Everybody’s angry. They have been for a long time. (Despite the “peace and love”-rhetoric of the Sixties, today’s American anger begins there). We’re angry at our leaders. We’re angry at each other. We’re angry at those who do not share our views. We’re angry at those who do not tolerate. We’re angry at those who point out that our anger over those who do not tolerate is itself intolerant. We’re just plain angry. WE HAVE EVEN LEARNED HOW TO TURN OUR TYPING INTO EXPRESSIONS OF ANGER!
And here’s the kicker.
We have no idea how to get out of all this anger.
Madison, WI, the capital city of my home state, may be “Ground Zero” for the anger of western society. As I look at what is going on in Madison, it has gotten to the point where I really don’t care who is right or wrong anymore. If all people can think to do is grab bullhorns and scream each other down, they don’t deserve to be listened to anymore. (Let me praise them for their lack of originality. Isn’t this what we always do? How’s it really working for us)? Each side may have good points to make. Sadly, because they make them in the noisy ways they do, they aren’t worth the listening. Shouted speech is not persuasive speech. It only forces people to do whatever they have to to shut the shouter up. The motto these days seems to be, “We’re gonna scream…until we get what we want!” (Again, both “sides” need to consider how they have done this).
As a Christian, I see no need to enfranchise such angry immaturity. That’s right…as a Christian. The Bible’s love (agape) is not toleration. If it were, Jesus’ cross and the love shown there makes absolutely no sense. Indeed, because the Bible’s love is personified and defined at Christ’s cross, it is quite the opposite of the world’s toleration view of love. God carried out His white hot anger over our sins there…on His Son. Saved and forgiven by His blood, politically noisy Christians should ask themselves, “What do we really have to be angry about anymore?” It would seem that all this “toleration” and “coexist” language has only magnified the anger. That’s because all the bumper stickers and billboards and 24/7 newschannels, etc etc etc. only increase the noise, the shouting. I don’t need a bumper sticker to tell me to COEXIST. I need a Bible which reminds me to love others while I still confess that Jesus Christ alone is “the way, the truth, and the life.” No one was ever saved through angry cries to tolerate and coexist. The world is saved by God’s intolerance of sin, poured out on His Son rather than on you and me, who truly deserve it.
True faith does not live by the anger template. True faith rejoices in silence before God. As we live our lives out before God in our vocations, God gives us His words of love to nurture and support one another. Part of that nurture is lovingly speaking the Law to one another to prevent sin. The bigger part of that nurture is living the forgiveness of sins and being gracious to one another, despite our differences. This is why I serve in the Church, because the Church at its best looks nothing like the angry political arenas of today’s world. The Church is a people at peace in the forgiveness of sins…people who live in Christ. Christ showed justifiable anger at the Temple and in other situations in the Gospels, but it wasn’t His “template,” His whole manner of living. “Love,” salf-sacrificing, totally accountable, nitty-gritty, love was His template.
Perhaps every pastor who reads this post can relate to having counseled people who had a lot of anger in them. If they can, they hopefully can agree to what I write. Anger never builds up. It always destroys. It only gets short-term gains for those who practice it. It always leads to long-term consequences. It never allows for a vision that can see past one’s own nose. Harbored too long, anger is always selfish. Hence the Bible teaches us, “in your anger do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). Anger may not be a sin in itself, but when it becomes the template, as it is for our society, it is sinful. It already is. And it will destroy us if we do not get some cooler heads. Joining the OT prophets, John the Baptist, Christ Himself, and Martin Luther, hear a one word admontion, “Repent!” All the great movements in history began with that word.
Repentance, forgiveness, peace, joy. All these come from Christ alone. While other religions promise such things, no other religion shows you a God who loves you enough to bear the world’s angry insults and die to save people who cannot save themselves. Only the Christian message has the solution. Would that pastors, people, all Christians, would show this noisy, angry world something truly better. Because we have it. We have the “one thing needful” (Luke 10:42). We have Christ.
God help us Christians to show Christ’s love to an angry world and to bring peace to lives which, quite clearly, do not know any peace.
Sincerely in Christ,