Anger, Hate, Murder (Now With More Thought!)

In The Forgiving Self: The Road from Resentment to Connection, Robert Karen discusses the healing potential of forgiveness. In his book, he presents four steps on the road of forgiveness, which are:
  1. Acknowledge your anger / mourn your loss.
  2. Allow yourself and the other complexity of self.
  3. Grow into emotional monotheism.
  4. Apologize, but without expecting forgiveness.
Beginning with this post, I am going to write out some of my thoughts about these steps and how I see them fitting into the forgiveness that Christ commanded. I'll begin with the first step, one I suspect many Christians are guilty of skipping. Is it possible (or even necessary) for a Christian to own his or her anger without being in direct disobedience to the command of Christ?

This is not an easy question for Christians. We are often taught that there should be no hesitation in our forgiveness. It is our Christian duty to forgive immediately, no matter what the wrong or who has done it. Our feelings of anger and hate are devalued and seen as a part of our sinful self. We live with a sort of practical dualism, which causes us to love our "good self" while trying to kill our "bad self." From my perspective, this type of dualism seeks to deny our humanity.

For an example, consider when Christ entered the temple and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and vendors. Christ was angry and he didn't deny that anger, but at the same time, I am sure he had love for the people he was angry toward. Anger and love could exist in the same person toward the same subject. There was no dualism in Christ, he was a perfect example of what humans should be. It is important to own every part of our selves, including our emotions, even our rage and hate. These things make us human.

We are commanded to forgive, but we are never told how that forgiveness should be accomplished. In Luke 17:3, Jesus says, "If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him." This seems to indicate that forgiveness can include a process, it does not have to be an instantaneous reaction to offense. I don't think we should live in our anger, but I also don't think we should pass over it too quickly. The forgiveness offered by those in the church often seems premature, an attempt to get past the ugy parts (the offense and our anger) without ever acknowledging the offense or the hurt that it caused. Can there be real forgiveness without honest confession on the part of the offended and the offender? Yes, there can, but I suspect that in most cases, true, relationship-restoring forgiveness necessitates honesty.

More in a couple of days. I need some more time to stew. In the mean time, I'd love to hear some of your thoughts. Can Christians be angry and not sin? Does the command to forgive mean that we must forgive immediately? Could it mean that we are called to live a lifestyle of forgiveness that is always moving toward reconciliation?
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