Did you hear about THAT THING?!? THE LATEST and most OUTRAGEOUS INCIDENT OF THE MOMENT??? You know, THE ONE THAT WE'RE ALL SUPPOSED TO BE ANGRY ABOUT?
Wait. Which one now?
You feel it, right? The pull to be outraged ALL THE TIME. No matter where you fall on the religious or political or ethnic spectrum or even of the current incident du jour. It's fueled sometimes by money, sometimes by pride, sometimes by a sense of justice, sometimes by fear, sometimes by good intention, sometimes by something completely different but almost always it is driven by the power of media. No sooner does one story fizzle out that there's a new one to stoke the fire. The collective anger at the newest thing to fight about seems almost alive as people allow themselves to be whipped into the newest frenzy of outrage and spittle and vitriol. Because clearly, the angrier we are, the MORE WE CARE and the righter we are.
And yet we're made for something different. If we claim to be Christian then we claim the life of Christ as our own. We're called to live in Him and let Him live in us and that is the essence of holiness.
Our holiness is not measured by the extent of our outrage.
There's something funny about life in Christ. In the midst of a world gone mad, we still have peace and we still love. It's the reason martyrs could be led to their deaths without protest and sometimes even with a smile. We see the evil and point it out for what it is yet we can smile through it all because we know that this isn't all there is. The end of the story is always in our minds. It doesn't disturb our peace because we know the story and we know how it ends.
But, but even JESUS got angry!
Yes. And He was Jesus. That one recorded instance in Scripture Jesus did get outraged. He got downright angry. He went all out and made a whip and flipped some tables! His outrage was over the defilement of the temple, the Holy of Holies. His anger was over sacrilege. So if we find ourselves just really itching to be upset about something perhaps we should save it for something of similar importance and not for the comment on our family size or the latest news article or the way that we feel persecuted. When it came time for Him to be persecuted, when the government and the community and the commenters came after Him? He wasn't shocked or affronted or outraged or angry. He was troubled and sad and heartbroken and through it all He poured out love and changed the world.
We should talk about things, yes. Have awesome conversations, have opinions, have thoughts, post a poignant status, work for justice, defend truth, be Christ in the world, YES. Holy passion is good when it is fueled by Him. We have an obligation to act and speak truth in a world full of lies. That is a loving thing to do. We have a duty to defend the defenseless and right the wrongs that we can. But if we are fueled by our anger, if we get turned on by our outrage and the thrill of a fight, then something is gravely wrong. Passion for what is right and true and beautiful is amazing and good and a gift from God but the devil can take even that and use it to bring us down and rob us of our peace. His ultimate m.o., we're reminded over and over again, is to twist what is good and use it for our demise.
If the peace promised us by Christ is disturbed by things in the news or other people's reactions to things in the news or the political climate or the persecution of goodness? If we find ourselves outraged by politicians or gorillas or movies or bathrooms or comments in the supermarket or by the ways we think we've been judged then our peace is not truly in Him, the One Who told us to expect these things, but in the changeable and passing things of this world.
Even when it does seem appropriate to be outraged - I think, for instance, of the 21 Christians beheaded by ISIS on the shores of the Mediterranean, the heartbreaking stories of children and babies abused and killed, their body parts sold to the highest bidder, or the never ending examples of government scandal and corruption, taking advantage of the people it is designed to serve - there is still a peace we have when our hope and our lives are rooted in Christ. Our appropriate outrage only serves a point when we actually do something to remedy the injustice.
The pitchforks we gather with the other outraged will do nothing but pierce our own souls.
It's only when we allow that injustice to spur us on to actually doing something good about it, that it becomes fruitful. When the outrage prompts us to prayer or fundraising or fasting or boycotts or protests or ministry then they are able to effect good. But anger that feeds upon itself for its own sake and exists just to scratch an itch is downright dangerous to our souls and to the world.
I think of the saints. They didn't live their lives fueled by outrage. They loved. They worked. They prayed. They forgave. They hoped. They became holy not through righteous indignation but through meekness, action, mercy, love, and prayer, all while keeping the peace of Christ deep and steady in their hearts. If they became outraged, they turned it into work and prayer. It's not sexy. It's not instantly gratifying. It's not headline making and it won't generate viral likes or shares. But it is holiness.
We become saints not through outrage and fury but through bearing faith, hope, and love in our hearts and in a world that will want to destroy us. By being bringers of life into a culture of death. The fruits of the Spirit are things like patience, kindness, gentleness, and peace. Bitterness, agitation, anger, derision, or indignation don't make the list. They are signs of a life out of sync with Him. When we fill our minds and hearts with things that grow the latter, it only makes sense that the true fruits will begin to rot and in our wake will be discord and agitation. When we fill our minds with Him, though, the fruit will be abundant.
He wins. Love wins. It's when we forget that that we fall prey to the outrage frenzy and the media manipulation. It's then that our peace is shaken and we play into the agitation and anger and discord and noise, losing our freedom and destroying the chance for true dialogue and connection, community and conversion. When we remember it, though? When we cling to Him, the peace is unshakeable, our souls right, and the world changed.