Until We Murder
The vitriolic nature of our news was ratcheted up last week over flags and football. Far from being a media only phenomena—and despite complaints about the constant news coverage—Americans of all walks of life entered into the debate with friends, family, and co-workers.
The particulars of this recent "outrage" are rather irrelevant in light of persistent evidence that as a culture we seem to eat and breathe just to be angry with people throughout the day. It seems that only mere days go by before some group of individuals is angry about some new thing. And in turn, other people are angry that former people are angry. The "best" of us typically just mock those in outrage.
Some people might think that social media is the cause of this behavior. The common hypothesis that the ineffective medium of communication has somehow turned us all against one another when a mere sit-down, face to face conversation would quell all conflict. It's quite true that many of us would be less bullish in person than on the internet. But the words we put on social media are still our words. Or better emphasized: our words. And Christ taught us that out of our heart our mouth speaks and our fingers type. In Luke's rendition of this teaching, Christ even says that we "store up" the good and evil in our heart from which to speak.
As I sat last night in the silent, aftermath of hosting bible study I knew that there were people who had expressed anger towards some of my comments over the weekend's events. After having as many conversations as I did it was bound to happen in a couple instances. And though I felt no personal conflict from this knowledge, I simultaneously felt a strange desire to just be angry back at them. This seemed odd since I felt satisfied with myself and my understanding of the events. And then I heard in my head:
“Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6-7)
These words from Scripture range true in my heart. I wasn't truly offended by any comments that had been directed my way. I did not feel the need to justify myself in the eyes of any man. And yet, in my heart, I felt the silent urging to just be angry. And I believe this verse highlights why.
It's not enough to be satisfied with your own position and beliefs. It's not enough to feel you've done admirably when engaging with other people and their beliefs. Ultimately, it boils down to our understanding of judgment and vindication before God. And for sinners constantly squirreling under the judgment of God, every situation in history and culture provides us a reason to be angry at one another. I certainly was not content with God's judgment. And so I sought to make in my heart a private judgment of anger.
In the story of Cain and Abel, it was this anger—familia anger no less—that led to murder. Cain found no contentment in God's judgment. Nor did he seek to please God. Instead, he harbored his anger and murdered his brother. Is it any wonder why Christ in articulating the spirit of the law spoke that to be angry with your brother made one liable for the judgment of murder? Or more explicitly, the teaching of the Apostle John which directly equates the two (1 John 3:15)?
Why are we so angry? Because we have hearts full of anger. And why are our hearts full of anger? Because like Cain, we lack contentment in the judgment of God. Some of us because He stands in judgment of our sins. Others because we don't see Him judging other people's sin as we would like. And finally, if we're honest, because we sometimes hate to see our brother be accepted before God. Yet in the midst of our anger towards our brother, the Lord says, "If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door."
Flags and footballs will almost certainly be forgotten in the ensuing months. But other topics and issues will arise that provide us the opportunity to reveal the vitriolic nature of our hearts. So the question is how long will we continue to be angry with one another if we neglect contentment in God? And the Scriptural answer is until we murder.