Monday, September 15, 2008

on having a big nose

“If you are angry with a brother or a sister, you will be liable to judgment.” – Matt 5:22

Jesus doesn’t want his disciples to be angry with one another. Jesus knows that anger can be poisonous. And Jesus doesn’t want his secret service agents infected.

The problem with anger isn’t that it’s inherently bad or sinful. Anger is a mere feeling that overtakes us, that seizes our bodies, when our will is thwarted. And the feeling of anger isn’t our problem. Our problem, our sin, comes when we indulge our anger – when our anger makes us feel alive, when we become anger-addicts, when we get infected.

Think about it. Every time we indulge our anger an element of self-righteousness and vanity (subscript pride) is at work within us. In fact, behind every angry person is his or her wounded ego. We’re angry because someone has thwarted our will and, as we all know, our will should never be thwarted. And round and round we go Jack – with an inflated ego, with a thwarted will, and with a seething anger than inhibits us from loving. Is this what Jesus has in mind when he tells his disciples to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world? Yea, I didn’t think so.

And so Jesus doesn’t want us to be angry. And the reason Jesus doesn’t want us to be angry is because Jesus wants us to perfectly image his Father in the heavens. After all, Jesus knows that his Father is “longsuffering” (Ex 34:6). And so Jesus wants his disciples to be longsuffering as well.

“Longsuffering” is how the KJV translates the Hebrew ‘arek (more commonly translated “slow to anger”). But translating this Hebrew phrase at face value, ‘arek means “long of nose.” That’s right. A “big nose” is a divine attribute. Of course, God’s big nose doesn’t speak to God’s physical or bodily characteristics. God is Spirit. The Triune God doesn’t have a nose like ours (let alone three of them). To speak of God as “long of nose” is to make a statement about God’s character, i.e., that God doesn’t anger easily. In antiquity, anger was associated with the flaring and snorting of the nostrils. That’s why “the rebuke of the Lord” is associated with “the blast of the breath of his nostrils” (2 Sam 22:16). I guess the idea is that it takes a long time for God’s wrath to kindle because He is “long of nose.” But that’s not the point. The point is that our Father is slow to anger and that Jesus wants us to be like his Father.

FOR TODAY: Pay attention to what angers you. Don’t indulge your anger. If another person makes you angry, “go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone” (Matt 18:15). But do some self-examination first. Maybe your anger comes from a false sense of self-importance and pride. If you’re like me, your anger needs to be repented of more often than anything. After all, only God understands what “righteous anger” is. I’m not sure that we small-nosed humans have any real concept. That being said, when you do get angry “do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph 4:26). After all, “a fool gives full vent to anger, but the wise quietly holds it back” (Prov 29:11). Remember - our God is “long of nose.” May our noses be large as well.

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