Sunday a Seattle man drove his car into a crowd protesting the death of George Floyd. Struck a barricade at an intersection. Jumped out of his car carrying a gun. And a shot a man trying to stop him. Fortunately the man was only wounded and didn’t die.
After the shooter was apprehended, police tried to disperse the protesters. They responded by throwing projectiles and fireworks at the Officers. Some demonstrators, police reported, shone green lasers in the officers’ eyes.
People are angry.
They are angry at racism. Injustice. Police brutality. And a failure to improve a system they believe is flawed.
As a result, that anger has fueled not only peaceful protests, but rioting and anarchy. Store windows have been smashed and the merchandise looted (Another word for stolen). Historical monuments defaced. Buildings burned. And the dreams of private business owners gone up in smoke. Many, ironically, are African-Americans who’ve suffered at the hands of agitators and rabble-rousers.
That anger has sparked a counter anger like the Seattle man. Unfortunately, the peaceful protestors have often been lumped together with the thugs who’re taking advantage of a crisis for their own benefit.
Social media has been filled with angry exchanges between friends and too often those claiming to be Christians. “You’re a racist!” the charge is hurled. “You’re a Marxist!” is the response. “You’re insensitive,” comes the reply. “You’re trying to destroy the greatest country in the world.” And on it goes. Too often ending with an ugly exchange, and unseemly aspersions cast on each other’s character, motives and political affiliation.
The warning from the inspired writer, James, is needed right now.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (Jam 1:19-21).
Yesterday, we wrote about righteousness. Human, carnal anger is incompatible with the righteousness of God. The anger James describes is wrathful, clamorous, and contentious. It speaks, even shouts, when it should be quiet. And just listen.
Instead “the anger of man” boils over. Results in hasty words. Unfounded accusations. Unfair insinuations. Reckless behavior. And an emotional explosion internally that’s demonstrated externally. Sometimes in violent behavior.
Unchecked and uncontrolled anger not only harms others but hurts the one who’s angry. Mark Twain once observed, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” Anger makes us bitter. Self-absorbed. Unreasonable. And unhappy.
Of course, there is such a thing as righteous anger. It’s divine anger directed at sin. Injustice. And ungodliness. The Bible says, “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps. 7:11). Jesus was angry at the hypocrites. Those who made merchandise of the Temple. And the fake piety of the religious leaders (Matt. 23; Jn. 2:13-16; Lk. 19:45-48).
It’s possible to be angry and not sin. Paul instructed, “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” (Eph. 4:26-27). There are right ways to respond to wrongs. This is true regarding societal injustice. Religious error. Mishandled decisions by church leaders. Untrue accusations. And conflicts in our families.
Regardless of the situation that angers us, it always pay to follow the divine counsel. (1) Listen first. Understand the other person’s point of view. (2) Be slow to speak. Measure your response carefully. The wise man was right.
“He who restraints his lips is wise” (Prov 10:19). “He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.” (Prov 17:27). (3) Be slow to show anger. One sage said, “Temper is such a valuable thing, it is a shame to lose it.” Be careful. Be controlled. Be composed.
With these Biblical percepts in mind, I would offer this advice to those desiring to protest against racial injustice. Be peaceful. Be kind to others. Respect people’s private property. Obey the instructions of law enforcement officers. Observe mandated curfews. Refrain from hurling ugly epitaphs or objects at others. Be careful with the groups you align yourself with. And if violence erupts, leave. Go home. And pray for peace. For justice. And for the betterment of our country.
What are you angry about? Is it rooted in righteousness? Or is its fruit revealed in unrighteousness?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman