One of my favorite “Jesus moments” led to the destruction of church property.
Back in my youth pastor days, a group of 7th grade boys became borderline obsessed with the story of an angry Jesus kicking dishonest merchants out of the Temple (John 2:13-22).
These 7th graders loved the story so much they started running through the church’s children’s rooms and emulated Jesus by violently flipping tables over. I can still hear their primal screams accompanied by a stampede to the next room.
And they kept doing it - every week for a month until I told them it was time to stop. I secretly wanted to join in so I let them continue longer than I should have. A few tables eventually started to break.
I regret not paying for new tables and continuing the fun.
Dealing with Anger Issues
Why do 7th grade boys love seeing Jesus angry?
Anger is alluring and powerful.
It reveals our raw nature and can evoke both fear and change.
Many of us struggle with misappropriated anger. Our anger can simmer under our emotional surface and, at the slightest provocation, strike someone whose only crime is proximity to us.
Recently, a woman in our church told me her husband is only capable of one emotion. Worse, he doesn’t acknowledge any problem and, when pushed, responds with… anger. Sadly, their marriage and family life are not going well. They are not alone.
Jesus Had Fiery Moments
No other emotion has such a huge upside or potential for tragedy as anger. It is the double-edged sword of emotions.
Anger is a window into the heart, revealing what’s most important to us.
Jesus got angry. Really angry. And it revealed his heart for us to see:
· Cheating merchants were ripping off the poor so Jesus flips their tables and backs it up by creating a whip (John 2)
· Jesus’s fires tough words at the religious leaders because they create a false understanding of God (Matthew 23/Mark 3).
· Jesus snorts with anger (literally) at the state of our broken world when his friend Lazarus dies (John 11).
What do you notice about Jesus’s anger in the gospel stories? Here are three important truths:
1. Our Anger Comes REALLY FAST by Comparison
It’s naïve to think we’ll go through today without being wronged. So why do I act surprised when it happens?
My surprise often leads to a quick and forceful response. The result of quick anger can be harmed relationships.
But God’s anger is slow.
James, brother of Jesus, surely had the example of his brother in mind when he encouraged us to “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1:19)
You’d be hard-pressed to find another human who had a longer fuse than Jesus.
2. Our Anger is Usually Self-Focused
Jesus and I get mad about different things:
Jesus’s anger is always a result of people harming themselves or others.
My anger is (almost) always a result of people harming me.
I can’t find one instance of Jesus getting defensive. He fielded many unfair accusations and was even accused of teaming with Satan to accomplish his miracles. Jesus calmly explained how that was bad logic (Matthew 12:22-28). I would have launched a vigorous self-defense campaign and later relived my winning counterpunches.
Examine the trend of your anger. Is it trending toward alignment with the heart of Jesus? Or the “human anger” James warns against (James 1:20)?
3. Thankful… for Anger
It’s strange to give thanks on Christmas week for anger, but let’s try it.
If Jesus didn’t get angry, we’d be in trouble. Imagine a broken world where Jesus shrugs off evil. Yuck.
This Christmas, let’s pray to align our anger with Jesus:
· For children from unhealthy homes.
· For the brokenness between races.
· For marriages that are falling apart.
· For young people falling behind during a pandemic.
· For those who have unexpectedly lost people they love.
· For dreams sidelined or ruined in 2020.
· For prideful systems that harm the poor.
· For relationships that seem unrecoverable.
These things have always fired up God’s anger because he cares. They are worthy of “table flipping.”
Jesus, thanks for your anger. You care about and want good for us. You backed it up with action – and you still do today.
Please pass along to someone, like, comment or share and I'd love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Two more posts until Christmas! JC