nurture and burnish your anger. It’s false comfort to do so. You may not get your issue resolved, but you should at least bring it up for discussion. Anyway, anger is a secondary emotion. It comes from something else, like hurt, fear, a sense of injustice, etc. It’s ok to be angry, but watch what you do with your anger. And maybe be aware of what’s under/behind it by the time you go to sleep, since sleeping on it might sort of cement it in place.
I know, blithe statements from the Bible and (pseudo-) wisdom from a fool. But, still.
Also, from one commentary (Oxford Bible Commentary), on “deceitful desires”: “the desire which constantly promises but never fully satisfies.” Hmm. Like… burnished anger?
«“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”»
It’s not enough to just live by the Golden Rule (“treat others as you would yourself”). For one, some of us treat ourselves pretty badly. But also, in general, there’s a problem with “Policy X seems to me to be good for society in general (although some people will be hurt, but, hey, greatest good for greatest number), so let’s do Policy X.”
We are called to justice and mercy, and we should do justice and mercy *for no other reason than that God called us to it*. Not because it’s “fair” (do we really want to use human judgments of fairness? If someone hurts me, is it fair to hurt them back an equal amount?) or because it’s “good for society” (gassing Jews and sterilizing “mental defectives” was seen to be good for society, not so long ago).
There’s also what happens at the end of the book of Judges (ch. 21), as an example (the whole story is really the last three chapters of Judges, 19-21). The other 11 tribes of Israel decide to go to war with the tribe of Benjamin because of something bad that happened in a Benjaminite city. At the beginning of this war and as it progresses, they consult God repeatedly about what to do, but at some point they stop consulting God and just decide what to do by themselves. In other words, they leave God out of it. Here’s their solution, at the end:
«And they instructed the Benjaminites, saying, “Go and lie in wait in the vineyards, and watch; when the young women of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and each of you carry off a wife for himself from the young women of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. Then if their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Be generous and allow us to have them; because we did not capture in battle a wife for each man. But neither did you incur guilt by giving your daughters to them.’” The Benjaminites did so; they took wives for each of them from the dancers whom they abducted. Then they went and returned to their territory, and rebuilt the towns, and lived in them. So the Israelites departed from there at that time by tribes and families, and they went out from there to their own territories.
In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.»
That last line is the very end of the book of Judges, and I see it as a bitterly sarcastic statement. This story ends with mass kidnapping and rape, sanctioned by the people who didn’t consult God about how to solve a problem, and that last line seems to carry a ton of weight.
To be fair, too much of either approach can be bad. We need both, and we need balance. (Duh, who hasn’t said that before?) But the God thing has to be present.
There’s always that fraction of the congregation, I guess, that objects to something new.
«Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” …. They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”»
Ok, so it’s kind of… dramatic, I guess, of me to say this (to accuse fellow congregants of being host to unclean spirits), but, seriously, I have feels about some things.
A: “Let’s open the church to the LGBTQ community and stop telling folks they aren’t worthy and welcome!”
B: “What? Are you kidding? Are you trying to destroy the church?”
A: “Let’s do something new!”
B: “No, actually, I like things just the way they are.”
(On a side note: wow, Mark is perfect for Twitter. Short and pithy. How did he know?)