8 Finally, all of you should agree and have concern and love for each other. You should also be kind and humble. 9 Don’t be hateful and insult people just because they are hateful and insult you. Instead, treat everyone with kindness. You are God’s chosen ones, and he will bless you. The Scriptures say,
10 “Do you really love life? Do you want to be happy? Then stop saying cruel things and quit telling lies. 11 Give up your evil ways and do right, as you find and follow the road that leads to peace. 12 The Lord watches over everyone who obeys him, and he listens to their prayers. But he opposes everyone who does evil.”
1 Peter 3:8-12
The disagreement started at 6pm when we were both hungry and tired from a long day. The idea was simple. - Let’s move the fence, so the goats and chickens have more green stuff to munch on during the day. - That’s a huge task. - But the goats are bored. - But we agreed to wait. - But the goats are eating up all of the chicken’s food too. - But we agreed to wait. - But if we move it into the woods a bit, they will have plenty to eat. - But we will need to clear a path for the fence. - That shouldn’t take long. - But we agreed to wait. - But it will just take 20 minutes… Besides, I can order pizza.
Because pizza was now on the table (it’s an Achilles heel), it was decided that we would move the goat fence that evening. But the fence did not move easily. And it did not take 20 minutes. And we could not move it where we wanted. I was already disgruntled, tired, and hungry. I was now frustrated and angry. And the pizza place was closed.
I wish I had been more kind at that moment.
We’ve all had these experiences. Something is not going as it should. The problem could have been avoided. The timing could have been better. Why are we doing this again? And anger moves from the pit of our stomach up. On its way, it tightens our chest, then ejects out of our mouths, looking to assign blame for the present condition. Mark Twain said, “When angry, count four. When very angry, swear.”
But what are people of faith to do with anger?
Early Christianity was influenced by the philosophy of the Hellenic world. Plato writes, “There are two things a person should never be angry at, what they can help, and what they cannot.” A few years later, Aristotle beautifully describes the predicament of anger: “Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.”
In today’s reading from the epistles, the recipients of the letter entitled “1 Peter” are encouraged to let go of anger and its outcomes. The reason is that kindness and humility are characteristics of people of faith. Even when insult and shade are thrown in our direction, our response is to be loving and kind. (“Ugh,” said the pastor after reading scripture about being kind after being angry). In the Christian faith, this is not done to conquer someone with kindness, or to be submissive or all sorts of evil. It is done with the idea that God blesses the loving and kind path. Some of us are together with our families a lot more than we have ever been. Walking the loving and kind path these days will undoubtedly save a lot of heartaches.
People of faith should always work at how they treat others and how they respond to situations. We may never get it right, but we can practice how to handle frustrating situations better. And we can work to treat others with the same respect that we would hope to receive, or even more, as our lesson suggests.
May you slow down when anger arises. May you never be tempted by pizza. And in all things, may you be loving and kind.