It is no secret that our world is angry, divided and growing more so by the day. Just this week there were three events that triggered SO much emotion to spill out of people – in person and online.
Now, I work in the social, emotional, mental health world and often reiterate to my students that there is no bad feeling and that feelings need a way to come out. I stand by that statement; feelings are good and should be felt.
What is simultaneously true, however, is that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (1 Timothy chapter 1, verse 7).
So, while our feelings are natural and often arrive without our control, what is in our control is what we do with those feelings. Do we let them fester to the point that they completely consume us, or do we exercise self-control and submit them to the Lord?
I would argue that Jesus set the perfect example of how to handle human emotions and His way is to exercise self-control in the world while still demanding excellence from believers.
Jesus lived a perfect human existence, but it was not one without challenge or feeling. We have accounts in scripture of Jesus feeling sad, mad, forgiving, compassionate, and celebratory. Just knowing that our Saviour experienced the fullness of human emotion brings so much freedom!
His example on how to exercise self-control with emotions though, must be examined. When Jesus lost a friend, He cried. When Jesus was at a wedding or festival, He celebrated. When Jesus came across the struggling and sick, He had compassion and helped (we’ll come back to this point). When Jesus was angry, He was angry at so-called believers, and He flipped tables and rebuked people.
It is noteworthy, that while the accounts of Jesus’ emotions of sadness and celebration make sense – there is not much to wrestle with there – there are nuances in His anger and compassion that I think we are missing today.
The accounts of Jesus’ anger are specific to when He was angry with the religious leaders and people selling goods in the temple.
“Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ” (Matthew chapter 21, verses 12 to 13).
Jesus became righteously angry at those within the Holy Huddle. Not those outside it. He worked to keep people that were accountable to God within the expectations of holy living in both passionate deeds and actions. When He warned people of eternal separation from the Father, it was people who claimed to be following the Father – it was not the Gentiles.
So, what about those outside the Holy Huddle?
When Jesus encountered sinners, those the law would have rejected and culture would have frowned upon, He reacted in the most Jesus way – He spoke the truth in love. In order to do that though, He had to be where the people were. He saw Zacchaeus in the tree. He met the woman by the well. He went and found all the disciples while they were working.
To follow Jesus’ example, therefore, we need to leave our Holy Huddle and meet people in their mess. We need to be humble enough to be in places that would be too embarrassing to mention on Sunday mornings in order to bring the gospel. Jesus is so attractive to people, but they cannot be attracted to something that they have no interaction with.
Jesus gives clear examples for what to do when you find people who are not living in His truth. He saw, validated, and healed people that society was too afraid to approach.
When He saw Zacchaeus, His response was, “’Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’” (Luke chapter 19, verse 5). Just Jesus’ recognition and acceptance of Zacchaeus in that moment was enough to convict him of his sins and motivate an action so great that Jesus proclaimed him to have received salvation.
Truth in Love
We get so caught in the idea of being compassionate to ‘sinners’ and those outside the four walls of our churches and political clubs because we are so passionate about them being blind to the truth.
Let’s be honest, it is very difficult to be compassionate towards someone who seems determined to ignore all truth and wisdom. Yet, Jesus did just that. Even when the religious leaders brought a woman who had been caught in serial adultery, wanting Him to condemn her to death, His response was compassionate yet truthful.
“When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John chapter 8, verses 10 to 11)
Jesus first silenced the mob, pointed out the hypocrisy within the religious leaders, and then created a space to speak quietly to the woman alone. Only then was He able to speak truth to her.
We do not have account about whether the woman did indeed repent and turn from her ways, but we do have such a beautiful illustration for how to work to win people over to the truth. Silence the anger, show that you care about them as a fellow human, and then speak truth.
In a world where it is SO easy to get loud, let’s become still. Not silent, because the truth needs to be spoken, prayers need to be prayed, and battles need to be fought. Instead, let us get messy.
Let the church find ourselves in the homes of people that we do not consider within our Holy Huddle, get to know them and be the hands and feet of Jesus. Then, we can make disciples the same way that Jesus did, by inviting people to follow us rather than an internet link to a gospel track.
I started this article by writing about feelings and then digressed into how to meet people that we do not agree with in truth and love. Why? Because in a world that encourages and profits from anger, let’s reserve our displays of righteous anger for those within our walls and instead win over the world the same way that Jesus won us over. He met us in our desperate, broken hour, forgave us, then saved us.
We are called to be people of self-control, love, and truth. They are a powerful trifecta, a challenging balancing act, but a necessary combination to spread the gospel and grow the Kingdom on this side of heaven. Jesus is so attractive and the gospel is undeniable, let’s not let our big feelings stand in the way of people experiencing the most beautiful thing in the world.
The church was known for running orphanages, hospitals, caring for the poor and the widows, and then the church boomed. Let’s get back to our roots and make it uncomfortable for people to fight us – because we are busy washing their feet instead of thrashing them with our feelings.
Petro Lancaster is a school counselor in-training and a newlywed wife to her husband, Ansen, who is a worship pastor at their church in Ohio. Originating from South Africa and growing up in New Zealand has given Petro a love for all things sport and travel, and a heart for the importance of community. Writing is Petro’s way of making sense of the world around her and expressing the words God places on her heart.