(Guest blogger David Folks is a student at Baylor University and 3rd place winner of the Pro Life Man scholarship)
I was standing outside Planned Parenthood, doing my weekly sidewalk counseling hour on Thursday morning: an abortion day. As usual this morning was tough. I watched a grandmother lead her daughter into that building where her preborn grandchild’s life would be ended. I watched this evil among other things, begging and pleading with them as they went in. I can still replay that image in my head. This event fueled all of us who were present at the time as tears were shed and we felt a deep rage at this injustice. A moment later, another pro-lifer at the site called out to a young girl who had just brought her friend for an abortion. To our surprise she came, but as a result of his (albeit well intentioned) expressions of anger and repeated interruptions whenever she attempted to speak, she quickly hardened herself and would not listen to him. However, she would speak with Jack and I who quickly interceded. As a result, not only did we get to speak with her about the sanctity of life for almost 30 minutes, but we were able to give a full presentation of the gospel: the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and that he is salvation for those who believe.
This is not a blog post to condemn street preachers, in fact I admire the ministry that man was involved in, but it is to say that there is a time and a place for our emotions. “The words of a righteous man are like choice silver”, and in this instance, the boisterous man’s tongue was a tad tarnished.
This is a common problem we face, for as men anger is all too readily available for us. We excel at wrath, especially when the stakes are high. The stakes have never been higher. Millions of innocent lives, innocent image-bearers of God are brutally slaughtered, wiped off the face of the earth each and every yearin the inexcusable genocide of abortion.
Did you pick up on my tone already? Already I am beingkindled in anger, and rightly so. Contemplating this subject quickly has that effect on me, however, the question I pose is not whether or not our anger here is justified (which it most certainly is), but rather whether or not it is beneficial. How often does our righteous indignation benefit a conversation? Perhaps it results in a successful guilt-trip that stirs a fleeting attendance to a pro-life advocacy event. Perhaps it makes us look really virtuous in the moment and strokes our fragile egos. But let’s face it, our righteous anger is not solving problems. We can walk around angry all we want and accomplish nothing.
So, what is the alternative you ask? Surely, we must feelsomething at all this injustice. We naturally burn with desire to make right the world. God has made us, especially as men, with the intense desire to right the wrongs of the world. If not for anger, should we abandon ourselves to apathy? Never.
There is an alternative, which is a motivating grief. The key word is motivating. There is an opposite danger to our grief; it can quickly lead to despair. Too often unchecked empathy is debilitating and leaves us paralyzed.
What if, instead of internalizing our grief and expressing our anger, we internalized righteous anger, and externalizedgrief? Expressing our grief inescapably re-humanizes the preborn sons and daughters to others, causing “cage-fight conversations” to be transformed into a gentleman’s sport where real conversations can occur. People begin to see that we hold our position not in malice but rather because we feel deeply the loss of life and simply must do something about it. Let them witness our love for the lost lives that we can never retrieve back to this earth, for surely this pain is a catalyst for meaningful transformation.
This is simply an exercise in level-headedness. If you love the person you are trying to persuade, “your love will abound with all knowledge and discernment” (Phil. 1:9 ESV). Keep a level head and choose to love them properly by discerning in knowledge how and when to deploy your emotions tactfully. There is a time and a place for everything, and so much like our grief we must also feel anger at the injustice for it fuels us to act. If we have no inherent sense of justice, we will not act upon anything. If we do not act upon this crucial issue there will be no change. Without change, there is only a sorrow that leads to despair.
A Theology of Anger
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV, Emphasis added). Paul commands the church in Ephesus to be angry and yet not to sin. Therefore, anger is not by default sin, but rather the abuse of it is sinful. Jesus reserved his strongest words for his closest disciples and for those who claimed to speak on God’s behalf. It was to Peter that Jesus said, “Get behind me Satan”, and to the Pharisees he said, “You are of your father the devil” (Mark 8:31; John 8:44). It was to those who were defiling the temple of God that Jesus drove out with a whip, flipping tables in the process. Yet here is the kicker: it was with the prostitutes and the tax collectors that Jesus fellowshipped. He laughed with them and gave his company to the lowest of their society. For Jesus said,“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31).
The principle I draw is this: to those that profess the Christian faith and yet defile the holy image of God by supporting the killing of our preborn neighbors belongs ourharsher language. This too is qualified by Paul in that he clarifies “do not let the sun go down on the anger” (4:27). The disciples were never Jesus’s personal punching bag, but rather he was genuinely concerned for their welfare and used his anger to their benefit. Lest a bunch of over-eager prolife men start berating every poor Joe on the street, I want to add Paul’s second qualification just a few verses later.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Just as this passage aptly warns us of many dangers, it also equips us to replicate the love and tenderness of Jesus when we are on the sidewalk of Planned Parenthood, when we are tabling on a college campus, when we are speaking with a post-abortive woman who needs to understand that Jesus is our full and complete redemption.
I challenge you, reader, are you pro-life because you were raised that way? Were you reasoned into believing abortion is evil, or do you feel it. Will you change the world with merely reason? I doubt so in this day and age. The truth MUST change the way we live, it MUST stir our affections. How can we understand such great evil and yet not weep? How can we witness such atrocities and yet not be kindled in rage?
Grief is our weapon of persuasion.
Anger is our weapon of motivation.
This global atrocity requires of us a Swiss Army Knife of thoughtfully diverse emotions. We cannot beat our head against the wall any longer.