Last Thursday afternoon I received a number of very curious messages, mostly via Facebook messenger, and they were curious in two ways. First, they all said the exact same thing, down to the capitalization and spacing error, “Can you please send this to all your contacts.can (sic) you believe this?” It seems I was being bombarded with a good old-fashioned chain letter via 21st century technology. And the second thing that I found so curious was what I was supposed to find so unbelievable; attached to the message was a video explaining that the unbelieving administration at a secular university (that I had never heard of before) in a small town 1300 miles away from the church was acting like the unbelieving administration of a secular college. That this was going on at a college I had never heard of and had no connection with (even tangentially) in a small town in a different time zone only heightened the absurdity of it all. I guess I was supposed to be outraged and then encourage others to be outraged too. But Christian it is time to back away from the outrage.
I’ve read a ton of blogposts and articles and heard a ton of sermons about what a danger it is to the church to allow worldliness to into the church and how deadly worldliness is to the believer. And that is a biblical attitude.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. – James 1:27
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. – James 4:4
But there is one very worldly attitude that that has seeped into the body of Christ, has made itself at home in the church and is seldom if ever recognized for what it is, worldliness. A love of being offended and expressing outrage.
Maybe it is a result of the internet where anyone can instantaneously share their opinion via social media, or something darker, the culture around us is absolutely obsessed with being offended and giving vent to their outrage. In fact I just googled “culture of outrage” and 18.2 million results were returned. Even many worldly voices are starting to wise up to the deleterious effects of this constant state of outrage (although those voices are predictably shouted down).
Yet this poisonous attitude and propensity for giving vent to outrage has found a home in the church. In the past weeks I have seen multiple Christians, none of whom were from New Zealand, give vent to their outrage that a well-known false teacher was seen drinking with a popstar in a bar in New Zealand. Let’s be honest, doing shots was probably the least outrageous thing that false teacher did that whole week, and our heart should break for the popstar who is enslaved to sin and who is being ushered into hell by that wolf in skinny jeans. I have seen believers lambaste a man who preaches the biblical gospel for expressing a theological truth (full disclosure, one I wouldn’t try to express in 140 characters) in imprecise language. And I have witnessed believers give vent to outrage over all manner of political and cultural (perceived) slights.
The act at that far away third tier college that I was supposed to be outraged at and encourage others to be outraged by was the removal of the cross from the top of the campus’ chapel. But think about that biblically for a second, if the gospel is not preached there, what value, if any, is there in there being a cross on top of the building where the gospel is not preached? As Paul wrote to the Romans “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Rom 10:17)”; it doesn’t come from the mere sight of the cross.
Frankly when the visual representation of the cross is divorced from the preaching of the gospel it is not only without any power or significance, it is downright destructive. It deceives people into thinking they are hearing the truth about God, when all they will hear in those buildings are the lies of the devil. Truth be told there are plenty of buildings within walking distance, that ought to remove their crosses from the outside of the building because they removed the gospel from the inside decades ago. And one of the most offensive things I’ve ever laid eyes on is a building with a cross on top, Scientology’s Los Angeles headquarters. So what gives?
I fear that the worldly love of outrage for outrage’s sake has found a home in the church. Maybe it is rooted in a kind of siege mentality that many “culture warriors” have developed since it has become clear that they have lost the culture war. But I think it is more than that; to me it seems it is just garden variety worldliness. I don’t see a huge difference between being outraged that at a college you have never heard of in a town you will never go to that unbelievers are acting like unbelievers and demanding that a face melting guitar solo be inserted into Amazing Grace the next time your church sings it.
And when it comes to being outraged at unbelievers we are admonished again and again not to expect them to act like believers, that they are unable to understand the things of God, and are utterly spiritually dead.
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler— not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you,” – 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. – 1 Corinthians 2:14
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. – Ephesians 2:1-3
Knowing these things why would we be offended by or outraged at unbelievers acting like unbelievers, whether they are removing crosses from campus buildings or drinking to excess in bars in the south seas or engaging in sexual sin or anything else? Our hearts should break for them.
But they hate us and want to persecute us some might say. Of course they do! Jesus said they would.
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. – John 15:18-19
And remember what the brother of the Lord wrote in the first written instruction to the church.
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. – James 1:19-20
So take a deep breath, don’t share that meme, keep yourself unstained by the world. Christian, back away from the outrage.