Monday, January 10, 2011

Good Old Touchy-Feely Jesus

An article was posted elsewhere about how Jesus used some rather harsh words. There are people who have an unscriptural view of Jesus that I detest: Wimpy. That comes from a preference-based view of love. Jesus is God incarnate (and, therefore, love incarnate), so how should he act? Perhaps it depends on your definition of "love". For that matter, your definition may differ from mine, and both of us may differ from a child's definition. If you grab Junior to stop him from wandering into a busy street and then give him a stern warning, he may say that you do not love him because you restrained him, got his attention and spoiled his fun.

You expressed love with your words and actions, even though they seemed harsh to the child. He will understand, eventually. But at the moment, it seems unkind and unfair.

Jesus was not always Mr. Nice Guy. He expressed righteous anger, spoke harshly and even acted physically (for example, John 2.15-16). People who are not all that familiar with their Bibles are surprised to hear that Jesus "acted that way". For that matter, the thinking patterns of some atheists work like this: Jesus was full of wimpy love. You acted in a stern manner. Therefore, God does not exist. Similarly, some church people can judge us: Jesus was full of wimpy love. You acted in a stern manner. Therefore, you are a bad Christian because you do not fit my uninformed preconceptions. (By the way, John the Baptist was not Mr. Nice Guy, either, Matt. 3.7-9 NIV. Or the apostle Paul, Gal. 5.12 ESV.)

But back to the topic at hand. Jesus is gentle, of course (Matt. 11.29, Luke 18.16, Luke 23.34). But our Savior got a bit rough at times, you see. Does this give the Christian license to speak or act harshly?

Be careful! Remember, the Bible does say, "Be angry and do not sin" (Eph. 4.26). Anger itself is not a sin (contrary to some opinions), but we have to be very careful not to sin in our anger. We should examine just how Jesus used harsh words and anger.
  • He got their attention
  • He spoke the direct truth of what they needed to hear
  • He never sinned or acted outside of love
  • He did not do it frequently
  • He usually targeted "religious" people that were burdening others with man-made rituals
  • He never allowed anger to control him
  • He did not act in haste or under impulse
My goal is to stir people into thinking, get their attention, speak the truth. I will not kid anyone, I am a sinful man and have misused anger and harsh words when I let emotion take control. When we walk in the Spirit, we are not carrying out the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5.16), and one of these is "fits of anger". We should seek to walk in the Spirit and show the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5.22-23). Then, when we need to show anger or speak in less than gentle (or coddling) terms, we can help the cause of the gospel, not harm it. Always walking in love, and in the Spirit.