Outrage comes easily these days. Whatever the offence, no matter how trivial the wrongdoing, it seems that the appropriate response is outrage. It could be a clumsy phrase from an elected representative the imagined slight of a friend, or a ham-fisted slip by the beautician, never mind the severity, outrage is called for!
“How dare they! The downright impertinence! This will not stand—I am indignant at your actions and you will hear me roar. In fact, everyone in earshot will hear my roar. I will ascend every available podium shout my accusations out loud, and then I’ll lower my voice to whisper in every ear until my disgust with you has traveled afar. By the time this is through, you will be a pariah. I will crush you!”
Yes, I know, I’m exaggerating—few people actually speak like this. But unfortunately, way too many people act this way. It seems that beneath every thin skin is a deep well of vindictiveness that is ready to erupt. In recent days, I have grown weary of the vitriol that I read and hear. Everybody seems mad at somebody else, and while I expect this kind of behavior from the world I am deeply saddened by the frequency of outrage between Christians. In blogs, chat rooms, carpool, and coffee shops, believers in Christ are aiming their arsenal at one another.
Please don’t misunderstand me; I am not opposed to confrontation. There is no grace to be found in a blind eye. When injustice is present, the righteous ought to be offended, and sinners should be called to repentance. I’m good with all that. What’s really bugging me is how low the threshold for offence has slipped. It seems like any annoyance now requires a nuclear response. When I read of parishioners slandering their pastor because they supposedly know his motives, I grieve—for him and them. When I hear Christians pass judgment on those ‘misguided’ church members who routinely fail to meet the standard of proper parenting, I grow exasperated. It’s all so small, demeaning and unnecessary.
I’m not suggesting that we all just get along. The answer isn’t as prosaic as that. Not at all, the biblical expectation is far more demanding and enticing—we are supposed to love one another. “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8). Peter is quite emphatic in his writing about the obligation of mutual love between Christians, but what does he mean by saying that love covers a multitude of sins? Is this verse a New Testament corollary to Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.”? I think not. It seems to me that Peter is expressing the same hope as James, “let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:20). Love doesn’t accommodate wrongdoing, rather it motivates the Christian to pursue and restore the wayward brother.
Life together is going to bring bruises. Insensitive words and inconsiderate actions by other Christians will leave us wounded. It’s inevitable, and when it happens, we have to choose. Shall we become outraged and respond with contempt or will we let love lead us in compassion? Do we maintain the high ground or do we let love draw us close to the source of offence and rescue them from sin. It goes beyond a disciplined tongue. When our hearts are motivated by love, we don’t have to be so careful about weighing our words, since a loving heart always expresses itself with kindness.
Yes, outrage comes easily, but I believe that love lasts longer. Given the choice—and we are—let’s choose the later.