Is it just me, or does it seem like people are really, really angry? If someone asked me that, I’d retort, “Well of course people are angry! Look around! Don’t you read the news?” Granted: there’s a lot to be angry about. The problems we face in the world today are so huge that frustration and helplessness fuel our rage. But to live with a constant undercurrent of anger in your life damages you. It exhausts you, makes you short-tempered with those you love, warps your outlook, and puts ugly furrows in your forehead.
So what can we do? Stick on a plastic smile and pretend everything’s okey-dokey? I could keep that up for five or six minutes. Should we dash off irate emails to our congressmen, the White House, the governor, newspaper editors, etc. ad nauseum? That might give momentary relief, but what a waste of energy. No, instead of pretending the anger isn’t there or spewing our rage indiscriminately, a little analysis might be in order. And here’s where it gets complicated. What makes you angry, and how you respond to that anger, is deeply connected to your sense of right and wrong—your moral compass—your worldview.
Take, for instance, the ongoing debate between Biblical Christians who believe that God created, on purpose, the universe and everything in it, and atheists who believe that everything evolved from nothing with only random chance and lots of time involved. These beliefs are foundational to the worldviews of both groups of people. So how should each group respond when its opposing group publishes articles and books elucidating its worldview, establishes schools to train people in it, and builds museums highlighting the processes and celebrating the history of that worldview? Well, if you have carefully examined your beliefs in an honest quest for truth, and your continuing studies increase your confidence that your worldview reflects reality better than any other, you can respond calmly.
On the other hand, if you believe one way or the other because that’s what some cool college professor presented as unquestionable fact, and you’ve never gone on any quest for truth that didn’t involve magic swords and talking dragons, you might respond differently. If you’re not sure of your ground, a firm stance by people espousing different views will feel threatening. And when people feel threatened, they often lash out in anger. You can see this in the current rash of books and internet activity by angry atheists, deriding the Christian worldview (and individual Christians) with venom, hysterical attacks and abysmal manners. It’s understandable.
But listen up, sisters. We must not ever respond in that way. First of all, if you’re not sure why you believe what you say you believe, get on it and figure it out! Second, our worldview proclaims that Jesus Christ is sovereign over all things, and that we are His children, His co-heirs, and His bondslaves. We have clear teaching in Scripture on how He wants us to handle frustrating and offensive situations. James says that the wrath of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God. That’s in chapter one. Read chapter three also, for a reminder of how much damage angry words (and keystrokes) can do. Paul tells us in Romans 12 not to avenge wrongs done, but to leave room for the wrath of God. He hates lawlessness (Hebrews 1:9), and will render to each one according to his works (Psalm 62:12). Surely we can take a deep breath, roll our rage off onto God’s shoulders, and make an effort to respond in love and humility to every offense.
Now, I am not saying you should never be angry. Just analyze your motivation before you start ranting. Has someone offended your pride (by perhaps snorting at your beliefs)? Suck it up—that’s nothing compared to what we did to Jesus when He put on skin. And pride is a great sin, remember? Humble yourself before God and ask forgiveness for your attitude of self-importance.
Have your accustomed privileges (praying in school, displaying Christian décor) been curtailed? We live in enemy territory—what do you expect? Shift your focus to Jesus, and let Him direct your thoughts to things that really matter.
Have you been called on your hypocrisy, an unloving attitude or even some wrongdoing? Get on your knees and repent before God. You are dragging God’s name through the mud and casting shame on all the Body of Christ.
If, on the other hand, you are angry because others are being treated badly (babies aborted, ethnic groups wiped out, school kids bullied, women battered by the men who should protect them, etc.) then there is usually some useful direction in which you can channel your outrage. Get out your checkbook or your toolbox or your soup kettle, volunteer at a school or shelter, vote every time you can, teach, write, encourage, comfort. And always, always, pray without ceasing. Do what you can to relieve suffering, invite people to healing and salvation through Jesus, and rest on God’s promise that He will set all things right in His perfect time.
We represent Christ on this dark planet. We must be light and salt, letting Jesus’ love flow through us to the hurting people all around us, actively working for good and not causing, ignoring, or worsening the problems we face. Jesus reserved His hottest anger for the religious establishment of His day; their pride, hypocrisy, corruption and lack of love condemned them in His eyes as “a brood of vipers!” Let’s examine ourselves frequently to ensure that we don’t ever deserve a similar condemnation from the One who loves us, and gave Himself for us.