Moral outrage that is not based in any kind of higher, propositional and immutable moral truth might be real, but it is wrong. It is selective, inconsistent and hypocritical—and ultimately dangerous. That is why God calls us to live by his unchanging truth.
Going Deep // Focus: Judges 20:5-7
The Levite, the husband of the woman who had been murdered, said, “My concubine and I came to spend the night in Gibeah, a town that belongs to the people of Benjamin. That night some of the leading citizens of Gibeah surrounded the house, planning to kill me, and they raped my concubine until she was dead. So I cut her body into twelve pieces and sent the pieces throughout the territory assigned to Israel, for these men have committed a terrible and shameful crime. Now then, all of you—the entire community of Israel—must decide here and now what should be done about this!”
If you have been following this story from Judges 19, you have to question the outrage of this Levite. It seems a bit manufactured. After all, he is the one who pushed his wife out the door and into the waiting arms of the sexual perverts of Gibeah, who brutalized her throughout the night until she died. He cowardly offered her up to save his own skin, showing no concern for her safety, much less her dignity as a precious human being. Then the next morning when he walked out the door and saw her lying there, he callously told her to get up and get moving. If you dare, read the story in Judges 19:25-29—but be warned, it will turn your stomach.
But wait, there’s more. The Levite then takes the dead body of his wife, a concubine, and cuts her into twelve pieces, sending a part to each of the twelve tribes of Israel in order to manufacture national outrage over what has been done to him. At this point, it is no surprise to us that he had considered her nothing more than property—if that. To him, she was nothing more than trash.
Why the selective outrage? Isn’t this the height of hypocrisy? Of course it is. And it is the predictable result of people following a philosophy of moral relativism. When people have no controlling moral authority to keep them between the rails of decency and civility, they will do what seems right in their own eyes—which will habitually be so wrong. Ultimately they will be anything but decent and civil. In one moment, they will do things and allow things that are beyond the pail without batting an eye. Then in the next moment, they will blow a gasket in anger at what someone has done to them. Even though they feign tolerance of what somebody else thinks is right, they become insanely intolerant when that person’s thinking becomes action that personally affects them.
The anger is selective; the wrath is manufactured. Make no mistake: it is real, but it is wrong. It is wrong in the sense that the moral outrage is not based in any kind of higher propositional and immutable moral truth. If truth is relative, then to be consistent, nothing can be consistently wrong. It might be wrong in this moment, but not in the next. At the end of the day, moral relativism is absurd. That is why this man’s outrage—and that of the nation—was hypocritically and fundamentally flawed. It was selective, inconsistent and disengaged from God’s unchanging law. In a very real sense, it was worthless. And most likely, the guilt of the perverts of Gibeah that he was proclaiming was really the guilt he felt about his own immoral behavior.
That is what happens when a society thinks they can do better than God. Isn’t that what we see in our society today? We don’t mind aborting babies in the name of choice, but will riot in the streets over genetically modified wheat. Crazy, huh. Not that GMO’s are right, but taking life in the name of freedom to choose what happens to your own body, that is akin to what Jesus described as “straining at a gnat but swallowing a camel.” (Matthew 23:24)
Ok, enough of using our relativistic culture as a punching bag—although it deserves it. What about us? Do we do the same? Do we cluck our tongues in disgust at sex trafficking but consume porn in private? Do we gripe about the breakdown of society but tolerate divorce in the church? Do we decry world hunger yet ignore the needs of the poor in our own community.
I could go on and on, but the simple answer to all of the above examples is, “yes we do!” The point I want to make is this: whenever you begin to get upset at something, check yourself for personal consistency. Is your outrage selective? Is your disgust hypocritical?
Probably! That doesn’t make you an irredeemable human being. It just reveals that you are a sinner in desperate need of God’s grace. And it means that God is calling you by the power of the Holy Spirit to walk in a manner worthy of your calling as a redeemed child of God—consistently submitted to him.
The world is now famous for manufactured outrage. Don’t be of that tribe!