Have you noticed an escalation in the frequency and intensity of heated outbursts across the country? When the slightest affront drives individuals to erupt in anger you have to ask whether an epidemic has gripped the nation. From road and jet rage, to campus and urban protests, to venomous political discourse, man’s fury seems to surface on a moment’s notice. And nowhere is that aggression more evident than on social media where seemingly harmless comments can fuel blistering attacks and scathing condemnation from friends and contacts.
Instead of respecting other opinions, politely resolving our differences, and pursuing reconciliation when offended, society increasingly expects and encourages us to rage against those with whom we disagree. You don’t have to be a sociologist to recognize this trend is detrimental to a healthy society. Nor do you have to be a psychologist to diagnose such anti-social outbursts as bordering on the psychotic, which makes society’s approval of them all the more alarming. It all makes me wonder: is America addicted to anger?
If so, how does America cure this nationwide addiction? Well it can’t, at least not on its own. Because it doesn’t understand that the source of anger flows from a rebellious heart. And you can’t solve the anger epidemic until you first transform the rebellious heart.
Which provides the church a tremendous opportunity to impact society. When Scripture informs our response to insults, disparagement, and verbal attacks, our behavior captures the world’s attention because it contrasts with societal norms. This does more than defuse explosive situations, it give those around us a glimpse into the transformative power of God.
So what’s the biblical model for handling conflict with aggressive, nasty, and confrontational people? Jesus provides a succinct but specific blueprint in His Sermon on the Mount. “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44, NKJV).
Wow. Jesus’ words are as revolutionary today as they were in the First-Century. Loving our enemies requires us to exercise mercy, not judgment, and extend forgiveness, not revenge.
But what if people yell obscenities and malign us with innuendo? Jesus tells us to bless such individuals with kindness. And when they adopt an adversarial posture, level hateful tirades, exploit, and even persecute us, what then? Surely such situations require a more combative approach. On the contrary, Jesus expects us to pray for and do good to those individuals.
If all of that sounds insane, well it is. But in that display of insanity an irate and pugnacious world witnesses the power and grace of God. And that offers a compelling – and appealing – contrast to those suffering anger-fatigue. In that moment we are a light unto the world, a beacon of love for those shipwrecked on the rocks of animosity.