“Whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” (Matthew 5:22)

At first glance, these words seem very harsh. Surely Jesus wouldn’t put my anger on the same level as murder! Wouldn’t he understand if I received Communion today, but put off reconciling with my brother or sister for a while longer?

For the answer, we have to look inside our hearts. Anger is a normal human emotion, but as with all other emotions, we should never let it con­trol us. Just a brief look at the conse­quences of unchecked anger shows us how destructive it can be: domes­tic abuse, divorce, road rage, even murder. Even hidden anger can be deadly. Concealed beneath the façade of a smile and a pleasant demeanor, it can lead to patterns of pride, jeal­ousy, judgment, and gossip.

We can’t afford to overlook the resentments we may be holding against other people. We can try to keep these feelings within us and even dismiss them as not really threatening anyone. But sooner or later, we will have to deal with them, even if the person against whom we have these feelings has long left our lives. The anger we have ignored can be like a poison meant for someone else—which we’ve swallowed our­selves! This poison of bitterness and hostility can cast a shadow over us, contaminating our relationships, and even becoming the darkened lenses through which we view the whole world.

Jesus is very clear about asking us to reconcile with one another. He is the God of peace, and he wants us to bring that peace to others (Philip­pians 4:9). As we let the Holy Spirit work in us, healing us and resolving our inner conflicts, we will find it easier to live in harmony with every­one, even those who have hurt us in the past.

So try your best to forgive. If there is an offense that you just can’t forgive, try taking a small step toward that goal. And take another step tomorrow. And then another, and another. Spend time with the Lord each day, and let his great gift of time slowly heal you. Jesus really can make us whole and bring us all to reconciliation!

“Lord, shine your light into my heart, and show me where I am wounded by anger and resentment. Come, Holy Spirit, and burn away all bitterness in the fire of your love!”

1 Kings 18:41-46; Psalm 65:10-13