In light of current events, it’s easy to get angry about injustice. But is anger ever justified? The Bible says not. Even so-called “righteous anger” is not justified. Ever. Anger is a natural human feeling, but the Bible repeatedly says we are to get rid of it as quickly as we can because anger leads to much worse things.
I believe when the Bible says to love your enemies, it means we are to love our enemies. I believe when the Bible says we are to pray for those who hurt us, we are to pray for those who hurt us. First century Christians were being persecuted for their faith—by the government—and they faced brutal torture and death. But the apostles wrote letters to the churches telling them to respect all human authority, even if it’s out to get you; to put away anger; and to repay evil with good. These are the proper responses for individuals (the Bible does allow governments to use military action—that’s a different case entirely).
So given all that early Christians faced, how much easier is it for us to abide by the same principles of respecting authority, putting away anger, and demonstrating kindness?
I’m reading a book right now called Unoffendable by Brant Hansen. The reason I picked it up recently was because I find myself feeling hurt and offended by the criticisms I receive as an author. It honestly makes me want to give up. I don’t want to feel this way, so I picked up this book to see if it would help change my perspective. Little did I know that violence would erupt all across the nation so as I read these pages, I find myself applying it to my author role as well as to my role in the world at large.
The premise of Unoffendable is that we have no justification for being angry, offended, bitter, resentful, and the like. As Christians we have been called to more and we have the enabling power of the Holy Spirit within us to help us live in love, not in anger.
The author has an entire chapter devoted to injustice. Given all the recent attention to the perception of injustice (no matter which way you look at it), I thought I’d share this short excerpt from Brant Hansen:
Let’s dispense with one idea at the very start of this chapter: that anger and action are synonymous. Often, we confuse the two, thinking that if we’re not angry about an unjust situation, we’re simply accepting it. That’s completely false.
And it’s telling, I think, that the two are so frequently conflated. We’ve so justified anger that we can’t imagine doing the right thing without it. Earlier, I quoted an online devotional that questioned whether we actually ever accomplish anything without anger. The stunning thing, as I’ve talked with people about this, is how common that idea is.
Anger and action are two very different things, and confusing the two actually hurts our efforts to set things right.
Check out Twitter sometime. You can see anger all over the place. People upset about this, and “taking a stand” on that. This isn’t surprising.
Of course, we’re all thankful for the right to speak our minds. But here’s what’s odd about this confusion when it comes to injustice, anger, and action: a recent study found that people who join causes online are not more apt to actually do something—they’re less likely to take action.
According to research from the University of British Columbia, if you click “Like” on “Help the Poor Children of Wherever,” you’re actually less likely to give actual money to help the actual poor children of Wherever. It’s “slacktivism” in action. (“Inaction” is more accurate.)
Let’s face it: we’re positively in love with “taking stands” that cost us absolutely nothing. We even get to be fashionable in the process.
We get to think we’re involved, doing something, and if we’re angry, we get to say, “My anger is righteous anger.” And since it’s “righteous” anger, it stands to reason that we’re actually more righteous than the people who aren’t angry like we are!
The myth of “righteous anger” actually impedes the taking of action, because it lets us congratulate ourselves for a feeling, rather than for doing something. Meanwhile, someone else, someone who didn’t tweet about it, didn’t get the bumper sticker, and didn’t click “Like” on the cause, is actually sacrificing his or her time and treasure to genuinely benefit the poor children of Wherever.
. . .
When talking about this with people, this idea that the Bible doesn’t ever endorse human anger as a solution for injustice, I get this reaction, particularly from men: “But we’ve got to do something!”
Yes, agreed: Do something. Take action.
“But if we don’t get angry, we won’t do anything.”
So you can’t just do the right thing, because it’s the right thing? The Bible gives us ample commands to act, and never, ever, says to do it out of anger. Instead, we’re to be motivated by something very different: love, and obedience born of love. . . .
Acting out of love, to show mercy, to correct injustices, to set things right . . . is beautiful.