There’s no doubt that people are outraged right now. And there’s plenty of reason for righteous anger.
The cries of injustice have been made over and over again, yet change that truly brings equality hasn’t come. What we are seeing happen in America is nothing new. People of color have endured oppression since the founding of this nation. And that should bring outrage. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is. It should bother you.
As you watch a video of a man screaming “I can’t breathe” while a police officer continues to drive his knee into the back of his neck, anger and disgust should well up within you.
The Bible calls us to seek justice for others and to fight for the oppressed. If you’re a follower of Jesus, this is our battle.
But the biggest key to being righteously outraged is that we don’t allow that to turn into sin. We have to catch ourselves before we allow something good and pure to turn into a tool for the enemy.
Here are 3 ways to keep your righteous anger from boiling over into sinful outrage.
1. Don’t let hate build in your heart.
Hate is a sneaky thing. Especially when it creeps in during a time of merited anger.
I will be the first to admit that the inflammatory, self-righteous, and unsympathetic posts I’m seeing on social media have made my blood boil. There are several people that I would love to sit down and have a face-to-face conversation with, because it seems that they don’t understand the gravity and insensitivity of their words.
I had to pause posts from several people on social media, because I could sense a change happening in my heart towards them. My anger was taking me down a road I knew I couldn’t go.
I don’t want my anger towards the injustices of one people to turn into hate for another group of people. As followers of Jesus, we need to understand the call to love others includes those that are hard to love.
“In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27)
I know this verse is being used a lot to cast judgement on the actions of others. But I wonder what kind of change we would see if we used it to check ourselves.
A lot more good would come from allowing the word of God to be used for reproof, correction, and instruction for righteousness in our own lives. The verses we read should convict us and challenge us in our faith regularly.
As you see the social media posts, engage in conversation, and watch the news, be on guard of what’s rising up in your own heart. The temptation to let righteous anger turn into hate is great. Stand on guard of the inner workings of your own heart.
2. Think before you act.
Being angry about the injustice and the mistreatment of others is righteous anger. There’s no need to hide that or be ashamed of it. But what you do with that righteous anger matters.
Out of your righteous anger should flow redemptive action. However you choose to act, it should bring forth redemption and restoration. If your anger is leading you to impulsive and destructive action then it’s time to recalibrate.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)
Even with people of differing opinions, you should be slow to speak and quick to listen. You might think that you’ve heard it all, but you still need to give that person respect and grace.
I continue to think back to Jesus and the patience he had for his disciples. He told them over and over again about who he was and what he was going to do, but they just didn’t get it.
And there may be people in your life (or in your newsfeed) who just don’t get it. It’s not intentional or malicious. It’s just that their life experience is different. We need to act patiently and graciously with these people.
Your righteous anger should lead you down a path that creates action for redemption. Our natural inclination is for our anger to lead us down a path of hostility and pain for others. But we must seek the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance.
3. Don’t abandon your identity as a follower of Jesus.
As we fight for the dignity and worth of others, we can’t lose sight of where our own identity lies. As a follower of Jesus, you are to care about the things he cares about and also go about those things in a manner worthy of the Lord. This can only be done through the power of the Holy Spirit.
As hard as it is to watch others suffering and being mistreated, we must not lose the light of Jesus within ourselves. Out of our faith in Jesus should overflow our love for others.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
One of the markers of genuine faith is that we would show compassion and kindness when it doesn’t make sense.
The world will tell you to be outraged and to fight back in ways that we don’t see supported in scripture. But our love for Jesus should constantly pull us back in to analyzing the situation through the lens of our faith.
As we desire to be more like Jesus in how we act, speak, respond, and understand, then we have to actually stop and seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Even in our most well-intentioned efforts we need the strength and wisdom of Jesus.
Jesus must stay at the center of who we are, and he should be the one who guides us. It’s him who will bring transformation and redemption in ways we never thought possible.
The task of justice is far too big for any person to carry. Only Jesus can bring forth the justice our hearts long for. It’s him who placed this intrinsic need for justice within our souls. And it’s in his power that we can play a small role in that.
Righteous anger is a good thing.
When Jesus walked into the temple and overturned the tables because people were being taken advantage of, he had righteous anger.
And some people at the time would have said that Jesus acted inappropriately in his anger. But he didn’t. Sometimes our anger must lead to action. We can look to Jesus to see that righteous anger is something that should well up within us when others are being treated unfairly.
But it’s also important that we respond as a follower of Christ and not as someone who is angry for a cause.