Being Bold

Jesus was humble and gentle with sinners. And Jesus was bold in standing up for the broken, the hurting and the poor.

He was the embodiment of both the holiness of God and the love of God. His boldness in standing up for the poor is the other side of the coin of His love for them. Jesus expressed His love for the poor in vigorous action. How do we know this? Because Jesus drove the moneylenders from the Temple.

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” He said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Matthew 21:12-13 NIV)

This has been called Jesus' righteous indignation. Jesus' life among us was the embodiment of God's heart. And God's heart is both holy and loving. God is both just and merciful. God is rightfully indignant when His children are oppressed by others' sin and greed.

You can oppose and attack me all you want, and I'll do my best to turn the other cheek. That's Christlike. But my dad heart is riled up if you hurt one of my children. My husband heart flares in anger if you attack my wife. My pastor heart burns with passion, and I go into defend mode if the wolves comes after the flock.

In driving out the money changers and those selling doves, Jesus was defending the poor against a corrupt Temple system that made money from them.

The money changers exchanged Roman coins for Temple coins in order for the people to pay the annual Temple Tax prescribed in the Law of Moses to support the ministry of prayer and sacrifices for sin. The Temple Tax was not unjust or evil. But the money changers made profit from the exchange, and the Law specifically forbade charging interest to one's fellow Jews.

Those selling doves were making available the sacrificial animals needed for the poor to make atonement for their sins. The money they charged for the doves was taken directly from the pockets of the poor, and was often higher than necessary so those selling the doves could make maximum profit.

Jesus makes it clear: His Father's house is a house of prayer, and they were making it a den of thieves. In holy justice and holy love, Jesus set things right.

What does that mean for disciples of Jesus Christ who want to love like Jesus loves? I believe it means we are both loving and just to vigorously address what grieves the heart of God. It is a good thing for God's people to pray, "Break my heart for what breaks yours."

It is a holy and loving thing to stand against human trafficking. It was committed Christians who were in the forefront of the abolition of slavery. It expresses the just and loving heart of God when we provide counseling and support for women with unwanted pregnancies. And it is loving like Jesus loves to treat people on the ragged edges of poverty and brokenness with respect and love.

I believe that we must be constantly prayerful and humble in being bold for Jesus. Every expression of social justice can cross the line from standing up for a victim to demonizing the oppressor. In our zeal, we can become the oppressors of those we perceive to be part of the systems of oppression. It is neither helpful nor holy, in my opinion, to divide the world into us vs. them and demonize "them" to justify our own opinions. Only the Holy Spirit can guide us to speak truth to power with tears in our eyes, and not just anger in our hearts.

So when we find ourselves angry at injustice, it is a reflection of the holy love of our God. There is a time and a place for protest against and opposition to the things that harm God's children (of any age). It is not wrong to burn with anger at the abuse of children or at domestic violence or at any number of other injustices we see in our fallen world.

The challenge, it seems to me, is to "be angry, but do not sin." (Ephesians 4:26 NKJV) When I am angry, it is time to pray to ask God what to do with the anger. Sometimes the Holy Spirit has said to me, "forgive them," (when I am angry at some wrong that has been done to me). Sometimes the Holy Spirit has said, "oppose them," (when I am angry at some wrong that victimizes God's children). Sometimes the Holy Spirit has said, "help them," (when wounded people are wounding other people out of their woundedness).

In following Jesus' example, we love like Him when we rightly oppose injustice with the Holy Spirit of Jesus directing the way. God, break my heart for what breaks yours, and direct me to take bold action to do the right thing in the right way at the right time. Because left to myself, I am prone to make matters worse by standing by and doing nothing, or by overreacting and causing more harm.

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