I thought the premise sounded interesting, and indeed I've made similar arguments before (and read others, such as this excellent piece), but this book absolutely stunned me. It took a concept with which I agreed and drilled it down so well, and so thoroughly, that I find it difficult to even summarize. I am tempted to just run up to everyone I know and sit them down, insisting that they read it immediately.
The basic concept that Hansen explores is to address the question--is "righteous" anger actually righteous? Does it even exist? Or are we, as Christians, called to give up anger and indeed any personal right to take offense? If it is the latter, Hansen argues, then this means we actually can make the choice to be unoffendable...and therein find the rest and peace promised by God.
Although I wouldn't say that this book was overtly theological, it makes its case from Scripture in a slam-dunk fashion. I don't think anyone can open-mindedly read this book and conclude that anger has any place in the Christian lifestyle. Hansen shows the contextual abuse of Scripture made by many, flipping stories on their heads to try and argue that sometimes anger has purpose or value. Instead, he demonstrates that, Scripturally, human anger is always shown to be the behavior of unrighteousness and is always listed as sins. It is never listed as a virtue or wise. And indeed, he convincingly argues that when we tack on the exception for 'righteous' anger, we are fooling ourselves unless we also tack on this exception to the other sins in these lists--and of course, no one would argue for such a thing as 'righteous' prostitution or 'righteous' gluttony or 'righteous' bitterness. If we wish to remain coherent, Hansen concludes, we must admit that anger has no place in the Christian's life.
But it is not, as I mentioned, primarily a theological book. It was primarily a practical one. Hansen explores the way anger shows up in unexpected ways in our lives, and this is where the book really hit me 'between the eyes,' as it were. I've been told before at work that I have the "patience of Job," and I pride myself on being cool-headed. So I wouldn't have identified anger as a problem. But after reading this, I see just how often I justify offense and anger as 'righteous'...for the first time I actually realized I DO, in fact, have this issue! For Hansen shows numerous ways that anger can covertly show up in our lives, from feeling that we need to "take a stand" on someone else's sin (as though there is some invisible audience watching us) to being offended and sensitive about what others say about us, to being angry about suffering. He also paints quite vividly a picture of how much less stress there will be in your life if you can make a habit of, every day, purposefully making yourself unoffendable.
It is a fantastic book and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I bought it on Kindle and yet will be buying a paperback as well, because I want to spend some time taking notes and reflecting on it.
As I close, let me just quote a few conclusions that I emailed myself from my notes, so that I can remind myself of these every day in my quiet time; I think this will give you a good idea of the issues that the book explores:
- Because I understand human nature, I will not be offended when someone mistreats me or others; in fact, I will be pleasantly surprised and thankful for ANY show of kindness.
- Because I believe that God is perfectly capable of leading others to maturity, I will not be offended at the lifestyle of believers who do things that I feel are clearly wrong; in fact, I will love them just as openly as Jesus has loved me through all of my own misunderstandings.
- Because God does not stay away from me in my offensiveness, I will not separate myself from sinners but will be their loving and wonderful friends.
- Because I have said things to hurt others and been forgiven, I will not be offended no matter what anyone says to me or about me.
- Because my reputation comes from Jesus and not the world, I will not be offended on behalf of my reputation, if I feel it has been smeared.
- Because God states that anger is righteous only for Him, vengeance is righteous only for Him, and He will care for us and do what is right, I will trust Him--and, therefore, refuse to hold any anger or seek any 'justice' that I feel that I am owed.
- Because God says I cannot even understand my own heart, much less the hearts of others, I will not be offended by trying to figure out what other people "really mean" in their actions or words, and instead just choose to love them no matter what.
- Because God loved me and served me when I was His enemy, I am free to love, serve, and be friends with those who society (or even church culture) says are my enemies.
There is much, much more...I highly recommend this book. This will be one that I regularly revisit.