Dear friends in Christ,
Last Sunday, our Gospel reading reminded us that we are judged not only for our actions, but also for what’s in our hearts. It’s not enough to get through the week without killing someone (though we surely must avoid murder!). If we are filled with anger, we are liable to judgement (Mt 5:21-22).
If you spend much time watching cable news or surveying social media, it’s pretty clear there’s a lot of anger in our society. In some ways, it’s understandable. We are more aware of divisions than we might have been a few years ago. And some divisions are widening. It’s easy to blame others, to become angry in our grief, or to resent it when people point out the ways we might benefit from our own position. There are lots of reasons to be angry.
What are we to do? Separating ourselves from those who are different will neither keep us safe nor will it lead to reconciliation. If we’re going to reconcile, we’ll need to sort out how to be in relationship. To that end, Forward Movement has just released, in partnership with the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations and the Faith Formation department, an online ChurchNext course called “Make Me an Instrument of Peace: A Guide to Civil Discourse”. It’s a free, five-part course covering civil discourse in context, tenets for civil discourse, values-based conversations, the complexities of policy, and sacred space for debate. The course is available for individuals or groups.
I hope you’ll check it out. We also offer the free resource No Longer Strangers: Exploring Immigration Issues.
Now, I should note that the Bible makes it pretty clear that there is a place for righteous anger. Sometimes when people call for “civility” it is a way to keep the marginalized at the margins. Righteous anger speaks the truth in love, and it comes from a place of concern for others. When I speak of keeping our hearts free of anger, we’re talking about the anger that wells up in us and prevents us from loving God and loving our neighbors.
As Lent approaches, I encourage us all to look in our own hearts. Are we leaving room for adoration of God, or are we filled with anger? Are we ready to practice reconciliation? Are we ready to speak the truth in love as we love our neighbors?
Lord, have mercy upon us. Lord, give us peace in our time.
Image: The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations
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