The internet is a breeding ground for anger.
Blogs, comments, Facebook posts, tweets... all of these mediums can so quickly become vehicles for us to express our rage. I can't believe you said that! I can't believe she thinks that! I can't believe he did that! Maybe it was the inevitable cost of connecting everyone. We can no longer avoid those we disagree with. Apparently that really ticks us off.
Like it or not, the 24 hour news cycle is predicated on anger. Flip to this channel and they're angry at the president. Flip to the other and they're mad at congress. When we start reading blogs, it gets even worse. And Christian bloggers are the biggest offenders.
Do you have progressive-leaning theology? You're apostate. Are you more traditional? Your legalism is driving people away from Jesus. Somewhere in the middle? Quit being so lukewarm, God hates that. Have an axe to grind? There's a comments section for that. Want to add gas to the fire? Just start a tumblr and join the rage-fest.
Anger has become the fuel that makes the internet go. Outrage fuels posts which fuels clicks which fuels advertising and books and speaking. And to top it all off, we like how it feels. We like getting "righteously indignant." We like being right and correcting wrongs.
Look, I get it. I have my personal theological convictions and can feel my bile rise when I feel someone is leading the people of God astray. I have the same struggles, same in the moment reactions, the same anger at those who I disagree with. I'm not writing this because I'm perfect. I'm writing this because I'm guilty.
But who are we? As Christians, truly, who are we? Do we not worship the Prince of Peace? Are we not all filled with the same Spirit of love? How is it that we so easily hate? Tear each other down? Why do we seem to lead with what divides us, rather than what connects us?
There was a time when I gave anger a foothold. I read outrage blogs and lit up Facebook comments. I let my anger burst out without regard for who it might hurt or offend. I'm right! Why should I let those who are wrong have the last word?! I was guided more by my perceptions of right and wrong than I was by the gentle had of God.
There have been disagreements since the beginning of the Church. Right now I'm studying for a short series in James, and I read that James (the head of the Church in Jerusalem) didn't really care much for Paul (as in the Apostle) and that the feeling was mutual. Two of the most important voices in the early church and they had some disagreements. Think about that. Think about the implications of that for us today.
What if when you picked up Paul's letter to the Colossians, you read "bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you... except for James. His beliefs are just too far out there to have anything to do with." Or if you picked up James and read "what causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? But that's not the case with my quarrel with Paul. My quarrel with him is justified and he must be silenced!"
Disagreement is inevitable. Anger doesn't have to be. We cannot allow anger to gain a foothold in our lives. Especially as pastors and leaders, we have an obligation to lead a group of people who have vastly different ideas than we do. If those ideas enrage us, how can we effectively lead?
What's worse, when we take our disagreements public and engage in angry debate, we are causing the body to stumble and marring our witness to the world. When we allow ourselves to be sucked into the outrage culture that exists all around us, we are giving the enemy a foothold into our lives and creating fractures in an already broken body.
Think back to James and Paul. They had their disagreements. And apparently it was at least somewhat known throughout the Church that they didn't see eye to eye. But we have no record of either publicly disrespecting or justifying their own position over the other. They didn't allow their disagreement to breed anger and then allow that anger to gain a foothold.
The mission was too important.
The message was too valuable.
The body was too precious.
Let's rid ourselves of anger and bitterness. Let's deny it a foothold. Let's do better because the mission, message, and body are too important not to.
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