“Do not resist one who is evil.” (Matthew 5:39)

The ancients felt that anger is a temporary form of insanity. That is still conveyed in English, because if you say, “That person is mad.” It can mean either “That person is angry.” or it can mean “That person is insane.” In our understandable and appropriate concern over the way blacks are and have been treated, anger and insanity may last far longer than temporary. So I think we should look at anger more closely.

Some people say that you need to get angry in order to motivate yourself to take action against the wrongs that make you angry. But love is the most powerful motivation to cause you to act, not anger. In the tragic case of the unjust death of George Floyd, my first feeling was one of compassion for Floyd and his unnecessary death. But anger is tricky. It is what I call a “secondary” emotion. You get angry because of a “primary” emotion, such as overwhelming sadness at the tragedy of Floyd’s death.

When Martin Luther King Jr. was killed just as tragically, I was asked to speak about him and his killing. But I declined the offer for two reasons. The first was that I did not feel worthy of speaking about such a great and good man as Martin Luther King Jr. The second was that I could only weep over his tragic death. So how could I hold back my tears to do any kind of speech. Therefore I lined up the most capable person I knew to take my place. When terrible things happen, I get sad, not mad, I am overwhelmed with compassion, not anger.

There is a law in physics that states, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This law also can hold true in human relations. If we get angry, we can cause other people to get angry in return. Jesus knew this, so his advice for how to deal with those we consider evil was, in Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” If you love your enemies and pray and act in ways that foster love for and hopefully from enemies, they may cease being enemies, and learn to love as you do. Your loving compassion for them may cause them to have loving compassion for you and others. If you choose to hate your enemies, you are ignoring the wisdom of the wise spiritual master who said, “Hatred ceases not by hatred, hatred ceases only by love.”

I understand that there are many reasons we might get angry. But I have great compassion for those who cannot keep from getting angry, rather than loving. I get great joy from loving. You get no joy from being angry.

And despite their feeling that getting angry is the right response to the sadness they are experiencing, I would point out that Galatians 5:20 lists anger as one of the “works of the flesh” which are against the Spirit, along with enmity, strife, dissension and party spirit, all of which we are suffering from now, rather than the fruit of the Spirit which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control,” fruit we could experience by choosing love, not anger, to deal with the sadness of how blacks have suffered from racism.

The Rev. Walter Williams has been serving the Lord since he graduated from seminary in 1966. He currently resides in McAlisterville. To comment on his column, send a letter to Standard Journal, 21 N. Arch St., Milton, Pa. 17847 or e-mail newsroom@standard-journal.com.

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