James 1:19 & 20, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because our anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
I won’t beat this one too long today. Let’s just accept the premise that James gives us that our anger is not productive, not in God’s kingdom. So much incivility flows from our anger. It comes from our hot, burning anger in the intensity of the moment, and from the slow burning rage that simmers and consumes. Neither bring about the right-ness that God desires.
I’ve known Christians who seemed to think that their anger was a spiritual gift and a necessary tool of the kingdom, and they gave their anger full rein to run and romp. Crap, I’ve been that Christian. Who doesn’t like to burn with a little righteous indignation? Sometimes it is a legit response to evil. Sometimes it’s more of an addiction to the the adrenaline coursing through our veins. Sometimes it’s a sweet balm for our bruised ego.
We too often embrace our anger. It feeds our ego. It fires our imagination. And though embracing the anger might do well for our favorite superheroes battling evil in their comic book and cartoon worlds, in our world, it kills and stunts us. Anger itself is not the problem, as we all feel it sometimes, but it’s letting the anger guide us that causes the trouble. Scriptural voices are really clear on this… Jesus says that our anger leaves us subject to judgment (Matthew 5:21-24), and Paul warns against letting anger lead us into sin and letting it grow over time (Ephesians 4:26).
We have to put our anger aside. It’s not a tool, a gift or a strength. James connects it with too much talking and too little listening. So let’s shut our mouths, open our ears, and let go of the anger. If we seek God’s righteousness, anger is not the ride that will get us there. Civility and so much more suffers in the face of our anger.