Today I am upset. My heart rate is up, and I’ve written about five angry social media posts in my head. I’m mad for reasons you’ve probably also been mad in the last two years: someone won’t listen, won’t see reason and logic, only presents one side of an argument, the general anxiety-inducing conversations of people weary of a pandemic. Our world is angry and seething, quick to accuse, quick to cancel, quick to sever ties and dehumanize those who land on whatever the opposite side of the spectrum may be.
I get it.
I get it, I get it, I get it.
But I’m not going to type out the five angry posts. Not because I’m fearful, blind, or passive. No, it’s because I have learned my anger does not accomplish what I want it to. James 1:19-20 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
My anger does not produce the righteousness of God. My anger is tainted and tinged with my humanity. There are impure motives and selfishness at the heart of my anger. Even when I reflect on anger I’ve felt towards injustices like human trafficking and abused children, at the root of that anger I am saying I am worthy to stand in judgment over these criminals.
To long for justice and trust God’s timing is quite different from raging and demanding your version of equity. To place ourselves in the position of Judge is to usurp God (the only Being capable of true justice, true redemption, and true mercy) from His rightful throne.
James tells us we’re kidding ourselves if we think we can love God without controlling our tongues (James 1:26). If we are allowing anger to spew from our lips (or our fingertips), he says we are forgetful frauds, reading God’s Word and then acting in complete opposition to it.
So then how are we to deal with the anger we will inevitably encounter in this world?
James doesn’t tell us to sit pretty and wait for Jesus.
He says to be slow to speak, and to control our tongues. We need to speak into a hurting world, but the old saying “you win more flies with honey” rings true. We need to speak only after careful consideration and a lot of listening – even and especially when we disagree with the speaker. It’s then that we gently open our mouths and offer words dripping with God’s compassion, love, and wisdom.
Controlled words take patience. Patience entails trusting in God’s timing and wisdom over our own. In James 5 there is a description of waiting on God as a farmer waits for his crops to receive rain. As we patiently wait for God, we don’t need to waste our time with the same old conversation about how the “other side” has it all wrong, or if so-and-so were in office we wouldn’t be in this mess. Instead 5:9 says, “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.”
Stop complaining about your neighbor. Stop standing in judgment over someone else, because the capital “J” Judge is near and that’s His job. You don’t actually have it all figured out. You don’t actually know what’s best. Hallelujah, that weight is off our shoulders! God knows. He knows what’s wrong and He knows how to right it.
It’s not easy to hold back our words when the world feels like it’s snowballing out of control.
It is easy to let loose our tongues when we feel the stakes are high and the people in power are corrupt.
Can we trust God? Can we hold back our fiery arrows and instead offer hope? The only true hope that exists?
Let’s have words of honey, friends.
Let’s change the culture with quietness, with listening, with trusting.
Grace and peace.
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