May 11, 2014 § 1 Comment
Is it okay for Christians to get angry? Every time some atrocity happens that tears at the image of God, like the recent abduction of hundreds of girls by an Islamic group promising to make them sex slaves in the name of Allah, I have to ask myself the same question. Is there righteous anger?
Indeed, there is righteous anger. Paul says “In your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26), making it clear that anger can be had apart from sinfulness. If anyone could manage this balance, it was Jesus. Look at the anger He exhibited when He cleared the temple courts in John 2.
“When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts He found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume Me.’” (John 2:13-17 NIV)
Was Jesus justified in His anger? The temple rightly belonged to God, and Jesus was God. Worshipers were being taken advantage of by greedy opportunists and trespassers in a holy place. So Jesus had a right to be angry.
How did Jesus show His anger? He drove them out. But notice that Jesus did not explode into a rage when He came upon the moneychangers in His Father’s house. Before Jesus drove them out, “He made a whip” out of some cords. This no doubt took a minute or so to make. Jesus was sinless, so I don’t believe He needed a moment to collect His emotions, but that this serves as an example to us not to make hasty judgments or react on pure emotion in the heat of the moment. Gather your cool.
Verse 17 quotes Psalm 69, describing our Lord consumed (not overtaken by, but centered on) by zeal. Zeal is “enthusiastic devotion to a cause, ideal, or goal and tireless diligence in its furtherance.” What kind of zeal should we have?
“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” (Romans 10:2-3) Zeal should be backed by knowledge, not pure emotion. Get the whole story, know what happened, what the Bible says about the offense, and know why you’re angry.
“Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you.” (Galatians 4:17-18) There are many things to be zealous for. Our zeal should be for something good, something after the heart of God according to His Word.
Those of you who are in Christ, “Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Even those who are not in Christ are still made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Human trafficking, or really any assault against the God-given freedom and dignity of any of our neighbors, ought to make us angry. Disgusted by a moral evil? Got a passion for justice? Take enough time to make a whip, be informed, and if it breaks the heart of God, let it break yours. Get mad and do something.