Jesus went on a tirade.
It’s a shame a lot of people who go to church don’t realize that is a true statement. It occupies the entire 23rd chapter in Matthew’s gospel. He starts off by exposing the hypocrisy of the religious leaders’ do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do example to the people. Then He says not only will they not go to Heaven but they are blocking the way for others. He puts it in the starkest of terms when He says that those they think to lead to glory become “twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (15). Is that not saying that those He was addressing were going to hell?
Over the course of the chapter Jesus calls these wonderful people “hypocrites” seven times. He uses the phrase “Woe to you” in speaking to them seven times. He calls them “blind guides” (16 & 24), “blind fools!” (17), “blind men” (19), “blind Pharisee!” (26), “whitewashed tombs” (27), “sons of those who murdered the prophets” (31), “serpents” and “brood of vipers” (33), killers, torturers, and persecutors (34).
Whatever happened to ‘Kumbaya’?
The fact is some things are supposed to make us mad. Even followers of the loving Son of God? Oh yes. He nicknamed James and John “sons of thunder” (probably because they asked Him if He wanted them to call down fire from Heaven on the Samaritans who didn’t want Jesus coming through their town [Luke 9:54]). When Peter was reminded by the authorities that he had already been warned about teaching about Jesus (sound familiar?) he looked the “authority” squarely in the eye and said “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Ouch. When Paul and Barnabas went to Cyprus to speak to Sergius Paulus who had invited them to come to share the word of God a local magician tried to persuade Sergius to turn on them. Paul looked at the magician and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness” (among other things) and then boldly proclaimed “You will be blind and unable to see…” (Acts 13:10-11). Guess what happened?
James said, “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you” (James 5:1). John wrote “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Jude laments “these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively” (Jude 10). Whew! When you refer to some people as “unreasoning animals” you are cutting to the quick.
This is harsh talk from Jesus and the Apostles dealing with critical issues and mean and hateful people. Let me be very clear on this point. This is not the norm. There is more in the Gospels and Epistles about prayer, sacrifice, and tolerance than there is about righteous indignation. However, the New Testament makes no attempt to hide the anger and consternation of the Son of God or His followers…when warranted.
What is the common thread in nearly all the instances of New Testament righteous indignation? It’s not necessarily opposing ideologies. Neither is it some type of bad (sinful) behavior. No, in almost all the cases of holy anger in the New Testament it has to do with harm being perpetuated on others and/or preventing others from embracing faith and holiness. Crucify Jesus and He says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Think that it’s no big deal to harm children (emotionally, physically, or spiritually)? “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6 emphasis mine).
Think about that for a moment. “[C]auses…[someone] to sin.” There are three things I believe the people of God should be screaming in righteous indignation about that fits the bill of causing others to sin that we have been embarrassingly quiet on, choosing rather to bow in prayer and hold hands while singing ‘Kumbaya’ hoping that they might just go away.
First: abortion. This is pretty self-revelatory/explanatory isn’t it? Every single mother who aborts her child has been told it is her “right” to do so. Clearly the children who are aborted/killed are innocents who behold the face of their Father in Heaven. But are we not as a society causing children to sin by teaching them that abortion is their right and not a sin against the Creator of life? For forty two years there has only been a few outspoken voices decrying the abomination that is abortion. Tens of millions of babies have been chemically burned to death and torn to pieces in the womb. If the overwhelming majority of those who claim salvation in Christ were to rise up and with a very loud and harsh voice say “Enough of this nonsense!” abortion would be over in a day.
Second: redefining marriage. When you tinker with marriage you are messing around with a covenant that goes all the way back to Genesis and which was affirmed by Jesus:
Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6)
If the world in general and our nation in particular decide to ignore biblical marriage and redefine it to fit our “enlightened” minds and lust-filled hearts then we will be causing people to sin. The harm done to children as well as those toying with getting involved in sexual sin is incalculable. I have no desire to pick on homosexuals. Heterosexuals have just as many sins to bear and harm just as many children. It is time for the Church to rise up and say “Enough of this nonsense!” about all sexual immorality. Fifty Shades of Grey is just as much a redefinition of biblical sexuality as homosexuality and is just as harmful to understanding and living out marriage in a holy manner as the proposal to legalize gay marriage. Immorality causes people to sin against God no matter what kind it is. It is rampant in our culture and there is little or no collective voice of indignation from the Body of Christ about it.
Finally: ISIS. I realize that martyrdom has been with us since the crucifixion of Christ. It has never gone away. But in America we have enjoyed several centuries where very little of it has taken place in our sight. It is to our shame that we have been silent while Christians all over the world have been persecuted with little more than an occasional prayer offered up by us. Beheadings, immolations, mutilations, and other forms of cruelty are now being filmed and delivered to us with the guarantee of more to come. Do you hear the crickets chirp in the pulpits across America concerning this issue? This is not a jihad against any particular country’s “citizens.” These are our fellow Christians being targeted and murdered. Good grief, we bicker back and forth in this country about the most humane means of capital punishment (and whether it should even exist) while ISIS pours gasoline on people or uses rusty hunting knives to saw off a Christian’s head on camera! When will the Church scream to the top of its voice “Enough of this nonsense!”?
Brothers and sisters of the faith…there are some things that by their nature warrant a tirade from loving and meek Christians. Jesus was the most tolerant and forgiving Man ever. But if you will read the Gospels you will find that even He had a limit. The same can be said for His disciples. Whenever it is possible we absolutely should join hand and hearts to pray for those we disagree with. I am fully aware of "love your enemies" and "judge not." But I refuse to ignore Matthew 23 either. Or the numerous times that someone's desire or behavior was going to cause another person to sin. In some cases, as with the Pharisees, an out and out tirade is the most loving thing to do. You know why? There is a little statement in the book of Acts that speaks of "some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees" (Acts 15:5). Did you catch that? Pharisees who believed in Jesus? Yes! Apparently, some of them took to heart what He said in His tirade against them and changed their minds and their course.
I’m not going to hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya’ any more over abortion, marriage, or ISIS. I’ve had enough of this nonsense and I hope the Church at large has too. It’s time for a loud and long Christian tirade over these matters of the same kind as that found in Matthew 23.