More on Anger from Chrysostom
“Then were assembled together the chief priests and the scribes and the elders of the people, in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and consulted that they might take Jesus by subtlety, and kill him. But they said, not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.” (Matt. 26:3-5)
Yet in spite of this, boiling with anger they changed their purpose again. For although they had said, “Not at the feast time;” when they found the traitor they did not wait, but slew Him on the feast. But O loving kindness! Those that were so depraved, so refractory, and full of countless evils, He again saves, and sends the apostles to be slain on their behalf, and the apostles, in spite of this continue to entreat them to repent and turn to Him, “For we are ambassadors for Christ” (II Cor. 5:20) .
Having such patterns as these, I do not say let us die for our enemies, although we should even do this. Since we are too feeble for this, I say for the present, at least let us not look with an evil eye upon our friends and let’s not envy our benefactors. For the present I don’t say let us do good to those that treat us evil, though I desire even this; but since you are too gross for this, at least do not avenge yourselves. For what is our condition? We actually set ourselves in opposition to the commandments enjoined. It is not without purpose that these things have been recorded; but in order that we might imitate His loving-kindness. For indeed in the garden He cast them to the ground and restored the servant’s ear, and discoursed with forbearance. He also has shown forth great miracles: when uplifted on the Cross He turned aside the rays of the sun, burst the rocks, raised the dead, frightened by dreams the wife of Pilate who judged Him. At the very judgment He showed forth all meekness (which had no less power than the miracles to win them over). He forewarned them of countless things in the judgment hall; on the very Cross He cried aloud, “Father forgive them their sin” (Luke 23:34 freely cited).
And when buried, how many things did our Lord do for their salvation? And having endured all this from them, didn’t He immediately call the Jews? Didn’t He give them remission of sins? Didn’t He set before them countless blessings? What can be equal to this tenderness?
On hearing these things let us with shame hide our faces, to think that we are so far removed from Him Whom we are commanded to imitate. Let us at least see how great is the distance between He and us (if it is possible), that we may at any rate condemn ourselves, for warring with those on behalf of whom Christ gave His life, and be unwilling to be reconciled with them, whom in order that He might reconcile them to us did not refuse to be slain.
Has anyone spoken ill of you and disgraced you? Consider that you have also done so to others. How then will you obtain pardon, you, who refuse to show kindness to others and be reconciled? But are you guiltless and have spoken ill of no one? But you have heard others so speaking and have allowed it. Neither is this guiltless. Do you desire to learn what a good thing it is not to remember injuries and how this more than anything pleases God? Those who gloat over others whom He chastises, He punishes. And yet they are justly chastised; but you should not rejoice in this. So the prophet having brought many accusations against the sinful, added this also, saying, “They felt nothing for the affliction of Joseph” (Amos 6:6), and again, “She that inhabited Enan, came not forth to lament for the place near her.” (Micah 1:2 Sept.)
And yet both Joseph and the neighbors of these others, were chastised according to the purpose of God; nevertheless it is His will that we sympathize even with these. Consider that we who are evil, when we are punishing a servant, if we should see one of his fellow slaves laughing, we are provoked the more and turn our anger against him. So then, much more will God punish those that exult over those whom He chastises. But if it is not right to trample upon those that are chastised by God, then much more with those that have sinned against us. For this is love’s sign, and God prefers love to all things; and those virtues are very precious which preserve love. But nothing maintains it so much as forgetting the wrongs of those that have sinned against us.
Behold doesn’t God drive him that has done the wrong to him that is wronged? Doesn’t He send him from the altar to the other, and after the reconciliation invite him to the table? (Matt. 5:23-26) But do not use this as a pretext to wait for him to come, for then you have lost an opportunity to please God. Especially with this intent does He appoint to you an unspeakable reward, in order that you may be anxious to precede the other, since if you are reconciled by his entreaties, the amity is no longer the result of your fulfillment of the divine command, but of the other party’s diligence. You also will go away uncrowned, while he receives the reward.
But do you have an enemy, and aren’t you ashamed? Why, isn’t the devil enough for us, that we bring upon ourselves those of our own race also? I wish that even he had not been minded to war against us; I wish that not even he were a devil! Don’t you know how great the pleasure is after reconciliation?
Does it matter that if in our enmity it doesn’t appear great? That it is sweeter to love him that does us wrong than to hate him, you shall thoroughly learn this after the enmity is vanquished. Why then do we imitate the mad warring against one another, devouring our own flesh? Listen and hear that even in the Old Testament there was a great concern for this, “The ways of the revengeful men are unto death.” (Prov. 12:28 Sept.) “One man keepeth anger against another and doth he seek healing from God.” (Eccles.28:3) And yet He allowed, “An eye for an eye” and “tooth for tooth,” how then does He find fault? Because He allowed those things not that we should do them to one another, but that through the fear of suffering we might abstain from committing crime. And besides, those acts are fruits of short-lived anger, but to remember injuries is the part of a soul that exercises itself in evil.
Let us therefore be babes in malice, and flee wickedness, and lay hold of virtue, so that we may attain also to the good things to come; through the grace and love towards mankind of our Lord Jesus Christ to Whom be glory together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.