On the Law of God
Envy: Cursing and Anger
When the Lord talked with the Apostles about the last times, He said that, then, “because of the multiplication of lawlessness, love will grow cold in many.” It would seem that this prophecy is being fulfilled already in our days – days of mutual alienation and coldness of relationships. This is especially noticeable now that the enemies of Christ’s faith are planting envy and ill-will in the masses, in place of Christ’s love and good-will. And our Saviour included envy in the category of heavy sins. By its very essence, envy is impossible in people who are of a Christian disposition. For, in every good family, envy is impossible as all members of the family rejoice over (rather than envy) the success of any one of its members. This must be the case in the relationships of all Orthodox Christians – a family, as children of one loving Heavenly Father. Therefore, Apostle Paul calls upon us not only to commiserate with those who are weeping, but also to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, as opposed to those who envy the successes of others. In order to free oneself from feelings of envy, one must recall that one’s own vanity and egoistic competitiveness are at the basis of this sinful feeling. In their egoism, people usually fear that they will not be recognized, will not be given their “due,” others will be placed higher than they, etc. The Christian fears the reverse – he fears being placed higher than others and offending them.
Together with envy, a strong enemy of good relationships between people is evil speaking at various times – speaking falsely, argumentativeness, abusive speech. How strange it is: people have become so benumbed and blind that they consider all these sins as nothing and do not even take notice of the constant sinning in evil-speaking. But here is what the Apostle James says of these “sins of the tongue.” “See how great a blaze a tiny spark can kindle. And the tongue is a fire, a boundless iniquity ... an unruly member, evil, full of deadly poison...” And again he says that “If one considers oneself to be pious but does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his own heart, is vain.” The Lord, moreover, pointedly said, “By your words you shall be judged, and by your words you shall be condemned.” So dangerous are the sins of the word!
The most repulsive of these sins of evil-speaking is, undoubtedly, the sordid and repulsive habit of unprintable swearing – to which so many are now subject. What a shame this is, what sordidness, what an insult to the purity and chastity which the Lord expects of us and has commended to us. Yet, many people think that all this is “nonsense,” “of no consequence,” forgetting about those fearsome words: “You will be judged by your words and will be condemned by your words,” which we have already cited. The Apostle James asks, “Can salty and sweet water both run from the same spring?” But we, nevertheless, profane our lips with this repulsive swearing and imagine that fragrant words of pure prayer to God will flow through these very same lips; and with these profaned and dirtied lips we accept the holiest of all holy things – the most pure Mysteries of Christ. No, “put away everything now: rage, evilness, evil-speaking, the obscenity of your lips” – whoever has ears to listen, hear this!
In contradiction to all these sources of mutual anger and arguments, Christianity calls us to be peace loving and forgiving of all offenses. Again we turn to the commandments of blessedness: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth ... Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” A meek person is above all, an unmalicious and simple person and an unwavering opponent of all egoism. There is within him no self-satisfying or self-interest. On the contrary, he seeks first of all what is beneficial for others, not for himself. While the most of egoists usually appear as a pack of hungry wolves, outbidding one another in efforts to seize upon the prey, snatching it away from one another, meek people yield to everyone and help in everything. It is worthy of note that, according to the Gospel, this line of meek behavior is the straightest and most solid; for it is no one else but they, the meek, who will inherit the earth, even though they pass through this life like sheep amongst wolves, according to the clear image of our Saviour.
Still more exalted is the virtue of peace-making. And the reward for it is higher, Divine: “for they shall be called the sons of God.” The Christian peace-maker is, by this deed, like the first “Peace-maker” – the Son of God, during Whose birth the angels sang: “And on earth, peace...” The meek person creates an atmosphere of comfort and peace around himself and does not anger others. The peace-maker strives to spread this atmosphere of peace and good relationships as widely as possible, and he strives to reconcile others. Such a struggle demands great spiritual exertion, patience and a preparedness to meet cold lack of understanding, derision, enmity and counteraction. A Christian peace-maker, however, is always ready for all this, since he knows that every Christian struggle of good deeds is higher and of greater value the more it encounters difficulties and counteraction.
The Gospel virtue of long-suffering is organically bound with meekness and peace-making, and must be a distinguishing feature of every Christian. It is manifested most of all in the forgiveness of personal offenses and insults, as the Saviour commanded us, saying: “If anyone strikes your right cheek, turn your left one to him also.” In other words, do not respond to violence with violence, but respond to evil with good. And Apostle Paul explains: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he thirsts, give him drink. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” And the reverse: if a person responds to evil with evil, then he has evidently become a prisoner of this evil and is defeated by it (of course, we are speaking of personal offenses).
In life, we repeatedly observe that a person who is offended by someone becomes angry and even takes revenge. But revenge is, beyond doubt, a sin and, for a Christian, it is unacceptable. “Do not revenge yourselves beloved,” appeals Apostle Paul. Revenge is a complete betrayal of the Christian spirit of meekness and forgiveness and it shows the absence of Christian love in a person.
The situation is somewhat different in the matter of anger. The Lord did not forbid it as a sin except for anger in vain.” And the Apostle says, “Be angry and sin not,” thus indicating that anger can also be unsinful. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself was angered by the falseness and stubbornness of the Pharisees (Mk.3:5). Thus anger can be naturally lawful and just. It was with such anger that St. Nicholas the Wonderworker was aroused when, at the First Ecumenical Council, he struck the blasphemous heretic Arius on the cheek. This anger came from a pure source, fervent zealousness about God’s glory. Anger is sinful when, firstly, it is unjust and vain. This often happens when one is faced with the truth and it strikes one’s egoism and self-love. St. John of Kronstadt advises us not only not to be angry at those who offend our self-love, but to value them as spiritual doctors who reveal the sores of our proud and vainglorious soul. Still, anger which has a just beginning can become sinful when a person intentionally utilizes it with an unkind heart. Then a person attunes his own heart to anger and by this he undoubtedly sins. Speaking against this, the Apostle says: “Do not let the sun set on your anger.” Consciously thought out and retained anger can pass over into spitefulness – which is so opposed to the spirit of Christian love...
Define the following terms using the text of Chapter 19.
Tongue (is a fire)-
Meek Person -
Anger (& in vain) -
In your own words tell what you have learned from this lesson.
Translated by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo - used with permission - all rights reserved.
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