FESTERING ANGER

Esau seethed in anger against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him; he brooded, “The time for mourning my father’s death is close. And then I’ll kill my brother Jacob.” [Genesis 27:41 (MSG)]

laughing gullWhen things go wrong, it’s human nature to want someone (other than ourselves) to blame. Shifting the blame has been going on since Eve blamed the serpent and Adam blamed both Eve and God. Cain then blamed Abel that his offering wasn’t accepted and Esau blamed his brother Jacob for stealing their father’s blessing.

Seeing Cain’s anger, God cautioned the dejected brother when he said, “Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master!” Unfortunately, Cain ignored God’s warning. He welcomed anger into his heart where it festered and chafed until he killed his brother. With Esau and Jacob, we nearly had another case of fratricide. After losing his birthright, the angry Esau vowed to kill his brother but the plan was foiled when Jacob fled to Haran. Although Cain allowed his anger to intensify, Esau did not. At some point over the next twenty years, the bitter wounds healed. Perhaps, Esau realized that, by foolishly selling his birthright for a bowl of stew, he shared responsibility for his loss or maybe he realized how much he missed his brother. Once the men were reunited, rather than raising his arm in violence, Esau wrapped his arms around Jacob in love.

Two sets of brothers: one allowed anger to rule him but the other didn’t. While we may not choose to murder our relatives, we do allow anger to grow and kill relationships. I know three sisters who allowed anger at a sibling to fester and grow over several decades. Although they didn’t slay their brother, he and his family were dead to them. Like Cain and Esau, the sisters were not innocent parties and contributed to the event that caused the rift. And, like Cain and Esau, it was easier to blame someone else than accept any responsibility. Unfortunately, over the years, they fed their anger and it flourished. That anger killed a family bond and much of all four siblings’ joy.

It’s been said that time can heal all wounds. Although it didn’t for Cain, for Esau and Jacob it did. They both realized that family was more important than property and managed to put the years of bitterness behind them. Just because our fury doesn’t result in someone’s death doesn’t meant it is acceptable behavior. In fact, Jesus likens anger to murder. When anger is crouching at our doors, we should put out the “No Trespassing” sign and send it packing. While we’re at it, we might want to hang out the “Welcome” sign for love and forgiveness.

 You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill. [Matthew 5:21-22 (MSG)]

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