Reaction to Rage
Reaction to Rage Luke 4:22-30
Rage seems to sell. How else do you explain so many opinion show hosts on TV and radio or bloggers on the internet or authors and others on the speaker’s circuit being able to make a living and attract so many supporters with vitriolic language denigrating those they disagree with and spinning off-the-wall conspiracy theories? The audiences they attract are not small either. Their followers and listeners can sometimes number into the millions. How can we explain this in our society when often what these pundits are saying is a misrepresentation of the truth? How do we explain that people seem to be supporting hatred or prejudices towards another group? How do we explain the mean-spirited nature of much of the content that pervades our airwaves?
Could it be that people are attracted to those who seem passionate about something, and anger can be a sign of passion? Could it be that people like that certain writers or speakers say the things they are thinking, but are too afraid to express themselves? Could it be that such rhetoric taps into our fears and so plays on our emotional responses instead of rational responses? It may be a combination of all those things. It may make sense that rage can sell, but there is a danger in tapping into people’s anger and fear to get attention. It is a danger that many pundits or politicians do not own up to. It is the danger that words do matter—emotions matter—and both can influence people into action for ill. What can just appear to be hate-filled speech can later be translated into destructive action depending on the listener.
Jesus knew what it was like to face such rage during his ministry. He knew how the emotions of a crowd could get riled up and cause them to do potentially hurtful things. While he is in the synagogue of his home town Jesus talks about how when there was drought and famine in ancient times God didn’t do any miracles in Israel, but instead helped a widow and a military general from a foreign country. Jesus then says that, likewise, he isn’t going to do any miracles in his hometown. When his listeners hear this, the Scripture says that, “…all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove Jesus out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff.” Fortunately, Jesus is alright as the Bible tells us he “passed through their midst and went on his way.”
How was Jesus able to do this? Did he somehow de-escalate the situation? Was he able to stand up to the rage of the crowd with a calming presence? Was he able to slip through undetected because he did not respond with anger himself and the rest of the riotous group was too riled up to notice? How do we respond to rage? Do we get enraged ourselves or can we bring some peace to the situation? Can we channel our anger into positive directions that might be constructive rather than destructive?
-Pastor Erik Goehner