Here’s the formula: select a strong adjective, place a colon after it, and put it in front of an overly stylistic headline. Examples: “BRUTAL: Trump Savagely Trolls Sen. Warren”; “WICKED: Senate Republicans Move to Slash Benefits”; “SHOCKING: …”
The next step is simple. Open the article with a comment to the effect of “Twitter raged on Friday night as…” or “______________ was greeted by outrage on social media.”
We are at once becoming a culture of indignation and impotence. Seemingly everything makes someone “rage” in 2017, but seemingly no one does anything more about their anger than cast a strongly worded message into the void that is social media. Certainly there is a minority that physically protests, boycotts, attacks, riots, etc. over their anger, but for most of us those experiences are literally or culturally hundreds of miles away. But virtually all of us daily wade through the muck of internet fury.
What does God say about anger? How are we as Christians supposed to be different in an age of impotent and stagnant indignation? While there is much that can be said on this subject, here are three points that we all need to preach into our hearts in the midst of this outrage culture.
God is Angry and You Should be Too
In Psalm 7:11, King David writes concerning God’s attitude towards the wicked: “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.” Our first mistake as Christians is often to assume that anger is of the world and foreign to righteousness. This is not the case. Wickedness angers God and it ought to anger us as well. The predatory sexuality of our leaders and cultural heroes should anger us as it angers him. The wanton slaughter of the innocent, both home and abroad, should anger us as it angers him. The abuse of the poor, the murder of the unborn, the sexualizing of the young… there is much in our world to be angry about yet…
Our Anger Must be Trained
Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, our anger will be self-serving, sinful, and destructive. James 1:20 states that, “...the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul includes the anger of man in a list of other sins that help us to characterize this ungodly quality: jealousy, quarrelling, hostility, gossip, deceit, and disorder (v. 20). The anger of man is roused by offenses to self, not offenses to God. It is quick and destructive, rather than slow and aimed at restoration. If we want God’s anger, we need a work of the Spirit and the ministry of the word. We need to saturate our worldviews in his truth and train our affections to care about what he cares about.
Godly Anger is Set Apart
Ephesians 4:26 issues a command: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Godly anger does not result in sin, but seeks resolution. As David did in Psalm 7, it looks to the Lord to correct injustices and trusts his sovereign will. It is wise: “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back” (Proverbs 29:11). Godly anger rises slowly, takes steps to resolve unrighteousness where possible, trusts God to work both within and without our sphere of influence, and refrains from self-indulgent ventilation.
I fear that the church is mimicking the faux outrage of the world far too often. As Russell Moore so incisively asks: “How often do I rage rather than lament?” We join in with the pointless cacophony of social media rants, Twitter outrage, and political fury that so characterizes our world. We have an opportunity before us to be different for the sake of Christ - to demonstrate anger over sin but love for sinners and thus reflect the character of God.
So how do we break-check our outrage? You can begin by asking yourself these four questions: 1. Is this something God would be angry about (is it clearly condemned in his word)? 2. Am I sinning in my anger (do I need to repent of hate, slander, self-righteousness, or thinking I am the divine and sovereign God)? 3. How does my anger allow me to respond distinctly as a Christian (how can I pray differently, act differently, think differently so as to act as a means of change instead of a mere channel of outrage)? 4. Am I angry because I want to be angry? Or is my anger a means to an end (prayerful reliance upon God, social action, renewal in the church…etc.)?