For a number of years I’ve pondered the tenor of communication within the professing church, particularly as it relates to social commentary and politics. There are at least three reasons the subject draws my attention:
a. My historical mentors, men such as Andrew Murray and Francois Fenelon, are men who were centered in the peace of Christ in trying times. Murray ministered to both Boers and Brits during the Boer War – thereby incurring the wrath of both. Fenelon ministered to both French and British armies as they marched across his bishopric of Cambrai – and was appreciated by both.
b. I am concerned about our “witness”. During the presidency of Bill Clinton, as I observed the vitriolic and disrespectful language directed to the President, I asked myself why anyone would want to be a Christian – we were ugly people…and we still are as I consider the language directed toward President Barak Obama.
c. I am aware of my own propensity to lapse into attitude, emotion and language that is outside the Lordship of Jesus Christ and that brings disgrace on the Gospel. In one of my Bibles I have struck through the word “man” in James 1:20 and replaced it with “Bob”. It therefore reads, “The wrath/anger of Bob does not work the righteousness of God.” I need that reminder. I am also keenly aware of falling short of Paul’s instructions in 2 Timothy 2:24-25, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness opposing those who are in opposition…”
Elsewhere I have written about respect for our President, (see my website); here my focus is anger, or better “wrath”, as opposed to peace. After all, we are called to be peacemakers and reconcilers.
In 1941 Dorothy L. Sayers delivered a lecture titled, The Other Six Deadly Sins, it was subsequently published in a collection of lectures titled, Creed or Chaos, which is the name of one of the lectures.
When Sayers addressed the deadly sin of Ira or Wrath she observed:
“To foment grievance and to set men at variance is the trade by which agitators thrive and journalists make money. A dog-fight, a brawl, or a war is always news; if news of that kind is lacking, it pays well to contrive it….That is not to say that scandals should not be exposed, or that no anger is justified. But you may know the mischief-maker by the warped malignancy of his language as easily as by the warped malignancy of his face and voice. His fury is without restraint and without magnanimity – and it is aimed, not at checking the offence, but at starting a pogrom against the offender. He would rather the evil were not cured at all than that it were cured quietly and without violence. The evil lust of wrath cannot be sated unless somebody is hounded down, beaten, and trampled on, and a savage war-dance executed on the body.” Dorothy L. Sayers
“I am therefore the more concerned about a highly unpleasant spirit of vindictiveness that is being commended to us at this moment, camouflaged as righteous wrath and a warlike spirit. It is not a warlike spirit at all – at any rate, it is very unlike the spirit in which soldiers make war. The good soldier is on the whole remarkable both for severity in his measures, and for the measure in his severity.” Dorothy L. Sayers
“If I say, “Do not listen to them,” it is not because there is no room for indignation, but because there is a point at which righteous indignation passes over into the deadly sin of Wrath…” Dorothy L. Sayers
I suggest that we have become addicted to wrath with media personalities and religious leaders dispensing the drug wrath on both the right and the left. This drug impairs our judgment, causing normally civil Christian men and women to not only forget their God-mandated respect for authority, but also the Biblical injunctions to live at peace with all men and to allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts. Wrath bends our hearts and minds, it warps our spiritual discernment; it causes us to forget who we are - the Church of Jesus Christ in an age that is passing away. Perhaps worst of all, rather than reflecting the Gospel of the Prince of Peace and the character of that Prince, we show ourselves to be purveyors of vitriolic and toxicity, and we become dealers of the drug wrath ourselves – users turned to dealers. We are called to show the world a better way.