Maybe you’ve noticed: Everybody’s ticked off about stuff. All the time.
Slate.com even named last year the “Year of Outrage”, complete with a handy, interactive calendar that lets you pick any day of 2014, and it’ll tell you what everyone was ticked off about on that very day on Twitter.
A few weeks ago, I released a book called Unoffendable, and it’s about anger. It’s about “righteous anger”.
It’s about Jesus, too. And that’s the part that always messes us up.
In the book, I lay out a simple idea: We’re not supposed to harbor anger. We’re supposed to forgive. Everyone seems to agree with this… until the “Hey, wait!” moment:
“Hey, wait! You’re saying there’s no such thing as righteous anger for humans?”
That’s exactly what I’m saying. And the Bible says so, too, in places like James 1:20, where it says “There’s nothing about human anger that brings about the righteousness of God,” for instance.
If I’m talking to church folk, they tend not to have ever read that one before. They do remember another scripture, though. The one they remember? “In your anger, do not sin,” Paul writes.
Thing is, they only memorized half the verse. Read the rest of Ephesians 4:26 sometime. Then keep reading the same paragraph, where Paul tells us to get rid of all… anger.
All of it. Now.
There’s more to be discussed about this, of course, and I do it in the book. But here’s an interesting thing I’ve found, after doing so many interviews, and talking with so many proudly Bible-believing, Bible-based, Bible-teaching folks:
They’ll begin defending their anger by using the Bible as their authority… until it’s apparent the Bible doesn’t support their position. After that, their arguments aren’t based on the Bible anymore. They become arguments like, “Are you telling me I’m supposed to give up my anger toward terrorists? They’re murderers!”
Yes. But that’s not Brant saying that. That’s Jesus. In his moral ledger, we are murderers, too.
And they’re insulted.
Anger isn’t a side issue. It’s a pride issue.
Author/philosopher Dallas Willard wrote that “Anger is the most fundamental problem in human life.”
That’s why this topic is both of utmost importance (this is the very essence of following Jesus) … and never likely to be talked about much. It’ll never be as popular to write and speak about as, say, books telling us to be better, do better, work harder, pray more, give more, do more, attend more, listen to more sermons, volunteer more, travel further away on missions trips, and check all the religion boxes. We can spend endless time talking about this stuff.
But take up your cross? Die to yourself? Love your enemy? That’s harder. That’s more radical than “Radical”.
Forgive someone who’s done something horrible to you? Drop your “right” to anger? That’s never been popular.
Oh, it’s easy to understand.
But you know what? Sometimes, we’d rather not.
Who knows. Maybe this thing could catch on. Maybe we could become the “People Who Are Not Outraged,” who return wrath with kindness, and who cannot be morally scandalized. After all, we know human nature, we know it’s broken. We, of all people, shouldn’t be shocked anymore that people can be brutally selfish or deluded by evil.
Maybe someday this “unoffendability” thing, this living-in-forgiveness lifestyle, will become an obvious part of The Way that draws people to the people of Jesus, just like it drew people to Jesus, Himself.
There’s something magnetic and wonderful about people who love us in spite of our messiness and rebellion; who patiently see something in us we don’t.
Maybe the church will be like that someday, at once recognizing there is such a thing as sin, yes… but also that love covers a multitude of sins.
Thing is, before God, we believers were all morally naked. And He didn’t run away, disgusted. He gave us His coat, and He covered our nakedness, our shame.
Maybe, when someone hurts me, or angers me, or is just plain wrong… I could do the same for them.
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