Last week we talked about how some who identify as Christians offer truth, or their opinion on an issue, in a way that engenders hate, and then point to John 15:18-25 and say, “Yeah, well I shared the truth and now they hate me, just like Jesus said they would.” (see They Will Hate You) After reading that post, Kathy felt like I should address the times when Jesus was angry.
I thought that was such a great suggestion, because if you’re a regular here at God Running, you know how I feel about imitating Jesus. Scripture makes it clear that we should be imitating Jesus with all our hearts.
John says of the Christ follower, “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” When I read that, I have to ask myself, “Am I really walking the way Jesus walked? I mean really?” (1 John 2:6)
Paul tells us directly, “Be imitators of me, as I am in Christ.” This makes me ask, “Am I imitating Paul and the people in my life who reflect Jesus’ character?” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
Jesus himself said, “It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.” This should cause each of us to ask, “Who is my teacher? Who is my master? If it’s Jesus, am I trying to be like my teacher?” (Matthew 10:25)
Jesus says in John 13:15, “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” Speaking of this verse, Craig Keener in his classic IVP Bible Background Commentary says:
“Disciples were to learn especially by imitating their teachers.”
So imitating Jesus is a big deal to me, and I think it should be a big deal for every Jesus follower. And for that reason, Kathy’s recommendation is important. The question should be answered:
“If we’re to be imitators of Jesus, then what about Jesus’ anger?”
And in the context of John 15:18-25: “Should we be hated for being angry like Jesus.”
It’s indisputable that Jesus was angry at times. He crafted a whip out of cords and drove the money changers out of the temple. And when the Pharisees didn’t want him to heal the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath, “. . . he looked at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart . . .” (John 2:15, Mark 3:5)
So without a doubt, there were times when Jesus was angry. And he communicated truth with anger in his heart. If we stop right here we might think that we should also express anger. Jesus’ anger was always on behalf of someone else, whether it was on behalf of his Father, as in the case of cleansing the temple, or on behalf of someone needing help, as was the case for the man with the withered hand. So Jesus’ anger was righteous anger. And we might think that sharing truth in righteous anger is a good thing, because that’s what Jesus did.
Some Bible teachers who I love and respect support this view. But the reality is, some things that are permissible or allowable or even good and desirable for God (and Jesus is God) aren’t good and desirable for us.
Vengeance is like that. My favorite example of the way we love vengeance is the movie Taken starring Liam Neeson. ““I don’t have money, but what I do have are a very particular set of skills . . . Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it.”
But of course, the bad guys didn’t let his daughter go. And it felt so good to watch Liam Neeson have his vengeance. We’re attracted to vengeance. (Just do a search for vengeance movies and you’ll see what I mean.) It’s part of the natural human condition to desire vengeance. But the bible doesn’t provide for our own personal vengeance. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
And judgment is like that too. Judgment belongs to God. Because for us, judging others only results in judgment against ourselves. (Matthew 7:1-5) Jesus Christ is the one appointed by God as Judge, and I’m glad for that. It’s amazingly freeing when you realize, God wants Jesus to judge, and He commands us to love. I’m thankful for that. I want God to have the position of Judge because He knows everything there is to know, and I don’t. His judgment is perfect. If I were judge, my human frailties and limitations would surely make a mess of things. (John 5:27, Acts 10:42)
Anger is in the same category as vengeance and judgment. It makes sense because of His perfection. My anger is imperfect and never produces the righteousness of God. My anger can be capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, and morally ignoble. But His anger is appropriate because He is perfectly just and incapable of making a mistake. (James 1:20, Packer) (If you’re interested in the scriptures that support this view, see Love Like Jesus–Jesus and Anger: Chapter 18)
Jesus’ Disciples, Anger, And Sharing Truth
I was looking through the book of Acts today and I noticed that none of Jesus’ disciples ever crafted a whip out of cords and drove out anyone from anywhere. In scripture we don’t see Jesus’ disciples expressing anger. I think that’s telling.
We do however see Jesus’ disciples sharing hard truths. But when they do, they share truth in the same way Jesus shared truth. They share truth in the context of God’s unmistakable love. Peter healed the lame beggar in Solomon’s Portico and the Jews there “were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened.” Then, while the previously lame beggar “clung to Peter and John,” after God’s unmistakable love was demonstrated, then Peter shared hard truth. (Acts chapter 3)
And the religious leadership hated the disciples for it, and arrested them. And when they were facing accusation before the rulers, “. . . seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition.” It’s as I wrote in last week’s post, in that passage where Jesus says he’ll be hated and we his followers will be hated, Jesus says, “They hated me without cause.” We see here that’s how it was with Jesus’ disciples. They demonstrated God’s love in such overwhelming fashion that there could be no doubt they too were hated without cause. (Acts 4:14, John 15:25)
Later in the same chapter we see the disciples praying for boldness. If we leave it right here we might think we should be bold in sharing God’s truth, even if it’s hard truth, and we should. But, we’ll be way off track if we take this out of context. Because they prayed to God for boldness and they prayed God would at the same time stretch out His hand to heal, and to do signs and wonders through the name of His holy servant Jesus. So the backdrop of God’s amazing unmistakable love is always there with the boldness. When we’re bold without God’s amazing unmistakable love we’re just noisy gongs. (Acts 4:29-30, 1 Corinthians 13:1)
In Acts chapter five we see “many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people.” And with God’s love expressed in such overwhelming fashion, “more than ever believers were added to the Lord.” But another result was that the religious leaders were “filled with jealousy.” Once again Jesus’ disciples are arrested. And once again Jesus’ disciples share the truth. And the religious leaders are enraged and they hate the disciples. But once again it’s without cause because of the backdrop, the backdrop of God’s great love. (Acts chapter 5)
So while we see Jesus expressed perfect righteous anger, we see that Jesus’ disciples didn’t express anger. We do see them sharing hard truth though, but only in the context of God’s unmistakable amazing love. And for the disciples, that love was demonstrated through healings, signs and wonders, and sharing resources.
I used to ignore 1 Corinthians 13:1. I used to think, “Truth is truth. All I can do is share it. How the person on the receiving end reacts is up to them.” God’s love wasn’t even a part of the equation. Not surprisingly, without God’s love, I wasn’t very effective at communicating God’s truth.
I think that’s why we often blow it when we try to share truth on social media. Social media makes it easy to put truth out there naked, bare, exposed, and raw. It’s so easy to share truth in a vacuum. It’s so easy to share without God’s unmistakable amazing love.
And when we share that way, we sound like clanging symbols. (1 Corinthians 13:1)
I Can’t Do Signs And Wonders
I don’t know about you but I can’t seem to heal people with a touch, or do signs and wonders. Fortunately though we’re never commanded by Jesus to do these things.
We’re only commanded to love people.
Establishing God’s unmistakable amazing love before sharing truth takes more time, energy, and resources than just hitting the button on a social media platform. But in my experience, if our expression of Jesus’ love is overwhelming and unmistakable, then opportunity to share truth will present itself.
God’s overwhelming love is the way we can reach people with the truth.
God’s overwhelming love is the way Jesus’ disciples reached people with the truth.
God’s overwhelming love is Jesus’ way.
You might also like: Love Like Jesus–Jesus And Anger: Chapter 18
Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament,
InterVarsity Press, 1993, p. 297
J.I. Packer, Knowing God, IVP Books, 2011
Brant Hansen, Unoffendable, Thomas Nelson, 2015