Is outrage a Christian value? Maybe it depends on what we’re outraged about. In the current political climate, it seems the entire nation is outraged—or at least a very vocal portion. I’ve seen post after post urging us to “stay outraged” until things go our way. But is outrage a good thing? When is outrage appropriate?
It depends on what we mean by outrage. So that we’re all on the same page, let’s see how the dictionary defines it:
- An act of wanton cruelty or violence; any gross violation of law or decency.
- Anything that strongly offends, insults, or affronts the feelings.
- A powerful feeling of resentment or anger aroused by something perceived as an injury, insult, or injustice.
Synonyms include: indignation, fury, anger, rage, disapproval, wrath, and resentment.
Clearly, some outrage is to be avoided. We don’t want to commit acts of “wanton cruelty”! Much of what we see on the news is clearly violent, “gross violations of law or decency.” No matter how righteous your cause is, adding evil to evil is never a Godly solution.
Definition number 2 applies to much outrage we see on Facebook and other social media sites. We’re quick to be offended, insulted, affronted, and we retaliate correspondingly. With each exchange, the anger escalates. Are these the times when Jesus would have us turn the other cheek?
Consider number 3. Shouldn’t we be outraged at “injury, insult, or injustice”? Again, it depends. Is the injury or insult directed at us? If not, we need to let God deal with the offending party while we forgive.
But what about injustice? What about when others are injured or insulted? In that case, we’re told to take up the cause of the needy, to stand against injustice. This is righteous anger, and Jesus himself sets the example.
Remember the time Jesus encountered the money changers in the temple? (See Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15, and John 2:15.) He was furious! But why? Was he angry because they had differing political views? No, it was righteous anger at their disrespect toward God.
Similarly, Solomon is outraged by the “violence that takes place on this planet—the tears of the victims, no one to comfort them; the iron grip of oppressors, no one to rescue the victims from them.” (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3) Perhaps this is the kind of outrage many demonstrators (and Facebook ranters) have in mind. If so, I urge them to imitate Jesus.
Jesus lived during the Roman occupation, when corrupt and godless rulers were horribly oppressing the Jews. What did he have to say about this blatantly evil government? Not a whole lot.
(We’re all familiar with his statement, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” That’s more an admonition to obey the law while focusing on more important matters.)
What else might the Bible tell us? In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. … For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. (Romans 13:1-2, 4a)
We may be frustrated with our government, but the Rome of Paul’s day was far, far worse. Yet, he tells us that God put the Rome authorities in charge. When we rant and rave and march and demonstrate, we’re telling God that we don’t trust him with our lives or our country. Can we have faith that God truly wants our good?
So what should we do when we perceive injustice? Again, Paul writes:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
Praying not only motivates God to act, it also adjusts our attitude. It’s hard to pray while angry! Be sure to pray especially for the politicians you don’t like! Then, ask God what He would have you do. So many demonstrators argue for programs or policy changes, but when asked to get involved personally—to house the homeless, to feed the hungry, to befriend the refugee—they’re “too busy” or “can’t afford to give money.” Don’t expect someone else to do your ministry for you!
Jesus was not ruled by outrage, but he had plenty of passion. As a result, he was too busy healing the sick, rescuing the lost, ministering to the needy, and loving the unlovely to get caught up in the current events of his day. Maybe it’s time for us to do likewise.