God desires mercy on earth, but at times it seems that there’s nothing but outrage.
Whether it’s social media or just our cultural appetite, we seem to be in an age of outrage. It’s as if most of the news consists of outrage…, selected specifically to pander to our “impulses to judge and punish and get us all riled up with righteous indignation” (Tim Kreider).
Matt Chandler said, “Our culture is looking for something to be angry, frustrated, and outraged about. We thrive on pessimism.”
Most of would agree that Christians are not exempt from this indictment, and yet much of our outrage is a far cry from God’s desire for us to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19).
Sadly, we often do the reverse.
Where does this come from? What is this rooted in?
This age of outrage is a symptom of a bigger issue: a refusal to show mercy.
God’s people are ones who have received mercy in Christ and therefore extend mercy to others. To refuse to show mercy is to refuse to submit to Christ (Matt 5:7).
That doesn’t mean that we have no conviction. It does mean that we give people the benefit of the doubt, we give them a chance to speak and really hear their story (yes, even the ones with whom we disagree).
That includes Facebook and other social media. That means if you post something, you need to think about whether or not you are showing mercy or if you are possibly engaging in slander and hate.
Ton Reinke has written a fascinating book called 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You. The eleventh chapter is entitled, “We Become Harsh To One Another.” Whether it’s one’s president, pastor, or the waiter at a restaurant, we use our phones to do the opposite of James 1:19.
Reinke offers a timely exhortation: “God has written a script to help us honor, love, and care for one another… In all situations, at all times, as representatives of Christ, we are eager to resolve conflicts and be peacemakers. We aim to “outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom 12:10). When we find ourselves insulted, we bless; when slandered, we entreat; when verbally persecuted, we endure. At all costs, we do not become irreconcilable. We do not become men or women who ignite controversies in the church with no intention of pursuing healing and timely reconciliation.”
So what’s really at the heart of this “Age of Outrage?” It’s a refusal to show mercy.
The old First Baptist Enterprise Church Covenant offers a breath of fresh air and a beautiful aim at what is desired among a covenant community: We engage to avoid all tattling, backbiting, and excessive anger…to watch over one another in brotherly love…to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy in speech…to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation.
Can you think of anything that would be more countercultural than being a community marked by mercy? Truly there is a famine in our land – a famine of mercy. What fruit we could offer a mercy-starved world if we simply extend mercy to the world. Charles Spurgeon said, “The easiest work in the world is to find fault.” I would add, “The hardest work in the world is after finding fault, to show mercy.”
Are you holding back from extending mercy to someone? Having received mercy, we must show mercy.