Don’t Get Mad – Get Righteousness
There’s a lot of anger out there in the world of social media – and some of it far more serious and threatening than these examples. People like to sound-off, and nowadays they can reach a far wider audience with their venomous rage than the few friends that they previously had to be satisfied with.
As I was reading in James this week, I came across this passage:
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (James 1:19-20)
It is right that we get angry with sin and angry when we see injustice and immorality running rampant – Jesus himself got angry in the Temple courts, to the point where he turned over tables and chased people out with a whip! There is a time and a place for righteous anger. Throughout the Old Testament we see God’s anger burning against sin, idolatry and injustice.
But here’s the thing: I don’t see any evidence that Jesus’ anger – though clearly not wrong or sinful in any way – changed the hearts of the money-changers or the people selling animals for the sacrifices. They left the place that day, but I’m pretty sure they all started drifting back the next morning. They might have been more cautious about the openness of their corruption, but I can’t imagine that the one-off angry outburst of some bloke from Nazareth made them reconsider their practices.
Anger has its place, but the occasions for it are few and far between: despite all the sickness, corruption and injustice surrounding Jesus during his 33 years on earth, this was the one moment when he became angry – when he encountered people being physically prevented from worshipping God.
Our anger at the injustices of the world, and at the work of the enemy in society and in individual lives, needs to motivate us, but needs to be channelled into wise and fruitful action, not impotent rants on Facebook or – if that’s your platform – in the media.
We need to remember why we’re angry and what our goal is – we’re not just trying to prove we’re right, we’re not aiming to make our opponents look and feel small, we’re not out to win the battle of the twitter shares and the Facebook likes (which a good rant will score highly on). We’re angry at the unrighteousness around us, and we’re seeking to bring about ‘the righteous life that God desires’.
The rest of James is a lesson in how to do this, how to live, how to speak, how to deal with the plank in your own eye before challenging the speck of dust in your neighbour’s. And, as ever, Jesus is our greatest example. Righteous anger, deployed sparingly, was one tool in his box; how did he go about seeking, and bringing about, righteousness the rest of the time? How can we do the same?