Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
For the last few years, it has become vogue to refer to the current state of incivility as “the age of rage.” The British newspaper, The Guardian, featured an article in 2019 by Oliver Burkeman, entitled, “The age of rage: are we really living in angrier times?” Janie Watkins wrote the book, “The Age of Rage”: This is a mad, mad world, in 2005. While it’s written in the context of America, it points back to examples like Nebuchadnezzar, Ahab, and other Bible characters, alongside modern dictators and megalomaniacs. At least one source, Science Focus, wisely observes, “The Age Of Rage: Why Social Media Makes Us So Angry…And What You Can Do About It” (3/20). Writers in Australia, Ireland, and other countries are all observing the same disturbing trend of people who disagree being willing to amplify their indignation with intimidation and violence. Outrage has simply become rage.
Any number of current events in the last few years would serve to prove that we’ve gone that far in our society. Civilization depends on civility. More than that, Christianity, as Jesus and His disciples teach it in the New Testament, requires us to “be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” as He sends us out “as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Mat. 10:16). You see, it doesn’t matter how the world acts. God expects us to assuage the rage.
The Bible identifies what qualifies as rage. The main word translated “rage” in modern translations is thumos, and it is found eighteen times in the New Testament. The NASB renders it “rage” (Luke 4:28; Acts 19:28), “indignation” (Rom. 2:8), “angry tempers” (2 Cor. 12:20), “outbursts of anger” (Gal. 5:20), “wrath” (Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8; Heb. 11:27; etc.), and “passion” (Rev. 14:8; 18:3). This word means the “intense expression of the inner self; a state of intense displeasure” (BDAG 461). Louw-Nida says, “an intense, passionate desire of an overwhelming and possibly destructive character” (290). Kittel explains that the verb from which this noun comes originally conveyed “violent movement” and “to boil up” and “smoke” and the noun came to mean what is moved–desire, impulse, disposition, thought, and anger (TDNTA 339). Picture a person’s temperament as a potentially seething volcano. Rather than controlling it, the person allows what’s inside to freely boil over. That is rage!
With intensifying rhetoric from those in the world who threaten harm in expressing their rage, what does God call you and me to do? First, at the basic level, we are not to sin in our anger (Eph. 4:26). Second, never take your own revenge (Rom. 12:19). Third, replace quarrelsomeness with kindness, patience (even when wronged), and gentleness (2 Tim. 2:24-25). Fourth, malign no one, but be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men (Titus 3:2).
Warning: This is not how the world thinks nor what the world will do, in many cases. But in the age of rage, we have a higher law. Simply put, it is, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). It’s not a matter of what that may or may not do for our personal causes, but what will it do to advance the cause of Christ. It’s why He has us in this age, to help the world see His way. Those who follow it will experience eternal joy, the antithesis and antidote to this age of rage!