For the past few posts I’ve been examining the different aspects of Jesus’ character in order to help us get to know him better.
After all in order to emulate his character we need to know what characteristics that Jesus had, that if we are honest, we can’t relate to. The depth of Jesus compassion was incredible. His forgiveness was amazing. His healing power was incredible. We can’t really relate to any of those.
But right now I’d like to look at a characteristic of Jesus that isn’t talked about very much but that I think we can relate to. Today we are going to look at angry Jesus. Sure, Jesus was caring and compassionate and forgiving, but he also flipped over tables in church. He got into conversations with people that were laced with confrontation and name calling. And this wasn’t just a couple of times. It happened on a regular basis. If you walked with Jesus you would see people loved and accepted, but you would also find yourself in the middle of difficult, awkward and angry moments.
Finally an emotion that Jesus had that we won’t have to work hard to copy. Here is an emotion that Jesus had that we can relate to. We are all acquainted with feelings of anger. I’m guessing you don’t have to go back too long in history to find a time when you were angry. Let me give you an example from my life. A week ago Friday I went to see my buddy Michael’s son play volleyball at a local university. The feeling of anger started the moment I got on campus and started looking for the gym. I plugged the gym address into my maps app on my phone and followed the step-by-step directions only to have it lead me right to a vacant parking lot. “Curse you GPS!” Have any of you experienced that? This was not my first run in with my GPS. We are constantly going at it. One time I asked the GPS for directions to a meeting and it led me downtown which was about 20 minutes away from the actual location. You want to know what that meeting was? A funeral I was presiding over. No big deal right? “Curse you GPS!”
Back to my story: When I finally found the arena, I parked my car and headed into the arena. There was a sign as I parked that said “No parking 3am to 5am” so I figured I would be fine without buying a parking pass. In the middle of the game, the announcer for the game told everyone, “Remember that a parking permit is always required to park on campus.” So I wandered back over to the parking structure, paid for a parking pass and headed to my car. Any guesses what I found on my windshield? A ticket for $65. Later I looked at the time of my ticket only to realize that I got written up minutes after I parked. The parking attendant must have watched me get out of my car and instead of telling me to get a pass, used that opportunity to pounce. “Curse you parking attendant!”
Anger is one emotion that Jesus had that we can relate to. You may not get angry with your GPS or parking attendants, but you have your triggers as much as I do. It can be as simple as:
- Someone texting at a stop light after the light goes green
- Calling a customer service line and trying to press the right buttons to talk to an actual person.
- Slow wi-fi
- Frozen computers
- An error message on Netflix
Am I the only one who gets angry in those moments? Anger is an emotion we all understand and our angry moments just get bigger from there. We get angry when we:
- Face law suits
- Get passed over for a promotion
- Are ridiculed in front of others
- When a spouse values work over you
- When you love and care for your child and they don’t appreciate it
- When you have to deal with your ex
- When your parents continue to treat you like a child
Generally, we don’t like to admit that we get angry, but the reality is, we all get angry. Jesus got angry. Let point out some angry moments that Jesus had when he walked this earth. Let me read you the actual words of Jesus:
- “You hypocrites.”
- “You shut the door of the kingdom in people’s faces.”
- “You blind fools.”
- “You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”
- “You are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.”
- “You snakes.”
- “How will you escape being condemned to hell?”
- “You are like unmarked graves.”
- “You brood of vipers.”
- “When you find a convert you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”
When you’re reading your Bible and you read those words, it’s easy for them to lose the emotion. But let’s get real; you just can’t say those lines without a tone. If you want proof, just pull out one of Jesus lines at work tomorrow. If you get into a disagreement in the copy room tomorrow, just say this: “You blind fools. How will you escape being condemned to hell?” See how long you have your job after that.
Anger is an emotion that we have in common with Jesus. Jesus got downright mad. He flipped tables over in church. He wasn’t afraid to resort to name calling. Anyone who says Jesus didn’t get angry isn’t paying attention.
There is, however, a difference between how Jesus got angry and how we get angry. The emotion of anger is the same, but the object of the anger is different. When Jesus got angry, he got angry at real issues. He was upset with hypocrisy. He got mad at people who made it hard to find God. When Jesus got angry he was making a valid point. Can that be said of us?
- We get angry at an inanimate GPS that 99.9% of the time leads us to exactly where we need to go
- We get mad at parking attendants who are just doing their jobs
- We get mad at slow wi-fi
- We get mad that the computer that is inside of our phone is too slow
- We get angry that La La Land didn’t end like we wanted it to. At least I did.
There are times when we get angry for the right reasons, but often our anger is pointed at inconveniences. We can relate to the emotion of Jesus anger, but in reality, how often is our anger about something that matters?
As Christians we have gained a reputation as an angry people. But again, are we angry like Jesus? Are we angry over the important issues? Let me give you a short list of things that Christians have gotten angry with over the last several years:
- Christians got angry and protested the new Starbucks holiday cup, which they say is conspicuously devoid of images of both Christmas and Jesus Christ himself.
