Outrage is the way we do our public dialogue these days. Right, Left, Conservative, Progressive … we are all shouting, offended, taking no prisoners! The national election was a reaction of outrage. The backlash to that primal scream is more outrage. We all are being hurt because the moderate voices are drowned by the screams of those who want it all. Every decision is painted as being ‘the end of the world.’ The cable news stations feed us a steady diet of people who talk over each other loudly and angrily. I confess that I think some of that ‘outrage’ is staged to make better entertainment.
Christian, this is a spiritual matter and we cannot be full of the Spirit, walking in the likeness of Jesus, while screaming about the things that offend us, that we see as sin!
Anger is like dynamite; a little accomplishes a lot! Given a leash that is a little too long, it will become a raging fire, the Bible calls that kind of anger ‘wrath,’ that burns up everything in its path! The Holy Spirit commands those who walk in the Spirit to self-control. Yes, the ability to regulate our emotions is evidence (fruit) of His Presence in us. Paul warns us not to “sin by letting anger gain control over you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil.” (Ephesians 4:26-27, NLT) The Proverbs remind us of this common sense wisdom: “Hot tempers start fights; a calm, cool spirit keeps the peace.” (Proverbs 15:18, The Message)
Anger is a normal human emotion. Rage is a sinful use of that emotion. An examination of the whole of Scripture will not cause us to discard anger, but it will lead us to taking control of it. A person who is incapable of anger will be run over, pushed aside, used, and manipulated. Not many injustices would be righted if people were unwilling to allow themselves feel deep and passionate desire for change. It took some angry people to confront 19th century America with the sinfulness of slavery. It took some angry people to force society to deal with child labor and abuse of women. Personally, many of us will not deal with sinful habits until we get angry enough at ourselves or our situation to go through the difficult experience of change!
Anger is voluntary! To hear some speak you would think that anger blows over us like the wind, beyond our control. Truthfully, no one “makes me mad.” (Interesting, isn’t it, that we use a word about losing the rational mind to colloquially describe the state of anger.) We choose to become angry. Situations and people irritate us, but we still have a choice in our response. A traffic jam, an irrational politician, a stubborn child, or a lazy retail clerk cannot be blamed for our choice to slip into outrage. “Anger management” is not just a phrase. If we walk near to the heart of God, He will change our heart so that we weep for our broken world more readily than raging at it!
Anger is addictive. When we get angry, our bodies are designed to release a flood of chemicals that change our brains, our blood flow, and our muscles! It is called “fight or flight.” There is a kind of natural high that accompanies rage. We can become addicted to that rush of adrenaline, the sense of power. That addiction requires more stimulation over time to bring on the same ‘rush’ and so our threshold for anger drops. Those things that once caused mild aggravation can then bring on a violent outburst of anger. Christians who are filled with the Spirit can no more walk with Christ and glorify Him if they are addicted to anger than they can if they are enslaved by alcohol.
My appeal is not for apathy. Passion is a good thing and we need convictions (yes, that is a whole subject on its own) that go deep, that motivate us to sacrifice for Christ and those things that are part of following Him. But, outrage is divisive- productive in the short-term perhaps, but ultimately destructive. We cannot demonize those who are different and then hope to create communities that enrich all of our lives.
Next time you’re angry – ask a couple questions:
Is this situation worth the cost of anger, worthy of allowing the dangerous emotion some release? What are we really angry about? What should we do about it?
Use your anger. Don’t let anger use you!
Our word from the Word is truth that transforms. “Slowness to anger makes for deep understanding; a quick-tempered person stockpiles stupidity.” (Proverbs 14:29, The Message)