This average day in church was about to be turned upside down by a visiting pastor. The scene was normal. People milling about, prayer requests being shared between friends, and most everyone slowly making their way from the entrance to the sanctuary.
There were a lot of people there, so the volume of conversation had risen well above the contemplative level, which wasn’t going to happen anyway because of the smell from all the animals present. That’s probably why the money changers had to yell their prices as loud as they did, and why the faithful were acting like this was just another public gathering space.
That’s not how the foreigners felt. Though they were welcome in this chaotic area of this first century temple, they dared not venture past the wall. It was more of a large step than a wall because no one would want to actually have such an in-your-face separation between God and the average person. But, the wall was there none the less. It was more of a sign holder, really.
Though everyone ignored the sign and pretended that the faith of these people proclaimed a God who loved everyone, the sign was there nonetheless proclaiming a very different message. Inset into the wall close to every opening was a copy of the sign that read “No foreigner is to enter this forecourt and the guardrail around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his subsequent death.” In other words, welcome.
No one is quite sure what it was that set Jesus off as he entered the temple that day. Whether it was the lack of decorum, the theft in the name of commerce, or the threat of death to the outsiders seeking God, Jesus was angry. He was outraged, and rightfully so!
He yelled, turned over tables, and drove people out with a whip because they had completely lost the point of the temple (often referred to as “the light of the world” in those days). God’s people had lost their way, and something had to be done!
That story has particular power for today because we can be confident that anger and outrage are as much gifts from God as are love and hope. God gave us all our emotions for specific purposes. Love binds us together. Hope helps us envision a future, and anger and outrage allow us to get off our backsides and do something about things that matter. They helps us effect positive change in the most important issues.
However, far too often we squander the gift of anger and outrage. We spend this precious gift on things that are far from worthy. Whether it be a sports team or a cultural non-issue, we get up in arms as if those things were worthy of one of the most powerful gifts we have.
Meanwhile, people are dying, ACTUALLY dying and no one is fighting for them. Children are getting sick from the water their parents give them and no one is creating a viral video on their behalf. Families are being forced from their homes and moving into the most horrific conditions in urban slums and no one is making a hashtag in their name. Christians are being executed and worse without a single segment on your favorite taking head news station.
That is why I am refusing to squander this gift of God this holiday season on things that do not rise to the level of holy crisis. I will not be a social media foot soldier in the war on something unimportant. I want to follow Jesus. That means getting angry and outraged about the right things, and allowing it to move me to action. Will you join me? Will you use your #holyanger for something big?