In Matthew 21:12-13 we see Jesus acting not so Jesus-y. Culture paints a picture of this happy-go-lucky Jesus who doesn’t ever get angry and is always attempting to please everybody. Shall we remind ourselves that Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity? This means He was present with the Father in the Old Testament (along with the Spirit), and must we remember the streets of blood in Revelation (Revelation 18:24)? So Jesus isn’t so cushy as you think He is.
With that in mind, we point our attention to Jesus in the temple. There were moneychangers in the temple who weren’t concerned about the temple being a place of reverence and prayer but were only concerned about their own greed. When Jesus saw this, he flipped—literally. The text tells us that he “overturned the tables” and even “threw out all those buying and selling.” Can you imagine watching Jesus do this? I’d certainly be paralyzed with fear that the divine Son of God is showing just a little glimmer of His righteous anger toward sin. But it also shows us something else.
Being angry is not inherently bad.
In this passage we see directly from our Savior that one can be visibly angry and not sin. How is that? You are actually being like Jesus when you become upset over things that God hates. Confronting somebody over his or her sin does not mean you’re being offensive. It means you’re loving them the best way you can in that moment. Allow me to give you two important examples.
Abortion. This grievous practice is rampant around the world, and the numbers of unborn children murdered grow by the minute in the United States. The legal slaughter of the most vulnerable among us has to be America’s greatest sin; it has certainly provoked the judgment of God on our nation.
Does your blood not boil when you hear about the abortion statistics or when you hear a liberal politician try to convince others that abortion is healthcare? Does it “burn your biscuits” when abortion is still very legal even with technol- ogy like a 4D ultrasound and the ability to hear a heartbeat as early as six weeks? This should make Christians angry. And that’s good and righteous. You should be angry; you should be upset at this atrocity. Quite frankly, if you’re not angry about abortion, there is a problem. Righteous indignation to the sin of abortion is a godly response. Let’s take a look at another brief example.
False teachers and gospels. There’s nothing more that upsets me when I see the gospel of Christ being distorted by the prosperity gospel hucksters of our day. From Kenneth Copeland to smiling preacher Joel Osteen, the gospel is being watered down and outright falsified on a daily basis. The sin of abortion is egregiou; the sin of dismantling the gospel for your own gain is asinine. One issue deals with the image of God; the other deals with the work of Jesus on earth. You can’t mess with the gospel.
As Christians, we should be furious—but not too furious—when we see preachers twist the message of the gospel for their own greed. God delights in the salvation of sinners—bringing them from death to life!—and He hates when false prophets throw the message in the trash so they can pad their pockets. It is good and right for us to be angry when we see these things happen. It may be rather easy to criticize and make fun of these charlatans, but more than anything, it should cause righteous anger to well up in our hearts.
There’s a fine line when we have righteous anger–as it can quickly turn sinful–but we should not apologize for being angry over things God hates.
*This blog has been adapted from my forthcoming book Gospel Smugness: Displaying Christlike Character in Evangelism.