Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rage

Sing, muse, sing of the rage of Achilles, son of Peleus—that murderous anger which condemned Achaeans to countless agonies and threw many warrior souls deep into Hades, leaving their dead bodies carrion food for dogs and birds—

—Homer, The Iliad

Homer hangs the key to The Iliad on the front door. The first word in the Greek text is, “Rage!” The rest of the poem traces the tragic results of Achilles’ fury—the terrible loss of human life, the “countless agonies” that befell the Achaeans (Greeks)—all because Achilles would not give up his murderous rage.

James writes, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be… slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19,20).

There is a place for anger: Injustice directed at others ought to outrage us, but rage and revenge to redress the wrongs that you and I receive will never achieve the righteous purposes of God. We must commit ourselves to the only one who judges justly, and let him defend us from wrong.

Paul writes, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12.19).[1] This is not weakness; it is strength under control—a steadfast refusal to defend oneself and “give place to wrath,” i.e., step aside so God can work. This is meekness, the mark of a true child of God (Matthew 5:5).

Keep me from wrath, let it seem ever so right:
My wrath will never work thy righteousness.
Up, up the hill, to the whiter than snow-shine,
Help me to climb, and dwell in pardon’s light.
I must be pure as thou, or ever less
Than thy design of me--therefore incline
My heart to take men’s wrongs as thou tak’st mine.

              —George MacDonald


[1] Jude speaks of the inevitable judgment of evil, but issues this caveat: “Even Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil…dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 8).

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