There has been a lot of interesting conversation taking place on my Facebook newsfeed recently.
Well, I say conversation. Conversation may not actually be the right word.
There’s been a lot of anger on my Facebook newsfeed recently. About everything.
People are angry about the Confederate flag. People are angry about the Supreme Court decision about homosexuality. My Facebook feed is full of angry people. Angry people with an axe to grind, lambasting dissenters.
Many feel that their anger is justified. That what they are angry about is what God is angry about. Some might even consider their anger to be righteous anger, claiming that we are angry because God is angry.
I mean, that’s classically how God is presented, right? Angry at sinners, only barely holding back his wrath, but eager to lash out against evil. Angry at all our shortcomings. Furious at the evil that is going on in creation. Absolutely livid at our rejection of God’s holiness.
But it’s funny, because as angry as we like to say that God is, that’s not an adjective God tends to use for himself.
Over and over and over again in scripture, God is described as being slow to anger. God describes himself that way to Moses in Exodus 34, and it’s repeated several times throughout the Bible. The Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
So why do Christians tend to present God as being angry and short-tempered? Why are Christians quick to be offended, and easily angered? Why is it that things like flags, health care, and gay marriage upset us and stir us up?
If one of God’s primary attributes is that God is slow to anger, why are his followers so quick to it?
As followers of God, should we not also be slow to anger? Should we not be kind, compassionate, and merciful? Should we not be abounding in steadfast love?
Then we have to ask ourselves, if God is slow to anger, but we who claim to follow God are so easily inflamed, are we not misrepresenting God?
When we react to the Supreme Court decision with anger because of our faith, are we really representatives of God? When we look for excuses to be offended, are we not the exact opposite of God’s own character?
We’ve represented God as this angry man in the sky, who is getting more and more upset, and one day his ire is going to overwhelm him and he’ll wipe us all out for our disrespect.
But that’s not who God is. God is not an angry God. Wrath is not one of God’s primary attributes. God is a compassionate, gracious God. Slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. Those are the words God used to refer to himself. Those are the attributes that were repeated over and over again in the Hebrew scriptures.
So if we’re going to be followers of God, we have to adopt those attributes. We must start every conversation with compassion and grace. We must be slow to anger. We must be full of unrelenting love.
That isn’t to say that God never gets angry. God is slow to anger, not immune to anger. But what God tends to be upset about isn’t flags, or gay marriage. It’s injustice to others. When God gets the most upset at the Israelites in the Old Testament, it’s either because they’ve chased after other gods, or it’s because they’ve neglected the oppressed and marginalized.
So are we angry about the things God would be angry about? Are we passionate about the things God gets passionate about?
We live in a world where racism, oppression, and neglect are rampant, yet we choose to be angry about other people marrying people of the same gender. Or that we can’t buy a particular flag on Amazon anymore. Is that really where we think the heart of God is? Are those really the issues we think God gets angry about? Somehow I don’t think so.
That’s not to say you can’t care about those issues. You can. They affect you. They can even be important.
But the anger has to stop. The righteous indignation has to go. We accomplish nothing of value by getting angry and taking offense at every perceived slight to our religion. Rather, we misrepresent God.
Your God is not an angry God. The Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
What if we represented God well? What if, instead of getting angry, we came into every conversation with grace and mercy and love? What if instead of looking to be offended, we assumed the best about the other person and their intentions? And what if we reserved our anger for the situations that merit it. What if we only used our anger to improve the lives of the oppressed and marginalized?
Well then we might start to look like God.