My friend Soo-Inn from Graceworks wrote this article specifically with Christians in mind, but I think others might find some areas to interact with and reflect on.
"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." (James 1:19-21 TNIV)
If you are a follower of Jesus in Malaysia, you are probably angry. Consider the following.
1. Two Muslim journalists infiltrate a Catholic church incognito. They had heard that a number of Muslims had been converted to Christianity through this church. They found no evidence of such conversions. During mass they come forward to take the communion wafer. They did not swallow and held the wafer in their mouths till they had left the church building. They then spat out the wafer and took pictures. They then published an article about their "adventure" together with pictures of the spat-out communion wafer. To date there is no reprimand from any official government body. Police reports have been made.
I come from a free church tradition. I believe the communion bread remains bread though I believe the Spirit of Christ is at the Lord’s Supper. This is beside the point. Malaysia is a multi-racial, multi-religious country where the constitution protects the dignity of all religions. The silence from the government is deafening. Imagine if some Christian journalists had thrown the Koran on the floor, taken pictures, and published the story. Of course we should forgive our enemies. But there are other issues involved, including holding the government responsible to its call to protect the dignity of all religions.
2. In recent times the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) has been aggressively investigating public servants from opposition parties. (Of course whether a party is considered an opposition party depends on your perspective. In truth the "opposition" parties form the duly elected governments in a number of states.) Christians should be at the forefront of any fight against corruption. But when politicians from the governing party are rarely investigated while so many politicians from "opposition" parties are investigated, something is seriously wrong.
The glaring double standard gives lie to the fact that the Anti Corruption Commission is a non-partisan body committed to eradicating corruption wherever it is found. It seems that the Commission is but a political tool of the ruling party.
3. And now we learn that a political aide, who was interrogated by the Commission, has fallen to his death from the 14th floor of the Anti Corruption Headquarters. He had been taken to the MACC office at 6pm on Wednesday (July 15th) to assist in the Commission’s investigation into the alleged abuse of constituency development funds by several state assemblymen. Did he jump? Was he pushed? We do not know.
What we know is this. He was interrogated till 3.45am in the morning. In the words of Goh Keat Peng:
[Why was a witness being held for questioning for ten hours and only released at 3.45am? What kind of case is it and what is the urgency of the case in question that the witness had to be deprived of sleep and forcibly kept awake till 3.45am? Was the nation deemed to be in grave danger had the witness in question been sent home at a respectable time and asked to report again for questioning the next morning?
The nation could endure long years of waiting over so many other much longer pending cases involving so much more public money and have much greater weight in public interest but this particular case could not wait for the next morning when the witness in question would have been fresher and better rested?
Like I said, if you are a follower of Jesus in Malaysia you should be angry. I am. Which is why I remember James 1:19-21. I know righteous anger can quickly become unrighteous. I know that when I get angry my discernment is compromised. I am more vulnerable to manipulation. I become rash and speak and act prematurely. When I am angry, I need to bear in mind at least two things:
1. Unrighteous anger will not accomplish God’s purposes. If our concern is to be agents of God’s work, unrighteous anger is out.
2. When we are consumed by anger we only see the evil "out there." We stop working at the evil inside us. We forget the ongoing call to "get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent" in our own lives.
However, fear of unrighteous anger should not paralyse us from doing what is right. Followers of Jesus are called to speak up against injustice.
["Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." (Proverbs 31:8-9 TNIV)]
And as John the Baptist discovered, "speaking truth to power" may demand the highest price (Matthew 14:1-12). There is a time to speak up. There is a time to act. There is a time for righteous anger. But we must guard our hearts and ensure that all we say and do flow out of the twin loves for God and neighbour (Mark 12:28-31).
Whatever righteous anger may look like, it must come from a heart that has such a deep passion for God that we are deeply pained that His ways are violated. It must come from a heart with such a deep compassion for human beings (of whatever race or religious background) that we are roused when human life is violated. And it must come from a heart that is always suspicious of its own righteousness.