Though a natural emotion, anger can be difficult to express, and it seems to exist in two extremes. Too often we worry about hurting others and hold our anger in, or we don’t worry about how our anger affects others, and we lash out, leaving behind a trail of pain. Yet, by looking to Christ, we can learn how to effectively communicate our anger without being cruel or vindictive.
Matthew 21:1-17 details the account of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his arrival at the Jewish temple. Once entering the temple, he overthrew the tables and cast out the buyers and sellers. Then, he remained in the temple healing the blind and the lame until he left the city after a confrontation with the chief priests. Through this story, however, Christ demonstrates five specific techniques in expressing his anger that we can apply to our lives today.
Christ’s Anger Was Immediate
By looking at this story as a whole, we can see that Christ’s anger was immediate. Christ was just welcomed into Jerusalem. The people had seemingly accepted him. Therefore, Christ went from his triumphal entry, a joyous moment, to angrily tossing tables in the temple, almost immediately.
We would do well to follow his example. Yet too often, we find ourselves waiting for the appropriate moment to adequately express ourselves, but the moment never comes, and we never say how we truly feel. But Christ didn’t wait until next month’s board meeting to say how he felt, and we shouldn’t either. We should follow the examples set forth in scripture (Ephesians 4:26) and in Christ, himself, and release our anger immediately.
Christ’s Anger Was Not a Respecter of Persons and/or Situations
Christ flipped over the tables of the moneychangers in the Jewish temple with the chief priests in attendance. So essentially, Jesus’s display of anger is the modern day equivalent of someone throwing a temper tantrum in the church, or as my mother would put it, “in front of God and everybody.”
When we are angry, how often do we scan the room before we speak? And if we spot someone of importance, do we swallow our anger and smile instead? We’ve all heard that it’s wise to act in “the proper time and place,” but as Christ demonstrates here, time and place are often insignificant. It is often better for us to let our anger out than to hold it in.
Christ’s Anger Was an Equal and Opposite Reaction
Newton’s Third Law of Physics claims that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Although I wasn’t an ace in science, I do see this scientific law at work in this scripture.
Jesus hadn’t yet been crucified for our sins; therefore, Jewish practitioners of faith still had to atone for their sin via animal sacrifice. So we can infer that the animals in the story were being sold for this purpose. As we learned in the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4), God took pleasure in these sacrifices and wanted the petitioner to sacrifice the greatest of his flock or harvest (i.e. the sacrifice must COST something). This is what established an authentic connection between the petitioner and God. However, by charging for sacrificial animals, the sellers were (1) profiting off the sins of the people and (2) the people were no longer sacrificing the best of their herd (which probably would have cost them a lot more than shelling out a few bucks for someone else’s mediocre lamb). But God didn’t ask for mediocre; he asked for the best. Therefore, the people here were simply going through the motions, feigning a relationship with God, and since the people had pushed God away through their actions, Christ threw them out of the temple—see? An equal and opposite reaction.
Now that we understand the people’s sin, it helps us better understand Christ’s anger. Christ wasn’t angry over something trivial. His explosive anger was the result of a detrimental sin, one that had the potential to lead his people astray. So I think the lesson for us here is to weigh each situation and see what type of reaction it calls for.
I realize that many of you may be thinking, “Whoa, but I thought you said, Christ’s anger was immediate, and ours should be too?” Touché. I did say that. However, unlike Christ, we do not know the hearts of those around us, so it may be wise to take a brief moment and consider the transgression’s gravity. Still, this should only take a few minutes, not weeks, months, or years.
Christ’s Anger Was Targeted
Often, when we are angry, we will take our anger out on others. Yet, as Christ demonstrates at the temple, our anger should be targeted on the offender. It is here we see his self-control.
Christ did not lose it on the people in attendance that day. Scripture tells us that he even went on to heal the lame and the blind (verse 14). Christ let go of any residual anger he may have had and focused on helping those who came to him, which brings me to my final point.
Christ Moved On From His Anger
Christ didn’t hold on to his anger for days. He didn’t rally people. When the lame and the blind came to him, he didn’t tell them to go away or that he wasn’t in the mood to help them anymore. No, he continued his work. Yet how often in our anger do we abandon God’s work? Often times, we even belittle the person who hurt us. We spit rumors about them into the ears of others that not only ruin that person’s reputation but also have the potential to damage our listener’s spirit.
Instead of gossiping about that person or running away from them, we should take a cue from scripture and confront them (Mark 11:25).
Call to Action
Through Christ’s example, one can see anger as a natural, human emotion. We should not attempt to hide our anger but follow Christ’s example as he expressed himself without shame or fear. Only by looking to him can we adequately express ourselves and relate to others. I hope you will put some of these techniques into practice as you strive to express Christ-like anger.
Written by Kayla Shown-Dean
Bio: Kayla Shown-Dean is a Student Development Specialist at Arkansas State University in Beebe and a volunteer youth leader at the Searcy Church of the Nazarene. She is also the author of the upcoming Ferocity Series, Muted, and Autumn Leaflets: a Collection of Poetry. On her summers off, Kayla will most likely be found outdoors spending time with her husband and son, going on long walks with the family dog, or working in the vegetable garden.