On Saturday, January 19th, a video appeared on Twitter which quickly made its way around the world, making two people famous and striking fear into the hearts of parents. A native American elder is accosted by a high school student wearing a red MAGA hat and a group of friends. The video quickly elicited a cycle of outrage and condemnation directed towards the young students. Politicians, journalists, celebrities and armchair Twitter influencers joined a chorus of online judgment.
The next another video surfaced, a longer video providing much greater context to the situation. This video revealed an entirely different situation, a whole new cycle of outrage and a long line of people lining up to apologize for their hasty judgment the day before.
This is daily life now in the age of outrage. Handheld media devices have given us unprecedented access to images which can be distributed on a massive scale with little to no vetting or investigation. Each new image creates new outrage and exacerbates our polarized divisions.
What does wisdom look like in this kind of world?
The insight of Proverbs 18 almost seems to be written for just a time as this. Sunday we looked at 3 principles for acting with wisdom in an age of outrage.
1. Wisdom doesn’t trust the first report.
The one who states his case seems right, until the other comes along and examines him.
2. Wisdom doesn’t trust the initial assumption.
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.
3. Wisdom doesn’t trust the love of opinionating.
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
Wisdom recognizes the need to create space between stimulus and response – a window of time to slow down, to listen and to consider multiple possible interpretations.
This is great advice, but how do we do it in real life?
In Luke 23 we see a stark contrast between a great fool and a very wise man. Both were criminals, condemned to execution through crucifixion. Both found themselves suffering alongside a man called Jesus the King of the Jews. One man picked up on the outrage of the surrounding mob and began to taunt Jesus.
“Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
The other took in what was happening and experienced a moment of complete and total transformation.
“Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”Luke 23:40-41
Jesus is innocent, here he is abused by the mob and he is praying for mercy over that mob. In that moment this wise man turns to Jesus to receive the grace being prayed over the undeserving mass of humanity.
To experience that kind of grace creates a total transformation, it provides the love required to work hard in the practice of wisdom. Without it, we’ll never overcome the cycles of outrage and polarization that characterize our time.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown