Idols in the Church Part 1: Anger

Be appalled, O heavens, at this;

    be shocked, be utterly desolate,

declares the Lord,

for my people have committed two evils:

they have forsaken me,

    the fountain of living waters,

and hewed out cisterns for themselves,

    broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Jeremiah 2:12-13 English Standard Version

The Bible makes clear that we have an idolatry problem. Fundamental to our ongoing rebellion against God is our pursuit of idols in order to replace God. We reject God as King over us, try to set ourselves up as kings and queens over our lives, only to fall under the authority and rule of other “gods” (see Romans 1). In truth, these so-called gods cannot save and cannot fill the holes in our hearts. Jeremiah is correct. We have forsaken the fountain of living water and are digging wells in the sand, but coming up empty.

Unfortunately, this flirtation with false gods does not end when we come to know Jesus as King. Discipleship is an ongoing process of bringing more and more of our lives under the rule and authority of Jesus. Some sins, addictions, and idolatries linger far longer than they should. Some even dress themselves up in Christianity to increase their staying power. That is what this series is about.

One particularly nasty idol I have noticed in my excursions into social media, is the idol of anger. To be perfectly clear, anger in and of itself is simply an emotion, a reaction. When someone cuts us off in traffic, nearly causing an accident, it is natural to react with anger. When talking about the idolatry of anger, I am not talking about these spontaneous outbursts and reactions.

Also, there is such a thing as righteous anger. When we confront instances of abuse, human trafficking, racism, and injustice, we ought to be moved to anger. Again, this is not what I mean when I talk about anger as a false god.

When referring to people who worship the idol of anger, I mean those who go out of their way to pursue and foster anger in themselves and others. They stake their identity and personality on being angry and enraged. Some of the clearest examples can be found in political news media. There is a large market for the perpetually enraged commentator on society and politics. Without enemies to rage against, these commentators have nothing to talk about and thus no livelihood. Thus, they must constantly pursue more and more rage-invoking issues to feed to their audience.

Unfortunately, there is an audience that eats it up. We warm ourselves on the fires stoked by these demagogues and are set ablaze as well. We then take our rage and spew it out on social media where anonymity keeps us from facing the consequences of our vitriol.

Sadly, this idolatry and unrighteous pursuit of anger makes its way into the church. I fear more American Christians are discipled into partisan politics and the culture wars than into the Kingdom of God. In our quest to find enemies to rage against, we turn our sights on those who would otherwise be brothers and sisters in Christ. We tighten our definitions of ideological purity in order to have more enemies to feed to our god of anger.

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. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

James 1:19-21 English Standard Version

Yet the way of the Kingdom is not the way of the world. The way of Jesus is not the way of anger, malice, and hostility. Yes, Jesus got angry . . . at injustice and hypocrisy among religious leaders. Even so, the defining characteristic of Jesus was gentleness, even forgiving His enemies while on the cross. This is the path disciples are called to walk. We are to love and pray for our enemies, not rant, curse, and spit at them.

Church, let us put off our lust for rage and this false god of anger. Put down the pitchforks and torches. Instead, pick up the cross of Jesus who died for us while we were yet His enemies.

What voices are you listening to on a regular basis?
Are these voices stoking anger or inspiring love?
Are you a person known for love or for anger?

Published by Dr. Sam Draper

Sam has been with Greencastle Christian Church in Greencastle, Indiana since 2017. He is married to Jessie and they have one son, Joey. Sam completed his Doctor of Ministry in Spiritual Formation in 2019. Sam’s favorite hobbies include biking, reading, playing board games, and eating Chipotle burritos.

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