For much of recent history, the reputation of aggression has been rightly seen as dark and unwanted. For instance, the wars of the past 100 years have generally been started by what are correctly called “aggressor” nations. More recently, education districts from Australia to Austria to Africa have instituted policies to curb the aggression of schoolyard bullies. And who can count the at-times lethal cost of those who drive aggressively when sitting behind the wheel of a car?
In light of the destruction that has so often accompanied aggression, some may be tempted to conclude that the best course would be to eliminate aggression entirely. Surely the planet would be a better place if wars and bullies and road rage were gone, would it not? Obviously the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
But before we obliterate aggression entirely, I would call for caution. For as it turns out, not all aggression is evil. In fact, our planet desperately needs the right kind of aggression, when it’s understood and used correctly.
Jesus was the epitome of godly aggression. He was not merely loving toward humanity, He was aggressively loving (how else to describe Christ’s detouring through despised Samaria to save the woman at the well?). Jesus did not merely oppose hypocrisy, He aggressively opposed hypocrisy (as He did in Matthew 23, with tears of compassion1 choking His voice). In fact, throughout His ministry, there was no hint of laziness or lethargy or haphazard planning. He was instead a lovingly aggressive Savior who was so staunchly devoted to His message and ministry that He—God in the flesh, King of kings, Creator of all—ultimately laid down His life to save undeserving humanity. If that’s not aggressive, I don’t know what is.
Adventist pioneers were well aware of the continuing need for Christ’s brand of aggressive ministry. Ellen White put it this way: “The members of the church are not all called to labor in foreign lands, but all have a part to act in the great work of giving light to the world. The gospel of Christ is aggressive and diffusive. In the day of God not one will be excused for having been shut up to his own selfish interests. There is work for every mind and for every hand. There is a variety of work, adapted to different minds and varied capabilities.”2
“Everyone who has received the gospel has been given sacred truth to impart to the world. God’s faithful people have always been aggressive missionaries, consecrating their resources to the honor of His name and wisely using their talents in His service.”3 The lesson is clear: We cannot afford to let warlords and bullies be the sole definers of aggression. Christians instead are to also define aggression as Christ did: as passionate and indefatigable ministry to the world around us. With love and gentleness and compassion, we are to doggedly search for those open to Christ’s call, utilizing all the godly creativity we can muster, “so that by all possible means, [we] might save some” (see 1 Cor. 9:22).
1 See Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898, 1940), pp. 619, 620.
2 Ellen G. White, Christian Service (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1925), p. 12. (Italics supplied.)
3 Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 109. (Italics supplied.)