I recently had a conversation with someone who is a Christian. This was a brief conversation and in it they were describing something they believed was happening in another part of the country (I will spare you those details). In the midst of him sharing his concern, he seemed to get so angry about it. He was angry to the point of being ready to fight. He said “I don’t care, if I have to take some people out with me then so be it.”
As I took a step back and just started thinking about this encounter it made me ask the question - why do so many Christians seem angry? I can’t speak for other countries, I am just referring to the one I live in, but it seems like there is a rise of angry Christians. Beyond this question of why Christians seem so angry, there probably lies a better one. Does all of this anger present Christ in the best light?
Is There Reason to Be Angry?
As I continued thinking about this encounter, it forced me to look at the things this person and some others are angry at. I seemed to narrow it down to four areas.
1. Angry at Sinners
I always find this interesting when Christians get angry over the behavior of sinners. By sinners I am referring to those who do not know Jesus Christ as savior. How else are people who don’t know Christ and who don’t have the Holy Spirit living inside them supposed to act?
For a moment, can you remember the way you lived before you came to Christ? Why do we get angry when sinners act like sinners? That is like a person getting upset because a baby is crying or a dog is barking. What else are they supposed to do? When you read Scripture and how Jesus interacted with sinners, he very rarely got angry with them. He did however get angry with the Pharisees and teachers of the law because they knew, or should have known, better.
Let me put this in as plain a language as we can. Let’s stop expecting unbelievers to live like believers. They can’t do it and we should not expect them to.
2. Angry at Government
In my conversation with this gentleman, he was really angry at the government. I get it because there is not a person alive who agrees with everything that the government does. Here is the problem. Did his anger lead him to pray? No it didn’t, it led him to complain. Notice what the Bible says our response should be to those in government.
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
Paul is instructing Timothy to offer petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving for everyone in authority. In your fits of anger over disagreement with what government is doing, can I ask a question? Instead of just being angry, when was the last time you prayed for those in office, whether you agree with their policies or not? By the way, notice agreement with those in office is not a condition for praying for them. Anger alone is not going to change anything. But intense, fervent prayer will, as James 5:16 reminds us.
“…The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Paul adds one more step to prayer, instructing us to give thanks for those in office. But what if you don’t like what they are doing, or you disagree with the policies and decisions they are making? It doesn’t matter; the Bible instructs us to give thanks for them. This leads to a very sobering question. When was the last time you gave thanks for those in office, especially the ones you disagree with? I am not saying this is easy, but if we are going to follow Scripture, there is no excuse for not doing it because God does not put conditions on it. Therefore, it can’t be we are thankful for the ones we like and not thankful or angry about the ones we don’t like. This is not what God desires.
When we obey what God requires of us notice verse three. It pleases God our Savior. There is one more reason this is so important and that is verse four. Look at it with verse three.
“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
When you pray and give thanks for those in authority, especially those with whom you disagree, that quells your anger and it highlights the character of God. Guess who notices? The people around you. Your response can potentially open the door to share the gospel, which is what God wants most of all anyway.
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3. Angry at the Other Side
I wish I didn’t have to say this, but there is a political divide amongst Christians that has caused Christians to be angry at the person who is on the other side. I know some people may find this hard to believe but there are Christians on both sides of the political aisle. The reason why this is possible is because salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.
The last time I checked your political affiliation has nothing to do with determining your salvation, and yet many have tried to tie the two together. The result has created Christians who are angry at those who are on the other side. We often express the displeasure with statements that begin with “How could you…?” and you can fill in the rest.
Whatever your political viewpoint is, the final authority does not rest there, it rests in the word of God. Let’s make sure we are not letting our political viewpoint shape our understanding of Scripture. Let’s allow Scripture to shape every aspect of our lives. When you do, then you will discover that you can’t get mad at the other side because both sides are equally flawed. There is only one who is good and perfect in all his ways, and he is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
4. Angry at Each Other
The final one to talk about is Christians being angry at other Christians. There are a myriad of reasons this can happen. For some, they have been personally offended. There can be doctrinal differences. Some disagree on social issues or the right response to COVID and the list goes on and on. When this happens, the only name that really gets disgraced is the name of Jesus. After all, if those who profess his name can’t get along with each other why would this type of Christianity be attractive to anyone else?
The One Way We Will Show We Are His Disciples
When this is all said and done there are two things we need to focus on. The first one comes from the book of James.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
Notice what James instructs us to do. Before we become quick to get angry, listen first. Here is a novel idea. Before you try to get your point across, listen to the other person. I know this is a lost art, but it is very effective. We should become aggressive listeners and slow talkers. Too often we are aggressive talkers and slow listeners. This is a recipe for disaster. I sincerely believe if we would listen more and be mindful of the words we say (talk less), then we would probably be a lot slower to become angry.
The second thing we must do is remember Jesus’ instruction.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
Isn’t it fascinating that the defining mark of your discipleship is not what you say but how you love? Your love of Jesus is not displayed by how you argue, who you vote for, or even what angers you. The greatest example and proof that we can offer to the world that demonstrates who we are in Christ is the way we love each other, and by extension the way we love the people of the world.
Please don’t misunderstand – this does not mean we (meaning the body of Christ) will not disagree on certain topics and issues. It means we don’t have to divide over them. The world is hungry for a body of Christ that will demonstrate the real love of Christ. When we do this and stop being angry all the time, we will remind them of what Jesus looks like, and that can be very attractive to the outside world.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.