One of the words which best describes our current culture is “reactionary.”
A car comes up quickly beside you in the adjacent lane. Do you find yourself speeding up to keep him / her from passing you? (Be honest.) Why do we do this? We were perfectly content maintaining our speed before we noticed this hothead; why does his / her behavior prompt us to react like this?
Following federal and local recommendations, school systems reluctantly announce the decision to require students to wear masks this school year. You know what comes next. Irate parents react by taking to social media to vent their anger. Perhaps you’ve seen video or heard of the “mob” mentality breaking out in town hall and school meetings across the country over all of this.
In the wake of George Floyd’s tragic death, a movement breaks out to defund the Minneapolis police department (and others across the country). This seems like yet another example of short-sighted reactionary behavior.
I’m afraid we’re often discipled into a reflexive, reactionary behavior by our reflexive, reactionary culture. But discipleship in the way of Jesus exposes us to a God who resists reactionary behavior. The Scriptures testify to the character of the one true God:
“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…”Exodus 34:6
The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.Numbers 14:18
But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.Nehemiah 9:17
But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.Psalm 86:15
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.Psalm 103:8
Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.Joel 2:13
“I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”Jonah 4:2
It seems fair to say that longsuffering is a key element of God’s character, given the number of references to Him as One who is “slow to anger.” It is no surprise, then, that God would desire that His people follow His example:
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…James 1:19
May these words temper our more reactionary impulses. May we be discipled in the way of Jesus as we receive a new nature — to the point that our reactions would only and always be tempered by love.