It seems no matter where you look, what you read, or what you watch, someone is angry. News website headlines use words such as “slams,” “attacks,” “eviscerates,” or “wrecks,” among many others, to describe how someone spoke about an issue or about someone else. In an election year, we can expect a heightened use of hyperbole, but the anger has been expressed and has been growing for many years.
I saw a sign in a store window recently. You may have also seen it on a bumper sticker. It read, “If you’re not outraged, then you’re not paying attention!” The phrase has been plastered on many products for a while now. We can all point to something in our modern world that upsets us for a variety of reasons. But the outrage being expressed in our nation at this time in history is out of control. For a Christian, that outrage is unacceptable. If you ARE outraged, then you’re not paying attention—to God’s Word.
We’re told in Scripture:
Get rid of every kind of bitterness, rage, anger, quarreling, and slander, along with every kind of malice (Ephesians 4:31 EHV).
Be silent before the Lord. Wait patiently for him. Do not fret when an evil man succeeds in his ways, when he carries out his wicked schemes. Let go of anger and abandon rage. Do not fret—it leads only to evil (Psalm 37:7-8 EHV).
But now, you too are to rid yourselves of all of these: wrath, anger, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth (Colossians 3:8 EHV).
Certainly, a man’s anger does not bring about what is right before God (James 1:20 EHV).
Now the works of the sinful flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, complete lack of restraint, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, discord, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things similar to these. I warn you, just as I also warned you before, that those who continue to do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21 EHV).
What good will outrage do? What will it accomplish? Usually outrage leads to more sins. Currently, one of the most abused Commandments is “You Shall Not Bear False Witness Against Your Neighbor.” Luther’s Small Catechism explains this Commandment: We should fear and love God, so that we do not lie about, betray or slander our neighbor, but excuse him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.
How often do we put the worst construction on something someone said or wrote? Do we immediately assign a label to them—“racist,” “liar,” “misogynist,” “elitist,” or much worse—instead of trying to understand the reasons for their perspective? The most important question we need to ask ourselves before we respond to someone is, “Does this perspective violate God’s Word?” If the answer is “no” or if the answer is unclear, it is our duty as Christians to put the best construction on the statement. As Christians, we can disagree on many things that God does not speak to in His Word. But that disagreement should always be as brothers and sisters in Christ, living in this time of grace God has granted us. Out of love for our neighbor and out of thanks to God, we follow His guidance for our behavior.
As Christians, we have the joy of living in God’s grace, earned for us by our Savior, Jesus Christ! This world will never be perfect. There will always be sin. There will always be disagreements. There are times our consciences and God’s Word require us to speak. It seems an easy task these days to find those situations that clearly challenge God’s Word. But there is no room, Christian, for useless outrage in your life. Instead, listen to God’s Word: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if anything is excellent, and if anything is praiseworthy, think about these things (Philippians 4:8 EHV).
Rev. Paul Fries