Our culture is angry. You only have to be on social media for five minutes to see this is true. And the amount of anger we’re seeing will only increase as the various sides of our culture move farther and farther apart from each other. The first response to disagreement, particularly online, is often anger, and herein lies a danger for all of us who are engaging people with apologetics: It’s easy to fall right into that cultural pattern in our own responses to people. This is something we need to fight.
Lest anyone think all anger must be expressed in order for one to be “healthy,” it’s important to note that ignoring your anger is not the same thing as fighting and killing it, though both are attempts to avoid expressing that anger against others. The first will only cause the anger to build up until you can’t ignore it anymore. The second dispenses with it in a way that glorifies God and respects the people around you.
We’re called to respond to people as Christ did, who “while being reviled…did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats” (1 Pet. 2:23). We’re to “malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.” Why? Because
we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy…so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:2–7)
In other words, we’re to do this “since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Pet. 2:21). We’re to do this so that we represent Christ well to the world—our very behavior when we respond with grace is an apologetic.
So how do we fight and kill the anger we feel when frustrated by rudeness, mockery, and other annoyances in our apologetics interactions? I came across “6 Powerful Keys to Overcoming Anger” by Mark Altrogge, and I think it’s very insightful. Every one of you should read through it. Here are some highlights:
- Remember that anger is a sin (and thus, you need to fight it).
- Ask yourself, “What is it that I want right now that I’m not getting?” (Answer: “I want all things in this world to serve me.”)
- Take the log out of your own eye. (Which of us hasn’t failed the way others fail us?)
- Forgive others. (As Altrogge says, “If anyone had the right to not forgive others, it was Jesus.”)
- Pray for those who sin against you. (“We can’t hold on to anger when we are asking God to bless someone who has offended us.”)
His summary is right on the money:
God is transforming us each day to become more and more like Jesus. When we forgive others, when we put our anger to death, when we love and bless and do good to others we bring glory to God. And that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about our vindication or getting what we want or having others treat us the way we think we deserve, but it is about bringing glory to God.
Honestly, the above highlights don’t do the article justice. You should definitely read the whole thing. I’ve bookmarked it and intend to read it regularly.
There’s one more thing I’d like to add to Altrogge’s points. Sometimes I receive this response from people who hear us advocating a Titus 3 approach to engaging people in our culture: If we don’t fight anger with anger, we’ll lose! We can’t drop all the weapons people will turn around and use against us!
But that’s exactly what we must do, because that’s what Jesus did. Continuing in 1 Peter 2:23, we see that “while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” Will people wrongly malign you and use their anger to turn others against you? Yes. Undoubtedly. But by not retaliating, we are entrusting ourselves to the righteous Judge of the universe. Let Him take care of justice in these situations. We, on the other hand, do as Christ did because that’s what we’re called to do. Jesus didn’t “lose,” and neither will imitating Him be a loss, regardless of how others treat us or how it turns out for us. As Peter also says, “If when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God” (1 Pet. 2:20).
We do all this so that our behavior will represent Christ, who “bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:24). Our hope is that as we represent Christ by responding with grace, by our wounds others will see Christ’s and be healed.