In recent months, I’ve frequently written on topics that encourage living faith out loud with love—and love’s relationship with compassion, truth, accountability, and humility. I’ve challenged readers to explore God’s character and how we can follow him well so that others experience him well. It’s not easy. Especially as our culture and the church focuses more on differences and divisiveness than unity and respect—and simultaneously excuses our harshness as bold and courageous faith and commitment to truth regardless of the consequences—we need to refrain from isolating verses that support us and ignoring or downplaying verses that make us squirm. Each time we respond—before we respond—we need to breathe. We need to yield. We need to posture ourselves well: less of me, more of God.
I cannot count the number of times in the last several months I’ve heard Christians refer to Jesus’ flipping the tables in the synagogue as justification for causing a ruckus in a situation with which they disagree (and perhaps God disagrees). Here’s the full account:
Jesus went into the temple complex and drove out all those buying and selling in the temple. He overturned the money changers’ tables and the chairs of those selling doves. And He said to them, ‘It is written, My house will be called a house of prayer. But you are making it a den of thieves!’ (Matthew 21:12-13)
The context is the treatment of the temple (synagogue, church) not the policing of all behavior throughout culture. The context is focused more on the people inside than the church (and the overseers who allowed them to market in the church) more than behavior checks outside the church. Jesus rarely gave much wiggle room to those within the church. He had firm standards for those who were claiming God’s authority. He was simultaneously firm and generously loving.
So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. When evening came, He was reclining at the table with the Twelve. While they were eating, He said, ‘I assure you: One of you will betray Me.’
Deeply distressed, each one began to say to Him, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’
He replied, ‘The one who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl—he will betray Me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.’
Then Judas, His betrayer, replied, ‘Surely not I, Rabbi?
‘You have said it,’ He told him.
As they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take and eat it; this is My body.’ Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them and said, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ (Matthew 26:19-28)
Even the betrayer ate and drank with Jesus. Even the betrayer was included in the “they” near the end of Jesus’ life. Jesus’ compassion, provision, and forgiveness extended to the betrayer. We must know the breadth of God’s character in order to reflect him. We will still get it wrong at times. We will betray his character at times, perhaps because of our misunderstanding or because of our selfishness. But we can continue to seek and know him well enough that we limit those moments.
We have a responsibility of faith.