Unrighteous Indignation

David AyresBaustelle BerlinLeave a Comment

I am indignant. But lately, not just occasionally. In fact, I have begun to wonder if being indignant has become a part of me. There is such a thing as righteous indignation—anger because of sin or injustice. Obviously, there is also indignation and anger that is not righteous. So which kind of indignant am I?

Some of you know that we are in a legal battle with our landlord trying to recover some of our damages related to an extensive mold problem that forced us to move into a temporary apartment last summer. We have been experiencing injustice for the better part of a year.

But my indignation, which was a right response to injustice, at some point crossed the line into unrighteous indignation. How do I know this? Because of the way I am treating people who are trying to help me. Because of how I am speaking to my wife. Because of how it is affecting my attitude in unrelated things. Because I can actually feel it in the tension in my face. Because of the way I am feeling inside. Because of how it is consuming me.

In last week’s post, I observed that the idols we create to serve our needs inevitably begin to control us. It seems my need for vindication—to be right and justified in this matter—has become an idol. It is demanding my service and worship.

In principle, it is right to pursue justice. It is right to hold the powers-that-be accountable. The apostle Paul, for example, was unwilling to quietly leave Philippi after being unjustly flogged and imprisoned without due process. He required the authorities who had acted wrongly to come and (publicly) escort him and Silas out of the prison. But acting on principle can also become idolatry, if I become a slave to it, if being right and vindicated fills all my thoughts.

I am struggling to find the line between righteous and unrighteous indignation. At what point does my level of disappointment and frustration betray that I have made vindication too important? Can I pursue justice while also living a faithful life of patient trust and grace? When is it time to swallow the injustice and walk away?

I suspect it is not so much about looking for a line, or even in knowing when to walk away as much as it is about bringing my circumstances and all my frustrations, disappointments and indignations immediately to the Lord. If I can learn to hand every injustice over to Him, completely trusting Him and His timing for vindication, then, perhaps, I can break the control of this idol. Perhaps, then my indignation will be replaced by peace.

It comes back to worship, to identifying the true Lord of my life. Instead of allowing visions of vindication to take every waking thought captive, I must submit every thought to the Lordship of Christ. He alone is worthy of praise. In Him alone will I find vindication and freedom.

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