- Christians got angry because they disagree with the theology of the movie The Shack.
- Last year Blogger Veronica Partridge wrote a piece informing the world that she had made a decision to not wear yoga pants in public. Her intention, as she explained it, was to keep men from looking at her lustfully but it still made a lot of people mad. That blog blew up Christian social media and she and her husband ended up on Good Morning America.
- The latest target of Christian rage is the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. Some Christians are angry that Gaston’s sidekick, LaFou, appears to be gay.
Meanwhile here are some things going on in the world:
- Fourteen million Iraqis and Syrians are in need of humanitarian aid. Almost half are children.
- There are 379,000 children in foster care in the US.
- 1,505,200 men, women and children have been displaced in South Sudan since December 15, 2013.
- Malnutrition is identified as the root cause of death among 3.1 million children.
- 100 million Christians around the globe are under persecution, enduring physical beatings, torture, and rape.
That’s what’s going on in the world, but sure, let’s talk about Colin Kapernick and the National Anthem.
Typically, when you show up at church and the topic is anger, you get a message about helping people deal with their anger issues: “don’t get mad; don’t lash out; don’t hurt people with your words.” That’s not what you are going to get out of this blog. You see, I don’t think the problem is that we have anger issues. I think the problem is that we have anger about the wrong issues.
I think we can relate to the emotion of anger that Jesus had, but not the purpose of his anger. We have the same feelings, but Jesus’ triggers and our triggers are very different.
Four Things that Makes Jesus Mad
If you have your Bible open it up to Luke 11. This is one of a couple chapters in the Bible where Jesus’ anger shows up. If you spent time with Jesus it would not be all care and compassion and miracles. There would be awkward moments and this is one of them. As we look at this awkward moment we are going to learn about four things that Jesus thought were worthy of his anger and our anger as well. Let’s start in verse 37
“When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.”—Luke 11:37
Did anyone notice the issue here? This Pharisee asks Jesus into his home and this is what he is going to make a big deal about. Jesus did not wash his hands before supper. He has the savior of the world in his dining room and here is the big deal? Jesus didn’t use hand sanitizer. Guess what? That set Jesus off.
“Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?’”–Luke 11:37-40
Again, it’s really hard to read that without a tone and the reason that Jesus used this tone is the first thing that makes Jesus mad:
1. Being More Concerned with Looking Good than Doing Good
Let’s evaluate these two ideas and how much anger we have in each category. First, let’s think about looking good. How often does our attempt to look good lead to anger?
- My shirt is stained
- My pants need to be washed
- My hair needs to be cut
- I’m sick of trimming my ear hair
- I’m out of mascara
- This dress makes me look fat
- I don’t like these wrinkles
- I hate my gray hair
- My clothes are out of style
- I burned my neck with my curling iron
- My pants need to be taken out
And that anger over outside appearance goes way beyond our physical appearance:
- My car is too old
- My kids are out of control
- My kitchen appliances look tacky
- My backyard is a mess
- My garage is a pig sty
Anything that can effect how people view us makes this list. How much anger do we have over issues that effect how people see us from the outside? We had an event at our church last Sunday and it was an amazing event with two very small exceptions: I was in our courtyard and there was a dad walking his two kids back out to the car and they were absolutely losing it. Turns out they had to go to a party and they didn’t have time for the boys to get their faces painted. They were both under five and they were both totally melted down. What I appreciated about that dad was that he kept his cool, but it made me think, how many times do moments like that cause us to lose it? We are concerned with our appearance. We are concerned how we will be perceived. We are afraid the pastor is going to use us in his blog. We are concerned with what people think, so we lose our temper. We could look bad at work. Someone will judge our parenting. A friend might judge our housekeeping if the bathroom’s a mess.
Jesus makes it pretty clear what he values. It’s not how you look. It’s not about appearances. It’s who you are on the inside. Understand here, Jesus is not saying you have to be perfect on the inside. He is challenging us to have our inside match our outside. If you are imperfect on the inside, don’t put on a show like you have it all together.
Rather than being angry that people might not view us correctly, perhaps we need to have a different kind of anger. We need to be angry with the sin in our life. Angry with the habits that trip us up. Angry with the old mistakes that keep rearing their head in our lives. We need to focus more on cleaning up the inside than worrying what people think about our outside. So how do we do that? Jesus gives us an idea in verse 41.
“But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.”–Luke 11:41
Jesus gives us one way that we can clean up our inside. Care for the poor. Because another thing that made Jesus angry was
2. Abuse and Neglect of the Poor
Hunger was a huge issue in Jesus day. It’s also a reason why people get angry today. Most of the time that means something different for us.
