Archive | Ministry Pet Peeves

Naïve supporters of broken ministries

I had the chance to read an email exchange between two people that I did not know who were both associated with ministries I did not know. One person was pointing out to a staff person at a church that a ministry they supported had actually been involved in child abuse and financial bad dealings. The accusation was well documented and definitely not hearsay, and the email was politely worded. The response she received back was rude, defensive, and illogical. Though I didn’t know who the people were or the ministries with which they were associated, that email exchange did remind me of something that I’ve observed again and again since my youth growing up in conservative Christianity. Every ministry reaches a crossroads—where at some point you have a growing number of critics pointing out serious problems in your ministry. Only a precious few of those ministries will believe strongly enough in their own need to self examine and self correct (and make restitution) to do the right thing that will ensure their survival as a HEALTHY ministry. The vast majority has the same corporate human nature that we individually do. They choose a misguided notion of self-preservation over self-examination and correction. They want to preserve their momentum, so even good people who aren’t the actual perpetrators of institutional sin will attempt to minimize the bad done, sweeping it under the carpet, pacifying who they can without actually dealing with the issue. They choose to think of their critics as persecutors, which leads them to insulate from the sin of others outside their camp and avoid self examination of the much more dangerous sin within the camp. They don’t realize that the SIN WITHIN will destroy them and that their acts of self-preservation will actually be the beginning of the end for their ministry. Every leader of a successful ministry will at some point have to choose between doing the right thing (dealing with sin correctly even if it means slowing down and potentially undermining growth for a season) or the expedient thing (ignoring sin issues in your history, pretending it isn’t so bad, and that it doesn’t hurt as many people as it really does).

As I think about the email exchange I read involving the naïve supporter rudely defending an obviously bad idea, I thought about why so many of us in a ministry have such a hard time facing the obvious. Here are my observations from watching this from the sidelines with several major ministries—including churches, schools, and other parachurch organizations.

For so many of us, we don’t really believe something THAT bad is going on or is even possible until it happens to US. “Surely the people complaining are just bitter gossips. So much GOOD is happening here. How could something that bad really be true?” Sometimes even when it happens to us, we’re in denial. It’s much like the old story of the Emperor who is wearing no clothes. The power of getting labeled stupid or incompetent keeps everyone (even himself) from admitting that he truly is wearing no clothes. Our coping mechanisms for ignoring the obvious when our security is threatened are fascinating. Disturbing, but fascinating.

To build on the last point, we’re insecure. We can’t handle the truth. We don’t deal with sin because we are afraid of admitting it is even there. It threatens us. And it certainly threatens us when the sin we need to acknowledge involves people or ministries that make us feel safe from the world. The exposure of sin threatens us because we don’t simultaneously believe that the gospel is an effective antidote for that sin. We are more afraid of exposing sin than confident in the gospel’s remedy for it.

Most of all, we’re afraid of undermining all the good, happy, or safe things we enjoy if we face head on the facts of the problems. We don’t really understand the nature of sin. Because sin unaddressed and unrestrained will destroy everything it touches until it is exposed.

Here is the hard truth of life. You HAVE to deal with sin. And you HAVE to deal with it with the gospel. And this hard truth applies EVERYWHERE. In your marriage, you have to deal with sin in light of the gospel. With your children, you have to deal with sin in light of the gospel. In your church, your Christian college, or your parachurch organization, you have to deal with institutional or individual sin in light of the gospel. It doesn’t matter how much good you perceive you or your particular ministry has done or is doing, you have to face its mistakes and shortcomings head on and DEAL with it. Exposing sin apart from the gospel and the hope Christ gives us for putting it to death is horrible. It destroys. But ignoring sin for fear of that destruction devastates us at a soul deep level too. Both are equally destructive. There is a third way, distinct from each, to which God calls us. Face it. Admit it. Even if you are afraid it will destroy you. Ask forgiveness. Seek to correct it. Humble yourself before those you have sinned against. Sit in the shadow of the cross for a season and meditate on how it allows you to be honest about your sin so that it no longer defines who you are. And then get up and go in a new direction in light of it all.

Naïve supporter of a broken ministry, the emperor really doesn’t have any clothes on, and though you think you’ll get labeled incompetent or stupid (or in Christian circles, rebellious) to admit it out loud, he’ll ignore his own nakedness and never put on real clothes until someone who loves him risks the label to tell him the truth.

Psalm 141:5
Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head;
let my head not refuse it.
Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.

