Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison as an anti-apartheid revolutionary in South Africa once said,
As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison. Conquering yourself and your passions is essential in order to have a voice amidst of chaos. What does this look like?
In Religious Affections Jonathan Edwards discusses a characteristic of a Christian that is often overlooked in the church - Christian fortitude. He states Christian Fortitude consists of a strength of mind through Grace. Other terms used for fortitude are mettle, backbone, grit, steadfastness and resilience. The word comes from the mid 15th century referring to a fortified place, a stronghold or hold the fort. We can so easily get off track, particularly today when communication is so immediate and debates accessible 24/7. But developing Christian fortitude is necessary to survive the onslaught that tempts us to rise up in anger.
Jonathan Edwards states that: True Christian fortitude consists in strength of mind, through grace, exerted in two things; in suppressing ...unruly passions...of the mind, and following...good dispositions, without being hindered by sinful fear, or the opposition of enemies.... The strength of the good soldier of Jesus Christ appears in nothing more, than in steadfastly maintaining the holy calm, meekness, sweetness, and benevolence of his mind, amidst all the storms, injuries, strange behavior, and surprising acts and events of this evil and unreasonable world. The Scripture seems to intimate that true fortitude consists chiefly in this: Prov. 16:32, "He that is slow to anger, is better than the mighty; and he that rules his spirit, than he that takes a city."
Slow to anger. It does not say do not be angry. It says slow to anger. Do you get quickly angry? There may be something wrong, but there is clearly something wrong with you. We are all guilty. Even when a person unjustly, deeply hurts someone you love, anger slowly rises from the depth of your being against the act and the evil with all the moral fiber you have. It does not rise from personal pique which lashes out in revenge.
When persons are fierce and violent, and exert their sharp and bitter passions, it shows weakness instead of strength and fortitude. There is much weakness exhibited on all sides today. Christians are called to seek justice. We are called to be peacemakers. That is hard to come by if there is no peace that resides within. When Peter stated self-assuredly that he was ready to die with Jesus at the last supper and then to fight off the guards arresting Jesus in Gethsemane, Jesus gently rebuked him and healed the man whose ear was severed. When Jesus went to the cross he did not open his mouth but prayed to his father to forgive them ‘for they know not what they do.’ Jesus wrestled in prayer at Gethsemane to be prepared to face going to the cross. His heart was ready. Are you ready for what you might face?