Righteous Indignation

January 12, 2018

Righteous Indignation

What is righteous indignation? The fact that it is righteous indicates that it is justified. Indignation is a strong feeling of disapproval or disgust about something that has been done or is being done.

I began thinking on this subject as a result of reading the book “Five English Reformers” by J. C. Ryle. The book relates the account of how five great servants of God chose to be burned at the stake rather than deny their faith in Christ. It happened at a time when a woman by the name of Bloody Mary was queen of England. She wanted to make Catholicism the official and only religion in England. In her attempt to accomplish that, she made it a crime to preach or practice Biblical Christianity. To my knowledge, the Catholic church has never made Bloody Mary a saint. Most likely she is an embarrassment to them.

As I red that book, I felt a growing indignation towards Blood Mary and those who were willing to do her bidding. I thought “There is no way anyone could have righteous indignation toward those Godly men who were preaching and practicing Biblical Christianity.” There was, however, much reason for having righteous indignation against Bloody Mary.

We may have indignation, but is it righteous? Is it justified? How can we know if it is righteous and justified? What standard do you use to discern between right and wrong? It is unfortunate that, in this day of relativism and situational ethics, many have no fixed standards of right and wrong. For them, what is right in one situation may be wrong in another situation. They are willing to concede that what is right for them may be wrong for someone else. That way of thinking leaves moral standards in a state of fluctuation. What causes some to have indignation may have the opposite effect on others. Indignation may motivate a terrorist to go out and kill people. I would call it righteous indignation that motivates others to condemn him for it.

We need moral standards that are fixed. Christians accept the standards that are set down in the Bible. Titus 2:14 says “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” The word “peculiar” means something that is above and beyond the ordinary. God’s standards of right and wrong don’t change. What was right and wrong in the Old Testament is reiterated again in the New Testament. For indignation to be righteous it must conform to the standards set down in God’s Word.

Here are two examples of righteous indignation. It is justified when politicians use deceit to win an election, but as soon as they get in office they show their true colors. Exodus 20:16 says “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” It is also justified when there is one standard for elite politicians and another for common people. Deuteronomy 16:18-19 says “Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment. Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.”

Having righteous indignation shouldn’t prompt us to go on the war path. The words are used to express the way we feel about something. You can, and perhaps should, express your feelings to others. It may influence them to think right.

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