Proverbs 27:6
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Wheat, Chaff, Fool, Wise, Sheep, Dog, and Wolf

In the grand scheme of spiritual authority figures, I am nobody. I am a wife and mom who teaches math part time at the local community college. I wrote some books. People seemed to like them. And I have a blog that some have enjoyed reading. But that’s it. This blog remains a lecture to myself. Today’s post is something I want to document long term for myself—working out my own convictions on an issue that troubles me much, how we categorize people within and without the Body of Christ. Speaking harshly to people based on false Biblical categories is a sacred cow for some spiritual leaders. I can’t do anything about that, but I do feel free to articulate my personal convictions here. You are welcome to read along.

The Bible mentions lots of types of people. Wheat, chaff, fool, wise, natural, spiritual, shepherd, sheep, dog, swine, wolf. Each of those categories is mentioned a few times in passing. Other than the foolish man and the spiritual man, about which the Bible is pretty specific, we are given very general impressions of these categories without much in the way of identifiable traits for each. In other words, the Bible does not set these categories up with clear-cut boundaries.

There is a single category in Scripture with clear-cut boundaries, about which all of Scripture circulates, and it is the elect. This category is easily defined—the elect are known by the gospel. Period. “If you will confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). And the evidence of a correct understanding of the gospel is love. “By this will all men know you are my disciples, that you love one another” (John 13:35). So there is the verbal articulation of the gospel that defines the elect, and there is the practical outpouring of the gospel that is evidence of the elect. All of Scripture centers on the relationship of this singular category of people to their God and each other.

What about the other categories? Most importantly, they are all simply analogies, and none are absolute. Except for one case in Acts, all the Scripture on wolves in particular use the phrase like or as. In other words, it’s an analogy with helpful parallels. I generally know there are people who won’t receive truth (swine), and there comes a point where I should no longer throw my pearls of spiritual ministry in their direction. I also know that there are some who distort the truth of the gospel (wolves), and I must watch out for them diligently. But dog, wolf, sheep, or swine are not dogmatic categories in which we can put people and lock the door. You could say that Paul was a wolf before he walked the Damascus Road. Then he became a shepherd. But at both points, he was elect. Then there is Peter, who was both shepherding the sheep and bearing the rebuke of Paul as a wolf for his legalistic view of the gospel possibly at the very same time.

There are many pitfalls to making hard and fast categories of people, especially when we assign ourselves different obligations to each. The primary pitfall is that such categories simply give us an excuse to sin against people who are hard for us to love. I’ve watched it again and again and again throughout my history in the church. If I categorize someone as swine, dogs, or wolves, I’m off the hook. I don’t have to speak the truth in love. I don’t have to bear long in love. My words don’t have to minister grace to the hearer. I can give voice to my sinful anger problem.

Scripture does give us categories that are hard and fast. And our instructions for how to talk to someone in these categories are equally spelled out in Scripture. There are the evidently elect—those brothers and sisters in Christ who claim the gospel for themselves. And Ephesians 4 is clear—crystal, sparkling clear—on how we speak to each other in His Body, be it husband, wife, parent, child, slave, master, or any other relationship within the church. We are to be humble and gentle, bearing long in love. We speak the truth but within the constraints of love articulated in I Corinthians 13. We speak to minister grace, not condemnation, to the hearer. And we forgive as Christ has forgiven us.

Scripture is equally clear on how to relate to those who are not evidently elect, even those who are not just passively unbelieving but are actively opposing us.

2 Timothy 2 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

It is noteworthy that the rebukes of Scripture most often used to justify harsh speech center around one consistent theme—the gospel itself. Paul’s classic rebuke in Galatians is fully about the gospel. In contrast, we often choose much lesser topics as the line in the sand over which we will harshly, sarcastically rebuke. We also project onto our reading of Paul’s rebuke in Galatians a tone based on our own desire to justify our anger problems. I wrote about the unbiblical idea of righteous anger in another post that generated thoughtful discussion. Did Paul violate his own instructions to Timothy when he rebuked Peter to his face? I don’t think so. Paul himself is concerned about his tone in Galatians 4:20. Elsewhere, Scripture is clear that the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God (James 1:20). Scripture is the best commentary on itself, and Paul likely obeyed his own, Spirit-inspired instructions to Timothy, even when the gospel was at stake. And we should too. Speak the truth. In love. With gentleness (strength under control). With patience. Not rudely.

You don’t need to be rudely caustic to strongly rebuke. The rudely caustic rebuke has only one goal – to win its point. It is always at the expense of the heart of the one being rebuked. When your point trumps their heart, you have truly lost the battle. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you have somehow preserved the gospel when your very presentation of it denies the gospel’s own core values of love and grace to those least deserving of it.

