There is a drug that is overtaking our society at an alarming rate. Like all drugs, it offers an illusion of strength, power, and freedom. However, it is viewed very differently than the drugs we most readily think about. It’s considered different in that our world actually applauds, cheers, and encourages people to succumb to it. It is the drug of outrage.
The Power of Outrage
Outrage is all around us. In fact, it is the currency of nearly every media outlet. If news can generate enough outrage, the media ratings will soar. But if the media loses the ability to incite others to outrage, its influence will quickly tank.
Why is prideful outrage such a large part of our world? Because it feels so good! Emotional outrage enables us to stand on the summit of “Mount Control,” looking down on all of those poor, pitiable people who don’t understand things like we do. If you’re like me, though, that sarcasm might hit close to home. After all, who doesn’t love to feel superior to people with whom they disagree?
At its core, this kind of outrage is built on the “I’m right, and you’re wrong” principle. It assumes we know everything and should be the judge of everything; the Bible calls this pride. No doubt, you’ve observed how destructive pride can be, particularly during the last twelve months—out in our world and within the Church. Prideful outrage is incredibly destructive, and one of its most devastating effects is that it can become an impenetrable barrier to the one thing every human needs more than anything else: grace.
Befriended by Jesus
So, what is the cure for this drug addiction? How can we be set free from the allure and control of outrage? Teleportation, of course!
Okay. . .I’m only half-serious. I know that we can’t physically go back in history, but with the help of the Scripture, God’s Spirit, and some creativity; we can transport ourselves back in time (somewhere around Matthew 9:9-13) and attend a significant party:
The most famous, powerful celebrity in the world is right here in the center of the crowd—a crowd that’s buzzing with energy and excitement as they focus on the man of the hour: Jesus himself. How amazing that we were invited to this party! What an honor to be counted worthy of hanging out with this Deity! At the moment, we think of how great we must be if Jesus invited us to be with him. Perhaps we even think about how much better we are than those who are not invited. But then, we take a look around. In surprise, we notice the people who are there with us—alcoholics, abusers, womanizers, sex workers, thieves, and the like. What kind of a party is this?! Did we even want to be invited, asked to attend a party with this kind of guest list?
This, my friends, is a problem. Until we can embrace that we are among the sick, filthy, self-centered, sinful people that Jesus befriended; we will fight to maintain our high ground above everyone who “doesn’t deserve” to be where we are.
The Cure for Outrage
The cure for the drug of outrage is found in living out grace first. Grace first means that our first response to others is characterized by grace—especially the people with whom we disagree, the people who hold a different worldview, the people who may not know Jesus yet.
In my life, I try to ask a lot more questions like, “Tell me what you mean by that.” Why? Because when people sense that my initial posture toward them is one of love and not condemnation, they can see more of who Jesus truly is and how the gospel can transform them.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
The fact is that if Jesus had not lived grace first, he would have never come to this earth at all—much less paid the penalty for our sins with his death. He had every right to condemn the world. But grace was first in his perfect life, making it possible for us to have forgiveness and fellowship with him forever.
Is Outrage Ever Okay?
Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for godly outrage in our lives. Jesus was outraged whenever he saw anyone standing on top of Mount Control in a posture of superiority over others—starting with the religious leaders. Even so, there was amazing grace available for them too, if they were willing to reach out and receive it.
Friends, let’s be sure we model that same compassionate love. We should not be people who are addicted to outrage, but rather: people who yield the high ground to Jesus alone. For he lived a grace first life that welcomed the least of these—including us. Let’s follow his lead so we can experience the unmatched, transforming power of a grace first life.