How Should We Handle Outrage?

How Should We Handle Outrage?

Written by Amy K. Hall |
Friday, March 17, 2023

Don’t confuse grace for others with inaction. Don’t confuse treating people with dignity with avoiding loving confrontations. Be strong in your convictions, be open about the truth, and be faithful in your work, knowing that the reason you’re responding to others with grace rather than hatred is not so that people won’t hate you. Even Jesus was hated. That can’t be avoided. Rather, you’re responding like Jesus because you’re called to “proclaim his excellencies” by reflecting his character to others.

This is a difficult time. Evil is called good, while good is called evil. Objective truth is disdained. Feelings are divinized. God is mocked.

If you’re feeling outraged, you’re in good company. Lot “felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds.” Jeremiah, who watched his beloved, unrepentant nation crumble under God’s judgment, is known as “the weeping prophet.” Elijah begged God to take his life when he thought all had forsaken God. Paul cried out when he was unjustly struck, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall!” And who can forget the prophet Micaiah’s angry words towards those who would not listen: “Mark my words, all you people!”

It’s not wrong to be outraged by evil. Our desire for justice flows directly from our love for God and our knowledge of his magnificent, righteous, beautiful character. Because he is the standard of all justice, we likewise love justice. Because he is the Creator, all truth is valuable. And because we love the truth, lies are maddening. Because he has explained what it means to love, we know how to truly help people. And because we love people, injustices infuriate. God himself is angry at evil because evil destroys human beings, who are created in his image, so our outrage is understandable.

But how should we handle these feelings of outrage? Should we act on them, and if so, how?

Fortunately, the Bible doesn’t just say, “Be angry, and yet do not sin” (Eph. 4:26); it actually 1) describes what life in an unjust world should look like for Christians, and 2) explains the reason why we can respond to a fallen world as Jesus did without betraying justice.

What Should Living in an Unjust World Look Like for Christians?

First Peter is the go-to book for figuring out how to behave in an unjust world where you are “slandered as an evildoer,” where “they malign you,” where “you do what is right and suffer for it.” Peter tells us that even when we suffer under unreasonable people, we are to 1) patiently endure it, 2) continue to do what is right, and 3) respond as Jesus responded to those who maligned him.

God called us “out of darkness into his marvelous light” so that we might “proclaim the excellencies of him who has called us,” and, in part, we proclaim his excellencies by reflecting his character to the world—speaking the truth, being honest, treating human beings made in the image of God with dignity, “putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.” No matter how we’re treated as we work for the good of the people around us, we are to continue to act in the ways God has called us to act.

More specifically, we are to imitate Christ:

If when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in his steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth; and while being reviled, he did not revile in return; while suffering, he uttered no threats, but kept entrusting himself to him who judges righteously. (1 Pet. 20–23)

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