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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Righteous Indignation

I have been conflicted.

How does one determine the difference between righteous indignation and unjustified sinful anger. By definition, righteous indignation is the only anger that is not “sinful” and, in an interesting twist, there are some things that should “cause” us to be angry and the failure to respond to those things is sin in itself. In other words, righteous indignation is often a result of holiness. Confused? Me too at times.

I mean, some things are obvious. Stupid poverty makes me angry. People being taken advantage of makes me angry. Crime makes me angry. Crimes against children make me want to kill their oppressor. Sex crimes—infuriated. And, if you touch my kids I am willing to go to prison. These things are easy to be angry about. God hates these things. They make God angry.

But, some things are fuzzy when it comes to rightful anger. What about the things that anger us that are matters of perspective? You know, the kinds of things that good Christian men and women line up on both sides of. What about the disagreement I had with someone the other day where I thought they were way out of line and they believe they were following the Spirit’s leading?

It’s the interpersonal communication anger stuff I have a hard time with. It is really easy to point the finger at injustice and know everybody and their brother gets angry at the same injustices. But, when it comes to calling someone on the carpet for something the details get sketchy.

I don’t want to be an angry person. Thankfully, I have never really had a “problem” with anger—outbursts—rage, etc. Anger makes me angry sometimes.

On the other hand, I refuse to settle for Rodney King conflict resolution i.e. “Can’t we all just get along?”

Dave told me not too long ago that Len Sweet said to him, “Dave, we are all wrong about 25% of the time. We just don’t know which 25% it is.” I don’t like those odds. They bother me.

I have made some mental notes in order to help me judge whether or not I have the right to be angry. We will probably still get it wrong every now and then.

Ask yourself these things. They are not full-proof but they are a good start : : :

Do I enjoy this conflict? If yes, I better think again about my anger.

Is this a matter of taste and/or preference? If so, I have no right to push my agenda in anger.

Is this person hurting other people with their words or actions? Is this a case of defending the weak and/or those who have no voice? I may have a case.

Have I talked to this person repeatedly about the same thing? I may be right.

Have I followed the biblical principles of resolution? I’d better.

Is the issue at hand dragging the name of Christ through the mud?

Has my anger become a gateway to other sin? (doesn’t mean the anger is wrong but be careful of opening Pandora’s Box)

In my anger, do you wish ill upon another? Yeah, that’s not good.

Are the other person’s choices and indiscretions obviously contrary to scripture?

Are the person’s repeated actions hurting the church?

Do I find myself “out of control?” Not good.

Is my anger a sudden outburst? May be justified but often is not.

Is there name-calling on my part or am I focused on the “issue?”

Am I willing to walk the road of reconciliation or would I rather be heard?

Are there other things that may have skewed my perspective?

How is my own health? Spiritual. Physical. Mental.

Anger in and of itself is not sin. If it were, Jesus did not lead a sinless life.

A word to leaders : : :

There is occasion for anger but we should always be leery of waving the banner of license. If we think anger is a “right” then we probably have some issues.

On the other hand, beware the out-of-context cop out of “taking the log out of your own eye” and avoiding issues of conflict. Some things are bad and need to be dealt with. Some things should make us angry.


Eric Hilliard said...

On the plus side, you can read nasty-grams on a Mac, which as everyone knows, at least makes you feel more creative while being bashed.

John said...

yeah, eric. my mac covers a multitude of sins. or, at least makes me happy.