The news this week has been dominated with violence in sport where people have reacted in ways that they say was not to cause hurt but it did. It began with Richmond footballer Bachar Houli who knocked out a player when he got frustrated with him grabbing onto him. The next week Melbourne footballer Tom Bugg also allowed his frustrations get the better of him to punch and knock out an opposition player saying how ashamed and remorseful he felt. And that same week AFL’s diversity manager Ali Fahour ran meters to punch an opposition player in the head – again saying how much he regretted his actions. So often we hear of people hurting others but that had not been their intention. We were all shocked and saddened at the news of a respected surgeon at Box Hill hospital who simply asked a person outside the hospital to not smoke in the hospital precinct. The person reacted by punching the doctor who last week died from the injury.
Time and again we hear of people – good people – who don’t think about their actions and as a result cause hurt that they would never intend but their anger has gotten the best of them. Anger can get the best of us. Our emotions can get the better of us. Most of us have probably been angered at some point and really felt like retaliating. Maybe we’ve yelled at the driver who cuts us off. Maybe we’ve cursed someone who has jumped in and taken the last car spot we were waiting so long for. Or go to Centrelink and watch the anger boiling over at people waiting for over an hour. The incidents of road rage are just sad where people retaliate with out of character violence. We need to understand that in each of us is the ability to do something that hurts another person even though that is not who we are. St Paul expresses that inner struggle that we have at times when he says: I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. So often we hear of people’s whose lives have been ruined and who have ruined other peoples’ lives by one action that has unintended results. How often don’t we hear of well-respected people attending a party or nightclub and overdosing. Or the quiet unassuming person becoming addicted to the drug ice. How often don’t we hear of a group of friends going out for a few drinks and in a random response someone hits somebody who falls to the ground, hitting their head and dying. Our actions have consequences.
There is a term called the butterfly effect which speaks about the massive consequences that can happen from a small action elsewhere. It is the concept that small actions can have large effects such as a tornado being influenced by minor vibrations caused by the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier. We live in stressful times – some believe more stressful than ever before. The stresses of work. The hustle and bustle of life. The continuous nature of life with 24/7 lifestyles – TV, Shopping, Internet, Mobile Phones, Globalisation – we never seem to switch off. Phones go off in the middle of the night. Phones go with you on your holidays. More and more people are becoming addicted to the Internet but it’s not just the bad things on there but it’s things like Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, online gaming. But they also become the source of anonymous hate – and sometimes not so anonymous. We hear of people being bullied. People being “fat-shamed” which is the latest term. People creating fake accounts so they can hurt their friends but they don’t realise it is them doing it. So called innocent remarks can have tragic outcomes especially in the lives of youth. Where will it all lead – when will it end as new innovations are created to keep us even more involved.
Part of our human nature is that we keep on going and going. God created the Sabbath so we could take time to stop and rest – physically and spiritually. We become stressed – we become anxious – we become depressed. Our relationships struggle. Jesus also recognised just how erratic life can be. He saw how people’s words hurt others including himself.
He said: John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; Jesus came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard. Jesus provides a different way. A way that wasn’t focused on the hustle and bustle; and he extends an invitation to you: Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. And I love that Jesus explains that rest when he says – you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29) It’s not just physical rest we need. We need spiritual rest – time with God to find that inner contentment.
St Augustine put it so beautifully when he said: You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” That’s where St Paul found his way out of his burden: He said: What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
I think we can all sympathise with Paul. We want to do the right thing. We make New Year’s Resolutions because we want to change but find the old habits too hard to break. The good we want to do we do not do – the evil we know we should do – we keep on doing. But sometimes our inner self gets overloaded. And sometimes it can be a minor thing that tips us over the edge. Compare the difference between seeing a person wanting to change lanes and you slow down to let them in – it makes you feel good that you’ve waved them in. But on another occasion that person will infuriate you and you’ll toot and give a filthy look. There is no need for that and that’s what we need to take to Jesus when we feel like that; because a snap reaction can have us regretting what we have done or said in a moment of frustration. It’s like the warning given to Cain by God when he was angry because his brother gave a better offering to God: Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it. (Genesis 4:5-7). That moment of anger led to an irreversible action. And that’s what we are all capable of and why Jesus invites us to come to him: Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest … and you will find rest for your souls.
So as you go from here may you find that rest for your soul so you can allow the peace of God that surpasses our understanding to fill your hearts and not give Satan a foothold to lead you astray as St Paul says: “In your anger do not sin”[d]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26)
He doesn’t say don’t get angry – because sadly that is who we are. But in our anger we are susceptible to actions that hurt – actions we regret. Come to Jesus and find rest and let Jesus rescue you. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!