By the looks of the articles running across social media, there are lots of reasons to be outraged today. Allow me to list a few:
- Common core standards
- Corporate greed
- Fat-free Oreos
But that's just the mainstream stuff. If you're a Christian, the list gets longer. Muslims are trying to build mosques in your neighborhood and take over America. Christians are being persecuted as prayer is removed from schools. The Ten Commandments aren't allowed at the courthouse.
Feeling outraged yet?
In the past few days, two topics have been particularly outrageous to Christians on the web. One has been the "non-biblical" Bible movie, Noah. The second is the decision by the children's charity World Vision to permit the hiring of employees who are engaged in same-sex marriages, and their reversal of the decision 48 hours later.
The virtual ink devoted to these two stories could fill a hundred virtual swimming pools.
Here's your handy guide to Christian outrage!
As I read all of the stories, I can't help but think that Christians (myself included) have monumentally misplaced our anger. Like misplacing your car keys. In your dress pants. In the suitcase. That the airline mistakenly sent to Mongolia.
I'm not saying people aren't allowed to be angry. It's a perfectly normal human emotion. I'm not even saying anyone has to change their beliefs. Though, for the record, I doubt a single person will renounce Christianity because of a movie. And if any charity has to fire every employee who has "sinned" based on a literal interpretation of the Bible, they'll probably be down to a single staff member.
His name is Jesus. He works in building maintenance.
What I am saying is this:
I fear we are so focused on defending the Bible that we have lost sight of Christ.
Don't get me wrong, I am deeply convicted by my faith. It grounds me. It comforts me. It defines me. But that becomes a problem when I forget that I am but one man. In one religion. That has over 41,000 different Christian denominations. Expecting the world to conform to my interpretation of ancient writings is a recipe for failure. No matter how loudly I thump on The Book.
If our goal is to demonstrate God's love and help others find that same love and comfort in the faith, outrage just doesn't work. It's like choosing a guy with a really loud, whiney, high-pitched voice as your corporate spokesperson.
But the problem is bigger than bad marketing.
Generates more outrage than this...
Generates more outrage than this...
We ignore the Christ we profess to follow.
I'm certain that many of you will say it is our duty to defend the Bible. It is the Word of God. And any attack on the Word is an attack on God, right?
I don't think you're giving an all-powerful God enough credit. He's not your kid brother.
But there are times when outrage is appropriate. Even Jesus showed outward rage.
A "hangry" Jesus got mad at a fig tree when he walked by and noticed it bore no fruit. He overturned tables like Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse, outraged with the money lenders turning a temple into a strip mall. He expressed outrage toward anyone who would harm a child, sounding a bit Tony Soprano-like when he said they would be better off sleeping with the fishes.
But it is safe to say Jesus saved his most outward displays of anger for the self-righteous. The Pharisees and Sadducees knew the law and boasted of sinless perfection. They dubbed themselves the celestial scorekeepers here on earth.
Jesus called them blind guides.
A brood of vipers.
Whitewashed graves. Clean on the outside but dead within.
Don't sugar-coat it Jesus, tell us how you really feel.
When we show self-righteous outrage toward those that don't subscribe to our way of thinking, we run the risk of earning these names for ourselves. All of us noticing the speck in anothers eye yet ignoring the log in our own. Recall what Jesus told his closest buddies the first time he sent them out. He told them to heal, cure, and comfort, proclaiming God's name along the way. And he added,
"If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet." (Matt 10: 14)
Sounds harsh, right? But he doesn't add, "And leavest thou a flaming bag of poo on their doorstep, and drape their olive trees in Charmin."
Jesus is telling us to let it go. Self-righteous outrage is not worth the trouble. If judgment is to come, let Him be the sword. Meanwhile, save your words. They hold little value anyway.
31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' 40 And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,you did it to me.' (Matt 25: 31-40)
God doesn't want your words. He wants your life. And he sent us his Son to show us how to live it.
So my prayer today is that we transform our outer rage into inward action. To feed the hungry. Heal the sick. Aid the defenseless. Advocate for those on the margins.
And trust that God will take care of the rest.
Scott Dannemiller is a writer, blogger, worship leader and former missionary with the Presbyterian Church. He writes the blog The Accidental Missionary, where this post first appeared.
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