Keeping Cool While On Fire

Keeping Cool While On Fire June 9, 2022

Cool and warm are not often used the same way.  Yet, a person may be a cool character with a warm heart. Experience is a great teacher in how to keep our cool while on fire for justice. All one must do is watch another person lose it publicly in pursuit of a goal. What respect do you have for that person? It may depend on how much one agrees with that person. Those of us who desire to see divine justice prevail in our churches and communities need to keep our cool sometimes. We need temperance in the original sense of the word.

Faith and Temper

Do we believe divine justice will eventually overcome the evil of the world? That is the whole point of the New Testament book of Revelation. No matter what happens in the meantime, in the end Jesus will win. I am not arrogant enough to claim how that will look. All I can say is, I have faith it will be right, good, and true.

My first response in any situation is to get control over it. I take the wolf by the ears and try not to get bitten. But that is not always the best way to go about things. I have to moderate my responses. It takes spiritual discipline to do this. I get angry when someone impugns my character. The liars who attempt to harm me deserve an imprecatory psalm or just a simple tongue-lashing. But that does not mean I should serve the just deserts.

Faith is required to stand up for justice in an unjust world. Practicing faith is necessary. Believing good will prevail does not mean it will in me. Practicing the faith that good will prevail makes in manifest in me.

Losing My Cool

Earlier I mentioned some people lie in an attempt to cause harm. Other people will misrepresent another to cause harm to another person. Still others may cause harm with the truth. In either case, it is easy to lose control of one’s anger. Then we respond in ways that destroy the good we attempted to do.

I am not as even tempered as I wish I would be. A couple of days ago, I congratulated my bishop on handling matters in a calm and even way. “You handled the situations better than I likely would,” I said. Another time a friend seeking greater social justice within the structure of the denomination lost a vote to amend the rules. She took the risk of trying to get another more workable legislation passed. We were impressed with her keeping her outrage in check. The second attempt received near unanimous approval. The committee chair said in their meeting there was a “Holy Ghost moment” when they all realized the importance of the proposal.

Losing one’s cool can hinder such moments. We would do well to remember it.

Holding The Check

A spiritually trained person is the best advocate for justice. Holding on to a vision is difficult. Keeping it requires a great investment of the self. Perhaps, too great an investment is involved. It may require enlarging the self spiritually to make the investment possible.

The early Hebrew prophets lived in community in order to build on the spirituality of each other. Later prophets were pious people who struggled to maintain faith in their God and the message given to them. They could not rely on anything other than the righteousness of God. Modern Christians seeking prophetic justice need spiritual practices to help our struggles. Our righteousness will not help us. Only by relying on the righteousness of Christ will we be able to strive for the beloved community. We hold the check as well as the key.

A Cool Reaction

Toward the end of Acts, we are told a story about St. Paul being shipwrecked on Malta. While putting a bundle of brushwood on the fire, a venomous snake bites him. Everyone watching it believes justice has doomed Paul. But he shakes the snake off and suffers no ill effects. We should learn to keep our cool like that. I would react much differently. And then worried about the venom in my system. But Paul has overcome those concerns. Everyone needs to be warm by the fire. Paul stayed focused on that. (Acts 28:1-6)

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