Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Son's Anger

Anger.  For me this has always seemed a negative emotion, primarily because of the negative actions I've engaged in while feeling it.  I come from genetic stock blessed with the "short fuse".  I am told both of my grandfathers had fierce tempers though I never truly witnessed this.  I can name a few relatives who exhibit this trait and I seem to have been blessed with the challenge to "Simma-dahn-na" from time to time when things aren't going my way as well.  Given this predisposition, anger always seemed a force to combat and not necessarily an ally.

I am just learning in my life that anger is actually a healthy emotion.  It's what you do with it that determines whether it is harmful or not.  Anger can be a protective response for self and others.  Come against my family to harm them and anger will arise.  In recent years, I've even developed somewhat of a protective anger response towards injustices and actions against the helpless or hopeless.  I now feel I am also beginning to understand the seemingly paradoxical Biblical axiom "in your anger, do not sin".  That one has challenged me for years where we read of a God who can be angered but is also sinless.
And what of his son?  Ever picture an angry Jesus?  Have you ever pictured Jesus snapping while he tread this earth?  Certainly he came to minister but have you ever imagined him getting impatient or fed up with all of the complaining, the constant non-stop demands for his time, the "me-me-me" mentality of those who always seemed to be crowding him?  He was fully human after all.  And what about the dozen guys who were his elite?  After a couple of years wouldn't these guys have stopped bickering over "who's going to be greatest in the kingdom"?  Wouldn't they start to get a clue? 
And what about the unabashedly sinful and rebellious nature of the people everywhere he went?  Talk about a polluted merging of cultures.  Polytheistic Romans, dirty Samaritans, sexually liberated Greeks, heathens from every known nation trekking across his path, chasing him down.  Even among the chosen children of God, many didn't even try to hide the fact that they weren't really interested in doing much more than following some rote commands prescribed hundreds of years before.  But offer a show, a healing or some miracles, and they came in droves to witness the sensational.  This would have irritated many to the point that they might not have felt so generous to impart words of eternal life without some serious repentance at the forefront.
Have you ever noticed Jesus' ire was never raised towards the blatantly sinful or the obvious wrong-doer?
He was never harsh with those who were lost?  He wasn't even put off by their "in-your-face" lack of pedigree, manners, appreciation, or shamelessness.

In fact, one of the most powerful descriptions of him is simply this:

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
John 1:14 NIV

"...full of grace and truth."

If you could have one phrase on your tombstone, "full of grace and truth" would be pretty high praise.  The fact that of Jesus' many attributes "grace" and "truth" are so prominent is fascinating to me.  He could have appeared as "holy avenger, bearer of judgement and hellfire, come to set all things right".  There will certainly be a day where judgement does occur, but this isn't what he led in with.  Neither did he ignore the mired nature of the world in which he walked.  Grace and Truth fully defined him but truth is not truth if diluted, compromised, or falsified.  Our state did not change who he was, but neither did it repel him from us or keep us from approaching him based on his grace.

But Jesus was intolerant.  In reading the Gospels, some of the people I read he was most intolerant of were those who were most religiously intolerant of others - those who were from "proper" backgrounds and upbringing; those who were most strict in their observances of what was right and were put out that this self-proclaimed 'Son of God' would mix with and spend time with those who had made a mess of their lives through rebellion, bad choices, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

When I see Jesus coming to blows, it wasn't towards a tax collecting thief, or a loose living woman.  It was against those who turned a sanctuary into a profit den, preying on those bowed under the weight of pious men's interpretations of God's commands.  When I see Jesus bristle, it isn't against a man who's wrestling to figure out how to hold onto his wealth and still enter the kingdom, it's against those who are seeking to hold onto their position and have no interest in the kingdom except for how to lord it over others and maintain their societal status.  I see a Savior weeping while overlooking a holy city, not because the temple wasn't grand enough or the priests weren't precise enough in their following of the Mosaic law, but rather because in the following of the law the people had stopped following the One who gave the law.  The masses milling through the dusty streets were broken, lost, and destitute of hope. 

Times haven't changed much between when Jesus walked the earth and today.  Our temples are certainly more numerous.  Our pedigree, our level of education, our affluence might be a bit higher.  But we all can probably picture the intolerant individual in our lives or our past who has done more to drive people from God then towards him with their judgements, rules, or regulations.  "Pharisee" we would call them, or "hypocrite".  The truth is we have probably all been those people at one point or another. 

Yet I repeatedly see the call in scripture to walk as our Savior walked, to love as our Savior loved, to serve as our Savior served.  I don't see his finger pointing at others in the gospels and saying "you better straighten up and change - you better get this right!".  I see him pointing to others and saying "these are my sheep - love them".  I don't see him demanding an apology before we can approach, I see him accepting us and telling us to accept each other (Romans 15:7).  I don't see him walking away from those who are difficult or unloving, I see him commanding us to walk in the ways of his love (Ephesians 5:2).  I don't see him exercising rightfully entitled position, I see him modeling the foundations of kingdom principles where to serve is the highest nobility (Philippians 2:5-8).  Certainly a call to accept him, to let him revolutionize lives is present - but so is the truth that there is nothing we can do can earn this free gift of salvation.  Nothing good about ourselves or our acts of piety or personal holiness have purchased our relationship with him - it's based solely on his grace, his sacrifice, his love.

Only towards those who would inhibit the broken, the abused, the cast down and the hurting from approaching the open arms of a Savior filled with grace and truth do I ever see a smolder in Jesus' eyes.  We should all take care never to forget we are all saved by grace and a costly love; that we are never in position of anything short of inexhaustible gratitude.  Those who do forget, those who harm "the least of these" in the name of righteous and moral fervor risk a Son's anger.

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