i received an email from a friend of mine on Facebook who is asking some questions that relate quite strongly to some stuff i have been giving a lot of thought to, especially this last week. i think it’s a bit of a minefield, to be honest. But i also think it’s high time we stepped into this one:

Morning 😊

I’ve been thinking about ANGER and VIOLENCE. I think that so many people dismiss this with trite sayings like “violence is not the answer” and yet even Jesus resorted to violence to act out his righteous anger, on more than one occasion. So this makes me believe that it certainly has a place when we are operating out of love and want the best for humanity.

What I can’t deal with is the petty, vengeful, self serving anger that I’m seeing a lot of here on Facebook. But I dare not confront anyone about it because then I’m “tone policing” or dismissing things like “black femme rage.”

I’m left feeling a bit helpless and slightly confused over how to handle everyone’s anger. And there’s so much of it 😞

I was wondering if you could perhaps unpack some of these ideas around anger in an article? I would appreciate your view point and am open to being led to relevant scripture that I can sink my teeth into.

Lots of love

The violence of Jesus?

Firstly, in response to the letter i cannot really think of a second time that Jesus resorted to violence, unless you are referring to when he curses the fig tree to no longer produce fruit, although i think on that occasion it was part of a deeper story He was trying to get through to His disciples.

But the time i assume you are referring to is the time in the temple when Jesus expels the merchants and the moneylenders from the temple courtyards. This is one of the fewer stories that are referred to in all four gospels [Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19 and John 2]

Wikipedia has this paragraph under the entry: Cleansing of the Temple:

David Landry suggests that “the importance of the episode is signaled by the fact that within a week of this incident, Jesus is dead. Matthew, Mark, and Luke agree that this is the event that functioned as the “trigger” for Jesus’ death.”While most artistic renderings have a more dramatic depiction of Jesus thrashing the merchants, Nathan W. O’Halloran’s reading of the Greek word ‘pantas’ indicates that Jesus took some ropes he found lying around “to drive out the sheep and oxen, like any shepherd or cattle herder would do”, followed, no doubt, by their owners. He also notes that the Synoptics do not make mention of a whip; and that Mark uses the word “drove”, as it was used elsewhere for the spirit “driving” Jesus into the desert, or Jesus himself “driving” out demons.

So there is at least some train of thought to suggest that the act was not a violent one, or not in the way we automatically think.

The John version though does suggest that Jesus made/constructed a whip of cords which gives the idea that the driving out in whatever form it took was premeditative and not simply a hot-headed reaction.

Some important things to note:

[1] This is the exception, not the rule. Jesus encountered a lot of injustice around Him on His journeys – the Jews were being ruled by the Romans, the religious leaders [Pharisees, Sadducees] – and for the most part He spoke against it, or gave creative ways of subverting the norm and turning things on their head. So any kind of forceful or potentially violent action was definitely not his modus operandi or go to.

[2] It is extremely significant to look at the WHY

Having said that, if we note that on this occasion, Jesus went a little more ballistic than we are used to seeing Him [whether sending out the animals or actually whipping the people] we should definitely pay careful attention to the why, because clearly something moved Him to a point of action beyond the way we had observed Him act til then.

In Mark 11, we see Jesus’ explanation of His actions:

 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

We know historically that animals were being sold for sacrifice in the courtyard, particularly for the poor who would not have had access to their own animals. We also know that because of the absolute need for sacrifice to have your sin dealt with at the time, that prices would be pushed up to crazy amounts… the poor being taken advantage of, now where have we heard of that before.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

And in the strongest of ways, Jesus responded with a loud and mighty: ENOUGH!!! Stop this evil and toss it out on to the street – and He did that literally, in some way.

So if you are going to get angry in an extreme way, a good rule of thumb is to let that anger be aimed at injustice – both at the things of God [the temple] and the things of man [the poor and marginalised] which in same way seems to be a playing out of the most important commandment that Jesus speaks in Matthew 22 which is to ‘Love God [with all your heart, soul, strength, mind] and love your neighbour as yourself.’

[3] We see a number of other occasions when Jesus got angry, but injustice seems to be at the heart of every one.

Whether it was His disciples asking Jesus to call down fire [Luke 9], or put them on prime thrones in the new kingdom [Mark 10] or whether it was a rant against the religious leaders for being hypocritical or putting burdens on the shoulders of the weak [Matthew 23], every one of Jesus’ other times of obvious anger relate to issues of injustice, typically towards the poor and marginalised.

So, as a follower of Jesus, is anger okay? Absolutely. But make sure that it is well directed. But also the teaching on anger goes a little deeper in the letter to the church of Ephesus that Paul scribes:

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. [Ephesians 4] 

# In your anger, do not sin – so don’t let your anger cause you to be out of line, even as a result of someone else being out of line.

# Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry – tbV and i have different understandings of this, but i think the bottom line is not letting the anger linger without dealing with the cause of it in some way at the appropriate time [as a married couple, just before you go to bed may not be the best time to work through it well and so it may become more metaphoric than literal]

# Do not give the devil a foothold – or as my little green buddy would say:

Yoda quote anger

If we just join that quote half way through – Anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering. 

If you hold on to anger, at some stage it tends to become bitterness and eventually it will start eating you from the inside out, causing all levels of destruction and pain, which will then flow from you to the people who you care about as well.

The bottom line being ‘Deal with your anger!’ – there are various different ways of doing this and different opinions on whether it is right to do it publicly or not and i think both are right at different times.

If you have an issue with one person then typically sitting face to face with them and speaking about it is the best way to go. But there are times when writing a message and getting a response is better. And there are times [typically when the offence has been public and affected more people] where a public response is required. But do it. Find the best way and don’t let it fester. It will take you down some how.

Back to the letter

So that was dealing with the question that asked about Jesus when it came to violence and anger and perhaps we should deal with the rest of the letter in another post:

What I can’t deal with is the petty, vengeful, self serving anger that I’m seeing a lot of here on Facebook. But I dare not confront anyone about it because then I’m “tone policing” or dismissing things like “black femme rage.”

I’m left feeling a bit helpless and slightly confused over how to handle everyone’s anger. And there’s so much of it

So watch this space…