Wednesday, February 24, 2016

On the Politics of Anger and the Test of Love

Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. - James 1:20, NLT.

Several people have shared that God put James 1:20 on their hearts related to the current "angry American" political scene. We will never end up in a good place when our motivation is human anger. I was reflecting on this when I came across these words from Henry Drummond in The Greatest Thing in the World, an exposition of 1 Corinthians 13:
"Is life not full of opportunities for learning love? Every man and woman every day has a thousand of them. The world is not a playground, it is a schoolroom. Life is not a holiday, but an education. The one eternal lesson for us all is how better we can love." 
For years now one of my daily prayers has been that I will love well - God first and then others. The greatest and second commandments. Loving well doesn't have to do with feelings, it has to do with actions. It means being patient and kind, not irritable or resentful. It means rejecting envying, boasting, and pride. It means not being self-centered but thinking of others as more important than myself. It means not keeping a record of wrongs but walking in forgiveness. It doesn't mean rejoicing in evil but instead rejoicing in the truth, speaking the truth in love. Love is full of hope and perseverance. It trusts and it protects.

Anger isn't always wrong - there is a place for the righteous anger that we see in Jesus. But the path to righteousness isn't paved by anger, it's paved by love. We will know our anger is truly righteous if we are filled with love and driven by love, even while being angry. Any parent who has ever had a kid stay out too late and not call knows what this is like. Are you angry with the kid? Yes. But it's an anger borne out of love, and your first priority is making sure of the child's safety.

So much of the anger that is driving American politics today has nothing to do with love. It's about divisiveness. Some of it is class warfare - us vs them based on income. Some of it is prejudice - us vs. them because they look different or worship different. As Christians, we are called to a higher standard. We don't get to have knee-jerk reactions. We are called to pray and to live out our faith in practical ways. We are called to be counter-cultural. Sure, that means standing up for truth. But to be counter-cultural we have to see where our culture isn't lining up with truth. It's not just about the "social conservative" issues, as important as they are. Today it's counter-cultural to refuse to sue someone who wronged you. It's counter-cultural to be kind to the waiter who spills your drink. It's counter-cultural to take care of the elderly. It's counter-cultural to reject upward mobility in favor of deeper relationships. And yes, it's counter-cultural to resist the politics of anger.

So tonight, I'm joining with the voices of those reminding us of James 1:20. And I'm calling for us to test our assumption that our anger is "righteous" against the test Paul gave us: The test of love. For truly, if I am angry about all the right things, but have not love, I. Am. Nothing.

1 Corinthians 13New International Version (NIV)

13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

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