Reining in the Outrage

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I cringe whenever I hear a guy say he tweeted something. Do not get me wrong, I can adapt to new technology. I no longer report our credit card stolen when my wife tells me that the cashier swiped it. However, this Twitter thing is different. Tweeting just does not sound like something a grown man should do.

Putting aside the silliness of the terminology, there is real danger in technology that allows us to immediately fire off short bursts of widely distributed text intended to seize the moment. We might seize the moment without having a firm grasp of the facts and the context.

Much of today’s public discourse is less than civil. Sometimes, it is little more than slander. Though not often directed at us personally, it may be directed at groups of which we are members or at beliefs which we hold dear. How should we respond?

In Psalm 4, David expresses exasperation over those who are slandering him and taking delight in lies about him:

O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah (v. 2)

David was known as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Rather than being a testimony to his level of spiritual maturity, I think it is a statement of David’s inclination. David was characterized by prayer and trust in God.

It is impossible not to see David’s pattern of prayer in the Bible. Besides historical narratives that recount that David prayed, we have the book of Psalms itself. Many of these poetic prayers put to music are works of David.

In Psalm 4, David’s exasperation with his opponents did not express itself first to man, but to God:

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! (v. 1)

The phrase, “God of my righteousness,” expresses David’s Godward orientation regarding his reputation. If he was to have a reputation worth anything, he knew it had to be based on the law of God, not the opinion of men. He also knew that God would vindicate those who trust in him. God treasures them and listens to their cries for help:

But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
the LORD hears when I call to him. (v. 3)

So, David’s first inclination was to appeal to God to come to his defense.

In addition, David urges a dependence on God. He cautions us that even justifiable anger poses a danger for which we need God’s help:

Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the LORD. (vv. 4-5)

Anger is like dynamite. In those rare cases where it is appropriate, it must be handled with caution and restraint. Why ponder silently? So we will listen. Why on our beds? It may be an indication that we should wait until the next day to respond. Scripture often comes to mind in these times of quiet reflection. In another place David says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). James tells us, “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” (James 1:19-20).

The Bible has much to say about “right sacrifices.” In another psalm, David says they involve “a broken spirit” (Psalm 51:17). Jesus tells us, if we know that a brother has something against us, we need to press the pause button on our worship and first go and be reconciled to our brother (Matthew 5:24). In this psalm, I think David is reminding us that our every reaction should be an act of worship. Rather than taking matters into our own hands, we are to trust that God will make everything right in his own time.

While living in this hostile world, the Christian may tempted to think he is isolated and abandoned.

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” (v. 6)

However, this waiting for future justice is accompanied by strong consolation in the present. When David pondered in his own heart, he realized:

You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. (vv. 7-8)

So before entering into the social media fracas, we should remember David’s advice to take the matter to God in prayer, trusting in his righteous rule. We should take time to ponder in our hearts what would please God. And while waiting for justice, relish the joy that we have in God and be at peace under his impenetrable protection.