Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Here lately I've noticed that my best thoughts occur at 5:30 in the morning.... or maybe they just seem like my best thoughts because it's 5:30 and I'm not fully awake :-). Anyway, my morning thoughts this week have been drifting back to a conversation I had a couple of weeks ago. Actually it was a conversation I listened to and wanted to say something but unfortunately I take far too long to think through a response. I'm like Calvin in the comic strip 'Calvin and Hobbes' who said, "Well, remember what you said, because in a day or two, I'll have a witty and blistering retort! You'll be devastated THEN!" Not that I need to come up with a witty and blistering retort, it just usually takes me some time to think through a response, even if I already have an opinion on the matter.

We talked about Jesus being the full revelation of the character of God in human flesh. The subject of Jesus being 'angry' when he cleared the temple came up during the conversation, and rightly a friend of mine pointed out that maybe it wasn't anger, or at least anger in the sense that we usually picture it. The reason he thinks it probably looked different that we think is because in Matthew 21:12-15, immediately after the incident we see people coming to him for healing and children were shouting in the temple "Hosanna to the Son of David". In particular it is interesting that children were there cheering him on. When grown men rage, don't children usually scatter? Now I'm sure that Jesus didn't do this with a smile on his face, but how ever he did it, it didn't strike fear in the hearts of the children. He was probably stern, and determined but controlled in his response.
(see Jn 2:13-16, Mk 11:15-17, Mat 21:12-15, Lk 19:45-46)

What I wished that I could have added to the conversation was the fact that there was only once in all of the Gospels where they felt the need to record that Jesus was angry.

He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. He said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward!" And He said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?" But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
Mark 3:4-5

It is worth noting that Jesus was angry and grieved, and that his response was to heal someone rather than call down fire from heaven. So we can say that God does get angry, but it never looks like human anger.

Another point I which I would have made is the fact that often we try to elevate anger or wrath to be an attribute of God, when that clearly isn't what scripture teaches. Scripture says that God is Love, but it never says that God is wrath or God is anger. I think it is important to understand this because God's anger or wrath is an expression of the God whose very nature is Love, and not just any love but Agape -- the other centered, self-giving Love. Wayne Jacobsen defines God's wrath in this way -- the full weight of God's being brought against that which destroys the object of his affection. I think he is right; Scripture is clear that God's wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness; the things that decay and destroy his good creation. It is in a sense the fire that will make the world right again. It is motivated by Love, and once things are put right once again. It is an expression that will cease.

1 comment:

Kirk said...

Very well said.