Jesus Was Not a Jerk
As the heat continues to mount in our divided society, people are beginning to resort to our most base and ridiculous natures. Though humans have never been adept at maintaining a civil approach to disagreements, what is most shocking and most upsetting is the church's participation in the mass vitriol consuming the media in our nation. Unlike what our Lord teaches throughout scripture, many in the church wish to engage the world with the same toxicity, arrogance, and foolishness. What is most heinous is the justifications that are brought to the table to such behavior. Often times, believers appeal to Christ in order to reconcile their actions with their faith, but all this does is muddy the true portrait scripture paints of Jesus, his earthly ministry, and this teachings. We are to act as ambassadors to Christ, proclaiming his truth in love and kindness. This is not negotiable for a disciple.
Christ Flipping Tables
Perhaps some of the most muddied passages that have been used by believers to support their actions are the scenes recounted in John 2, Mark 11, and Matthew 21 in which Jesus flips the tables of the merchants in the temple and precedes to the drive them out of the house of the Lord. Christ's actions here are not condoning violent reactions to a variety of different issues. It is important to note at what his anger is directed. The invasion of a market in the holy temple defiled a place of prayer and worship. Christ saw the human misuse of perhaps the greatest gift God had granted to the nation of Israel. What took place in these passages was not the actions of a disgruntled man tired of greed and oppression. In actuality, God himself purged his own temple in righteous anger and "zeal for [his] house".
Believers will often use this passage to justify unbridled anger and, especially in some recent cases, wanton violence. I think it is important to note that none of these passages describe Jesus as angry. Though he undoubtedly harbored a righteous wrath, it is clear that he does not act out of anger in the same way you or I would. He does not allow emotions to sway his decisions. Rather, he acts out of justice. The Bible makes it obvious that we should refrain from anger or from acting out in fury (Proverbs 14:29; 15:1; Ephesians 4:26; 31; Colossians 3:8). To be clear, the violence perpetuated through the riots and looting in our nation today is not encouraged or condoned by Christ in his cleansing of the temple. Stirring the pot on social media websites is not propagated by Jesus flipping tables. Acting in anger is not what a Christian should strive to do.
We hear all the time that the gospel is offensive. This mistakenly leads people to believe that they are then allowed to be rude. In Matthew 10:34-36, Jesus says, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - a man's enemies will be the members of his own household'".
This verse does make it clear that the gospel is offensive; however, the gospel is not offensive due to the manner of its presentation. It is offensive because the truth is vilified and rejected by the world. The issue is that many believers take the phrase "the gospel is offensive" as a justification to be a jerk to others who disagree. This is anti-biblical. If we are posting on social media calling others names because we think they are unintelligent or delirious, we are not promoting the gospel. If we disparage others over a disagreement, we are not acting Christ-like. God will not use us if we are offensive for the sake of being offensive. All we will be doing at that point is shouting into a void-filled echo chamber and render ourselves useless for the cause of the kingdom of God.
Horribly, sometimes believers use this mentality to propagate their own ideologies. The amount of times I have seen Christians, men and women ostensibly transformed by the power and love of Christ himself, openly mock, ridicule, and disparage others due to political and social disagreements is disgusting. Make no mistake. This is a sin that requires repentance.
What are we supposed to do?
The Bible is clear on how we are supposed to behave. Christ himself explains that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). This commandment is second greatest because loving others in such a way fulfills the whole purpose of the law in regards to how we should treat our fellow man and woman. Regardless of what we might say, nobody enjoys being mocked and ridiculed for their beliefs or opinions. It is not loving to call someone a name over Facebook.
Furthermore, Paul writes in Galatians 5:22-23 that qualities such as kindness and gentleness, among others, are fruits of the Spirit. If we are finding that our conversations, virtual or otherwise, are not sprinkled with this fruit, then we need to ask ourselves if we are allowing God to work in our lives. If we are finding it difficult to be kind or gentle, then we should come before God in prayer and ask that he empowers us to be useful ambassadors for his kingdom. We cannot allow personal ideologies to influence our behaviors in the public arena. If we allow our anger and lack of self control to determine our actions, language, and behavior, then we are seriously damaging any chance we have to be used by God.