Leadership lessons: Moses and the algorithms of rage

Marko Joensuu         No comments

Why can a leader be nice and polite when you meet him in the church, but behave like an idiot when you meet him or her online? At least a partial answer might be algorithms.  

There is a lot of rage online. What escapes the awareness of many is that this rage is partially fed by algorithms. Social media algorithms are built to increase engagement by utilising the behavioural stimulus-response loop. They don’t recognise the concept of sinful nature, and this can have devastating consequences.  

Today, many Christians are trapped in the stimulus-response loop designed to increase rage. The algorithm itself is blind, but each time you express rage online, the algorithm will lead you to content that will enrage you even more. If you like to watch dancing kittens, it will give you dancing kittens, if you care about abortion, it will give you more content that will enrage you about abortion. 

It is important that the stimulus-response loop is always psychological, and it has nothing to do with the life of the Spirit. But this stimulus-response loop, when it begins to reinforce anger, can have costly consequences in your life.   

James 1:19-20 says: “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.” 

James 3:6 says, “And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell.” 

The way we speak online can stain the “whole body”. Anger cost Moses, one of the greatest leaders of all time, everything – twice.   

Moses’s kills the Egyptian 

Why did Moses kill the Egyptian who was beating a Jew in Exodus 2? The killing must have been triggered by anger. The consequences of his outburst were not liberating for the Jews but devastating for Moses, as he had to flee and spend forty years in exile. 

Moses had been raised by the Pharaoh’s daughter. The Pharaoh must have had many daughters, as he would have had many wives, so we can’t know Moses’s exact rank.  

But whatever his rank in the Pharaoh’s court, Moses would have been raised in an environment where most of his needs and desires were responded to immediately. His Egyptian education would not have been designed to curtail all his sinful desires.  

Romans 13:14 says, “Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” 

Like the Egyptian court, the algorithms don’t know the concept of flesh  – our sinful nature  –and if you give your flesh an inch online, the algorithms begin to feed the flesh, and soon you will give flesh a mile.  

Unlike pornography, the sinful nature of online rage is not always obvious, and if it is connected to a just cause, it can take a righteous appearance. 

Anger is very deceptive, as at the moment of feeling anger, it can feel fully justified. When Moses killed the Egyptian, he probably felt that he was fighting for a righteous cause. 

In the social media ecosystem, media often creates the morsels of rage which are then pushed to your social media feed by the algorithms that detect you responding to their stimuli. If you respond, algorithms begin to feed you with content that makes you even angrier.  

Moses’s strikes a rock 

Moses’s second outburst of anger comes in Numbers 20:7-13, 

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.” So Moses took the rod from before the Lord as He commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”  This was the water of Meribah, because the children of Israel contended with the Lord, and He was hallowed among them. 

Just before, in verse 6, the glory of the Lord has appeared to Moses and Aaron, as they approach the Tabernacle after the Israelites have complained about their plight. 

In Exodus 17, Moses struck a rock as instructed by God. It seems that in his anger Moses resorted to the method that he used in the past rather than following God’s new instructions. We can see how anger is regressive and connects with our past experiences. 

The cost of this seemingly small mistake was that Moses never made it to the Promised Land himself; he was only allowed to look at it from a distance. 

Why did God judge Moses so harshly?  

Numbers says that the reason for the punishment was that Moses did not believe in God. 

Instead, Moses reacted angrily and used the last method that had worked. This shows that godly leadership is never regressive; it does not react in anger. 

A God-given vision does not give us the right to react angrily against church members even when they don’t abide with that vision. We need to respond prayerfully in difficult situations and not assume that we already know everything. Only God knows fully how the vision He has given to us will be fulfilled.  

Even if God Himself is angry, that doesn’t automatically mean that we have the right to react in anger.  

Leading a church is not running a perfect system and forcing people to comply with the order demanded by the system. Instead, it is travelling together, and although there is repetition and similar days, the situations, circumstances and the people we lead can all be different.  

It is the most deceptive moment when the water flows from the rock after we have reacted in anger. It might look like God is endorsing our leadership – when He only responded because He wanted to meet the needs of His people. 

I have met many leaders who for a long time seemed to achieve godly outcomes through anger. But in the end, they have always paid a heavy price.  

You can connect with Marko on Twitter @markojoensuu and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mpjoensuu/ or by visiting markojoensuu.com. 


Published by Marko Joensuu

Marko Joensuu has worked for over sixteen years in the publishing and media ministries of Kensington Temple. He is an author, publisher and screenwriter.
Follow us Google+.




Popular Post


Powered by Blogger.