Friday, January 15, 2010

Righteous anger: Not an oxymoron after all...

Below is an excerpt taken from a book called "Love Walked Among Us: Learning to Love Like Jesus" by Paul E. Miller. It's such a good good book! I think everyone should read it. Whether you're convinced that Christianity is an unloving religion that a bunch of hypocritical judgmental people follow (and you want to know the truth behind the faith--that it's not unloving), or you're wanting to understand Jesus' love more (and how we can love like him), you'll find a lot of wisdom in here.

Anyway, I've had a really hard time understanding how a loving, peaceful God (lamb) could get so angry at church (the temple). I always wondered how it was that overturning tables wasn't considered "sinning in anger". This side of Jesus seemed kind of scary to me before. But this book does a good job of explaining the situation; Christ's anger was righteous because it was linked to his desire to have ALL people come to know him and not perish.

I had no idea that the outer courts of the temple were reserved for Gentiles. (The outer courts is where people turned the church into a 'swap meet'.) And back then, Gentiles were not respected because they were viewed as "sinners". So the fact that Jesus gets mad at these shop keepers for selling items where the Gentiles worship makes sense--it foreshadows what the purpose of the resurrection is/was: That EVERYONE should be able to come to Jesus and be saved. These shop keepers represented the sin that kept people from coming to God, and Jesus was acting out his anger toward that sin when he overturned the tables.

Also, there was TONS of legalism in the church at this time and the high priests believed that only their lambs were pure enough to be sacrificed; these lambs were sold in the outer courts. But Jesus was the ultimate perfect sacrifice, and the high priests missed the point because they were money hungry and legalistic, another legitimate reason why Jesus got angry.

Anyhow, here's the excerpt from the book, it describes the situation a little better... I think it's quite eye-opening...

Good Rage:
Now let's look at Jesus when he is at his angriest. This incident took place just before Passover, a few days before Jesus death:

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves... He said, Is it not written: 'My house will be called a house of prayer of all nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers. Mark 11:15,17

One man, by the sheer force of his anger, kicks over tables, thundering in rage, "My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you are making it a den of robbers." The commercialization of religion angers Jesus. The worship of God has been turned into the worship of money. The din of clanking change has replaced the sounds of heartfelt prayer. The kingdom of noise had replaced the kingdom of God.

Jews came from all over the Roman world and beyond to worship in the Jerusalem temple. When they changed their money in order to buy lambs for the sacrifice, the priests received kickbacks. This angered Jesus.

The Law of Moses prescribed that a lamb sacrificed in payment for sins had to be perfect, but the priests said that only their lambs were perfect--so the Jews had to purchase their lambs, giving the religious professionals a tidy profit, as monopolies usually do. This hurt the poor most of all, and it made Jesus angry.

All of this commerce took place in the outer court of the temple, which was reserved for prayer by other ethnic groups. (Only Jews went into inner courts). The ancient prophecies said that one day the Jews would bring salvation to 'all' people. Israel would be the door through which people from all nations would come to know God. But because the priests were using the outer court for commerce, the Gentiles couldn't use it to pray.

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