A few weeks ago, I introduced Mark Scandrette’s book, Practicing the Way of Jesus. Since then, my congregation has decided to orient its fall worship around the idea of experimental discipleship that Scandrette describes in his book. (To be honest, I’m still in the process of reading through it – plodding along at my typical book reading speed.) The scriptural focus for our worship is Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Each week, we consider one aspect of the Sermon (e.g. prayer, lust and wholeness, fasting, etc.); a team of six of us is brainstorming experiments that the congregation can choose to join; and we have a class during the education hour to help us dig more deeply into the sermon and the experiments.
Last Sunday, we began our series by considering Jesus’ words on anger and reconciliation:
You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
Matthew 5.21-26, NRSV
Now I don’t think I that I have a huge problem with anger. I might get annoyed at something, but I don’t tend to remember my annoyance for very long. I don’t carry grudges. There isn’t anyone that I’m mad at right now. So I wasn’t sure what experiment I’d try this week…
Then I thought about how my anger affects others.
When I do get angry, what I say can become harsh and biting. And loud. And it does so rather quickly.
Most people don’t get to see this side of me. It’s pretty well hidden. But my family does. Especially my children. And especially when they’re frustrating me – that is, when they’re acting like, well… children. It’s not that I shouldn’t be a parent, but I should be a parent gently. I can immediately tell when I’ve failed at this.
So… this week, I decided to do this experiment, which is one of those given to my congregation (with slight modifications):
1) When I get frustrated with my children, I will walk to where they are and speak to them face-to-face using a normal voice. I will go to where they are, because it’s harder to raise your voice when you’re standing beside someone.
2) If I mess up and hurt them with my words, I’ll do my best to apologize immediately.
3) I’ll check in with my wife, who will keep me accountable.
Since I know that my girls (at least the older two) are paying attention to these experiments, I thought I’d ask them what they thought. Is this a good experiment for me? When I get angry, do I yell too much? Do I make them sad?
There was a chorus of ‘yes’ around the kitchen table. Ordinary Spouse smirked.
Uh, thanks. You didn’t have to be so enthusiastic.
I guess I picked the right experiment.