Certainly, we all experience anger. Paul’s wording in Ephesians 4 indicates that anger doesn’t HAVE to turn sinful. It needs to be pored out to God in prayer (as the Psalms regularly demonstrate). We either bring it to God in prayer where it is transformed by His grace into something He can use, or we will be doomed by it, giving Satan a foothold to destroy the work of God in our homes and our churches. But don’t be fooled into thinking that anger can ever accomplish a righteous outcome. That’s just ignoring Scripture to justify an anger problem.

There are fools. A lot of them. There are also pigs, dogs, and wolves. And there are stupid sheep. But if I really get Ephesians 2, I know that I was by nature the fool, the pig, the dog, and the wolf, justly deserving of God’s wrath. And I now know the antidote for that kind of behavior—grace through faith in Christ. And I know, as the great wolf Saul who then became Paul did, that it is not of my own works that I no longer subvert the gospel and seek to scatter the sheep, but the gift of God’s grace lavished on me so undeserving. Then and only then am I equipped to turn to my opponent and be a conduit of God’s grace to him or her. And it is only God’s grace that will save them. They may be my opponent, but they are not my enemy. As Paul tells Timothy, my opponent is the prisoner of my enemy, “captured by him to do his will.” Be clear on this – we have one singular enemy, and he is not flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). God forbid I accept the grace God has lavished on me that freed me from my chains of slavery, yet withhold it from the next person because they seem so undeserving of grace and deserving of harshness. But for the lavish grace of God, there go I. That is the gospel.

Legalism in Any Culture

Secular or religious, legalism occurs in unique forms in every culture. Religious legalism involves the belief that salvation or sanctification can be gained through personal good works. Secular legalists judge theirs or others’ conduct by their adherence to particular laws or standards. I was raised in the south. There is southern secular legalism. There is southern religious legalism. I now live in Seattle. And there is much legalism here. It surprised me – leaving southern, religious legalism, I simply did not expect the legalism I’d find in the Pacific Northwest. But it is alive and well in Seattle in particular. In the secular form, there is a strong belief in moral improvement. They may define morality a bit differently than in the south, yet their version of morality is still laudable. Environmental responsibility. Care for the poor. Racial reconciliation. And they are very good at judging others based on how well they adhere to those high standards. But the Pacific Northwest religious legalist is most interesting–and disturbing–of all.

We’re cutting edge. We’re cultural. We have cool music. But we are as legalistic as anyone anywhere. What really separates us in disturbing ways is that we preach against others’ legalisms, picking at the speck in their eyes, with complete ignorance of the beam in our own. Some people are legalists because they value legalism. They want to be moral, and they think they can be moral on their own if they are really diligent at it. That’s fair. Wrong, but fair. But when you, in theory, know from Scripture that you can’t be moral on your own and you can recognize the inept attempts of others to earn their righteousness on their own, and yet you miss it so clearly in your own life, it is the epitome of Matthew 7. And Christ warns against it in STRONG terms. Don’t do this!! Don’t diagnose the problems in others’ lives while missing the ones in your own. It doesn’t work. It’s destructive. Christ warns us against this for a very good reason.

The grand hallmark of all religious legalism is that the legalist never realizes that the greatest threat to his morality is WITHIN HIMSELF. So he (or she) warns against particular elements of culture or the negative influence of certain types of people. He/she (me) doesn’t recognize personal pride as the greater evil that destroys even the isolated one living within strict cultural boundaries. It’s why The Village is such a great commentary on religious legalism. No matter how hard they worked to cut themselves off from the world, they couldn’t protect themselves from the evil within themselves.

Run, friend. Run hard. Run fast. Away from the Christian leader/speaker/preacher who preaches harder against the culture without than the sin within. He or she is leading you astray, and the false sense of accomplishment you get as you “discern” the evils of society will distract you from the sin that will destroy you, the proud self-righteousness within that mocks the cross (because it makes you think you don’t need the cross as much as the next guy) and which God despises. Pride destroys. Despise it. Beware of it. Run from it. Diagnose why it invades your psyche. It reveals the worst theological belief system possible – the one that says my greatest enemy is the culture outside the walls of my safety zone. Because in that system, YOU don’t need Christ. THEY do. And that mentality will suck the life out of you. Your good choices won’t save your children. Your involvement in a certain ministry won’t gain you spiritual blessings. Your adherence to your church’s marriage class methods won’t guard your marriage. Your strict book reading guidelines won’t heal you, your spouse, your kids, or your relationships. Your morality won’t save you. Only Christ will. Get it straight. And be very wary of others whose attempts at morality apart from Christ alone distract you from abiding in Him.

Numbers v. Fruit

I am daily tempted to judge my and others’ ministries by an unbiblical notion of spiritual fruit. I feel a ministry is more fruitful if large numbers attend a retreat, check out its blog, buy their book, or attend their services. But the truth from Scripture is that numbers are distinctly different from spiritual fruit. I’m not going to say it’s wrong to be excited over numbers – it’s just wrong to call it FRUIT. Biblical fruit is significantly different.