Have you heard the word “hangry” before; it’s a combination of “hunger” and “anger.” I hear it all the time from my kids. Our hunger makes us angry. But does the hunger of people around the world elicit a response from us? Hypocrisy was a huge issue in Jesus day just as it’s an issue in our day. Jesus has a simple solution. Take care of the poor. Be generous. Take that one step and you’re straight. Does the plight of the poor make us angry? Are we concerned about hunger or just hangry? Look with me at verse 42:
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.”–Luke 11:42-44
3. Injustice for Those Who Can’t Fight for Themselves
Justice is a huge deal to God. It’s one of his top priorities.
“Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.”–Exodus 23:6
“For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face.”–Psalm 11:7
These words were written about Jesus in the book of Isaiah:
“’Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.’”-– Matthew 12:18,19
In some ways you can say that Americans value justice. Percentage wise, the United States imprisons more people than any other country in the world. The prison population has increased from 300,000 in the early 1970’s to 2.3 million people today. One in every 15 people in the US is expected to spend time in jail unless you are born male and black and that number goes up to 1 in 3. Bryan Stevenson in his book “Just Mercy,” which I highly recommend, gives a reason for the increase.
“Spending on jails and prisons by state and federal governments have risen from $6.9 billion in 1980 to $80 billion today. Private prison builders and prison service companies have spent millions of dollars to persuade state and local governments to create new crimes, impose harsher sentences, and keep more people locked up so they can earn more profits.”
Years ago I worked at a Christian camp and at this camp it was all about camper days and filled beds. The more beds that were filled the better off we were doing. I’m afraid that’s going on in our prison system as well. It is very possible that people are being put in prison not to clean up our streets or rehabilitate them but to increase revenues.
Jesus came to proclaim justice. It’s our job to carry that banner as well.
- Justice for the poor.
- Justice for those wrongfully imprisoned.
- Justice for those who have been treated poorly because of their race.
- Justice for those who can’t fight for themselves.
Let me show you what Jesus thought about people who used the system to hurt people:
“One of the experts in the law answered him, ‘Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.’”–Luke 11:45
If any of you wondered if Jesus had a tone, there’s your answer. It is clear these people felt insulted.
“Jesus replied, ‘And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.’” —Luke 11:46
4. Keeping People from God by Focusing on Rules not Relationship
Many of you know that I do weddings as a side business so I have a lot of couples in my office. I hear a lot of stories. Most of them are “how we met” stories. One couple met trying out for American Idol. Another couple met on the freeway. He got her number as they both drove down the I-15 freeway in separate cars. I’m really glad that’s not how my daughter met her fiance. The number one story I hear when I meet with couples before their wedding is their “how we met” story. The number two story I hear is “Why I don’t go to church.” Maybe it’s because we meet in my office at church. Maybe it’s because I’m a pastor. Maybe it’s because during the consultations I take an offering. Just kidding. I meet a lot of people that went to church before but now no longer go to church. During those conversations this is the most common reason people give for leaving church: the church they went to was all about the rules.
- Rules about how you cut your hair
- Rules about what you can drink
- Rules about what you watch
- Rules about yoga pants
The Pharisees that Jesus spoke to had taken the word of God and made it into a set of rules and then added rules on top of that. It made it almost impossible to find God in all of those rules. I think this was a behavior that made Jesus the most angry. Instead of this amazing relationship with God, it became to-do list Christianity.
Get Angry at the Right Things
These are the things that Jesus got angry at. He got angry when people were more concerned with the outside than the inside. He got angry about the abuse of the poor. He hated injustice. He got angry when spiritual people lost track of what God was all about. In some ways what Jesus got angry about are the same things we get angry about. We get angry about injustice and abuse. But it’s our injustice and our abuse. We only get angry when we face injustice and when we are abused. Our anger issues revolve around what people think of us and how we are treated and when we don’t get our way. Jesus wants us to be the kind of people that fight for the rights of others. That care for the needs of the hurting. The stand up for injustice beyond our own injustice.
Let me read you a verse that I believe is the most profound words on anger ever written.
“26 In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.”— Ephesians 4:26,27
Typically, when we read these verses, we read them like this. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Okay, if I get in a fight with my wife and my kids, I’ll deal with it in this day. I won’t let it simmer. I totally agree with that interpretation. Passive-aggressive never works. Deal with your issues in this day.
Let me give you one other possible interpretation. Don’t let the sun go down on what makes you angry. Do something about it. Today. Get to work. Today.
- If hunger in the world hurts you, get involved. Call a local rescue mission and ask how you can help.
- If sex trafficking makes you angry, get involved. Donate your time to a halfway house for women trying to escape sex trafficking.
- Worried about the plight of Syrian refugees? Decide to make a difference. Give to an organization that is working to relocate Syrian refugee families.
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” ― Albert Einstein
I want to close by blessing you. It’s an ancient tradition that goes back thousands of years that we don’t do very often. This is a Franciscan blessing. I want to pray it over you.
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may wish for justice, freedom, and peace. May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.