This title might be a little corny, but it's time to start asking ourselves if we contribute to the division we complain about.
Whether you're talking about racial injustice or wearing a mask, most headlines in major news channels begin with stats and quotes for either the affirmative or the rebuttal. What I would challenge Christians to do is listen for the sweeping generalization that typically follows: "the Democrats...", "the Republicans...", "the liberals...", "the conservatives...", "the police...", "the protestors..."
One thing is for sure, every American is angry about something, but those that trust in the Lord fight must their battles differently. Feeling anger is normal and expected. It's what we do with that anger that matters.
It seems like the lines of sin are so blurry nowadays. What are we supposed to do about what's going on in the world? Why can't people just listen to authority? Why does authority abuse their power? Does a mask work? Are my kids going back to school in the fall? Who do I vote for to take care of this? Then, before we know it, we are letting the talking heads of a newsroom do all the thinking for us. Why? Because it's easier to dig into the trenches with a group of people than to pray and think for ourselves. It's easier to stereotype than to get to know someone. It's easier to believe that anyone that might question what's going on has a hatred for whomever is enforcing it. The anger churns and we click "like" and "share" before we ever thought about bringing it to God.
What happens when we pray while we are angry? After all, it would probably keep us from doing things we regret. So, why don't we do it more often? Is it because we don't want to bring ourselves to God in that state of mind? Have we fooled ourselves into thinking that God will only have us in our Sunday smile? Or worse, that God isn't aware of the sin we commit while we are angry? Do we put God somewhere separate from our anger? Do we save the Miss America prayers for God and then become a different person when we're angry? If the subject of our anger can change us that much, could it be that our anger is actually an act of idolatry? I'd like to share an excerpt from Tim Keller that I found so convicting that I had to sit down for a minute:
Anger is the result of love. It is energy for defense of something you love when it is threatened. If you don’t love something at all, you are not angry when it is threatened. If you love something a little, you get a little angry when it is threatened. If something you love is an ‘ultimate concern,’ if it is something that gives you meaning in life, then when it is threatened you will get uncontrollably angry. When anything in life is an absolute requirement for your happiness and self-worth, is is essentially an ‘idol,’ something you are actually worshiping. When such a thing is threatened, your anger is absolute. Your anger is actually the way the idol keeps you in its service, in its chains. Therefore if you find that, despite all the efforts to forgive, your anger and bitterness cannot subside, you may need to look deeper and ask, ‘What am I defending? What is so important that I cannot live without?’ It may be that, until some inordinate desire is identified and confronted, you will not be able to master your anger.
-Tim Keller (from The Daily Keller)
Absolute anger can actually imprison us because somewhere along the line we unintentionally pledged our dying loyalty to an idol. We see this today. Our ears have become deaf to the divisiveness of the news. Our eyes have become blind to the innocent people that are harmed. Before long, we decide that anything that threatens this idol is not worth learning about. It's not worth a conversation. In fact, we need to use everything within our power to make sure the rest of the world knows who to blame. Is this what my device is used for?
While I hate conflict, I equally hate when Christians stick their heads in the sand and pretend to not see the ugliness in the world around them. Whatever work the Church is not willing to do, the world will certainly fill the gaps. So where's the balance? How do we use our voices? Here are three things I am committing to habit:
REMEMBER THAT CHRIST HAS ALREADY WON: John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Do we realize that God is not surprised by what's going on right now? We are, that's why our first reaction is to defend, but what we are defending is worldly. It's our money, our health, our jobs, our perceived value. Little to none is in consideration of someone else. The cross has overcome it all so the question is not whether God wins this one, it's where we will be standing when it's over.
ASK WHY? SO WE CAN LEARN HOW TO PRAY. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 "Test everything. Hold on to the good." This is the work that the Church has to do, but the world is uninterested in. No one is interested in admitting our favorite news channel, politician, or movement doesn't have all the answers. We all chant for peace, equality, and safety but that can't be accomplished until two sides proclaim "this would be better if we worked together." Running toward the middle looks like giving up ground. Pride tells us this looks like weakness. But what does this turn into? For me, it's been the temptation to "straighten someone out" or "give someone a piece of my mind." This kind of thinking sends us into a fact-forgetting frenzy that opens the floor to big assumptions that hurts our witness. We tell ourselves that every protestor hates the police, that every police officer is racist, that one political party has the answers, that masks are a way of scaring us, or that masks are the end-all to the coronavirus. Test everything and hold on to the good. What is the good? Anything that allows you to see hurt. Anything that prompts you to act out your faith. Anything that pushes you to ask instead of assume. Anything that gets you outside of your own shoes.
PRAY SO WE CAN ACT. James 2:22 "...faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." Alongside our angry delusions, do we also believe that we only have to act on our faith when life is good and we are around other believers? We must care as much about the salvation of our adversaries as we do those that are on our side. Rather than using our devices and social media platforms to point fingers and spread anger, we should use them to ask questions and do research. Not to build our case or to even join in, but so we can know exactly how to pray for those participating and for those that might be the victims of the anger that's building within them. Deeds are not the root of our faith, deeds are the fruit of our faith. Faith like this not only reminds us of what Christ did for us, but did you know it can also protect us from ignorance? How can we hate someone we don't know? If we judge by their acts, David should have never seen Heaven because he was an adulterer and a murderer. Yet God calls him a man after His own heart. Paul should have been the first judged for his killing of Christians, but God had him write most of the New Testament instead. Oh, and Peter? He denied Christ as he was being killed even after Christ warned him about it. Jesus still wanted him to begin the early church. If God doesn't call us by our sins, then we shouldn't call others by theirs. In fact, the observation of those sins should give us reason to pray and reason to show love.
"Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms."
1 Peter 4:7-10
“'If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?' So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good."
1 Peter 4:18-19
Below is a video of this kind of thinking in action. If Daryl Davis can spend his time doing this, then I promise we can sit down with someone of a different faith, political stance, or background in a posture of learning to get better at praying.