I suppose it seems like it’s in today’s America (and today’s church) that people more readily give way to anger than before. At one level, I know that that isn’t true. It’s not like we’re actually fighting a civil war. Still, terms like the “culture wars” either describe, or add to, collective paranoia.
I’m divulging my own perspective here, but when seemingly innocuous statements and actions result in a crescendo of outrage, I wonder if we all aren’t on a diet of crazy pills. In a previous post, I included an old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon in which Calvin asks, “Doesn’t it seem like everybody just shouts at each other nowadays?”
Someone who knew a little bit about anger was Heinrich Schlier, who passed away in 1978. During the Nazi era, he belonged to the Confessing Church, a Christian movement that opposed Hitler’s regime. In his book, Principalities and Powers in the New Testament, he comments on the apostle Paul’s quote in Ephesians 4:26-27: “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” (Please overlook the gender-exclusive language.)
“This may appear exaggerated, for what has a man’s anger to do with the devil?” Good question, especially for a scholarly German theologian. I think his answer is the result of both study and experience. “When a man gives way to anger he makes a place within himself for the devil, and he gives the devil and his ruinous power a foothold in the world. Through his anger the man helps, as it were, to intensify the atmosphere of evil.” (61)
Atmosphere of evil. That’s a good description of an environment in which we spew whatever ill-conceived thought that enters our heads—and then foster conditions for more of the same.
“You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.” (James 1:19-20)