I get sucked into an earthly mentality of success as easily as anyone. The thing that corrects my thinking time and time again is Jesus’ example. By our fallen notion of fruit and numbers, His ministry was sadly ineffective. He seems content at times to alienate the crowd instead of courting them. He even advocates in Matthew 18 leaving the 99 to pursue the 1! He mainly invests in 12, but most of all in just 3. And when He’s hanging on the cross in His darkest hour, only 1 of the twelve sticks it out with Him. Yet Jesus defines a truly fruitful ministry for us by His example. Paul further clarifies it for us in Galatians 5. Fruitfulness is not numbers; it’s love. It’s not facebook fans; it’s peace. It’s not blog hits; it’s joy. It’s not Sunday attendance or offering totals; it’s patience. The Bible sets the idea of spiritual fruit on a totally different axis than our natural one.

Ministries that get this backwards are like top-heavy trees with minimal root systems. They pursue growth in numbers at the expense of the minority that should become the mature leaders rooted deeply and supporting others.  That kind of tree looks good on the outside but blows over in the storm every time. Such churches/ministries/individuals become willing to sacrifice the 1 for what they perceive will benefit the 99. If one person becomes too much work, they justify cutting them off. They are just dead weight, right? They are holding up progress. But the truth is once you are willing to sacrifice the call to bear long in love with one, you’ll do it with many other ones. And the ones add up. Effective ministry like Christ is successive ministries to ONES. Ministries that cut off the one for the sake of the 99 often miss the fact that over time, the ONES that they cut off start to add up – to something like 99. In the pursuit of ministry to others, they missed the one right in front of them to whom they were first called to minister.   A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, or something like that. 

As a very personal application, a correct view of Biblical fruit frees me to value what goes on day in and day out with my three in my home over the affirmation I get from this blog and my books. I at times feel seduced toward a focus on my outside ministries at the expense of my ministry at home. I get a LOT more affirmation and words of encouragement through the blog than I do from my 3 and 5 year old. Ministry to the ONES in my life is hard and requires forbearing, long-term patience and love. I’m in it for the long haul, and when I’m invested, I have hope of seeing real fruit – the way God defines it – in myself and/or my family.

I must value deep investing in one over minimal investment in 100. I MUST! That’s not to say the other isn’t valuable, but numbers are NOT the fruit of the Spirit. They are not the evidence of God’s work, and you have to deny Scripture to make them so. I often must figuratively leave the 99 to pursue the 1 as God did for me—in faith that God’s vision of fruit is more effective long term than mine.
For a great series on what spiritual fruit really is and how it is accomplished, I recommend the sermon series, New Lives: Fruit of the Spirit.


Who first feminized the church?

I read a recent blog article on the current trend in conservative evangelical churches against the “feminization of the church.” That phrasing has always left me uncomfortable. I’ve downplayed my concerns for years, but I think that was wrong on my part. Why? Really, it’s the same reason that I don’t accept cries against a masculine view of God. God speaks of Himself in masculine terms (the occasional feminine one, but overwhelmingly in masculine, husbandly, fatherly terms). But at the same time, the very first person to speak of the church in feminine terms was God Himself through His inspired Word. Throughout the Old Testament, Scripture uses feminine imagery for God’s people (such as the entire book of Hosea). In the New Testament, it is starkly clear and unavoidable in Ephesians 5. Like it or not, you and I, male and female, are part of the corporate BRIDE of Christ. And there is a reason God speaks of it that way. God wants us to understand something of our relationship with Him through this terminology.

The truth from Scripture is that God first feminized the church! And we conservative evangelicals need to just deal with it. As a woman, I have little sympathy for men who squirm with discomfort at the idea that they are part of the Bride of Christ. Do you know how many HARD, UNCOMFORTABLE things Scripture says to women? I daily have to wrestle with God to submit to His vision for me when it conflicts with my own for myself. Respect? Submit? You can try to paint them in glorious tones but the truth is that these are hard, hard concepts for women to embrace. Yet embrace them we must for our good and God’s glory. There’s a part of me that feels like telling men to just “man up” when it comes to dealing with the imagery from Ephesians 5. “Buck it up. Deal with it. We women have to do it ALL the time with Scripture. You can too.” You can hear the grace oozing out of that response, right?! (That was sarcasm.) I, of course, don’t tell men that. Actually, I don’t attempt to tell men much of anything. But I am mentioning it to myself on this blog. I know some men read along, and I hope that you can hear this and just be caused to think.

When conservative, complementarian evangelicals (of which I am one) use the phrase “feminization of the church” in a negative sense, they are usually talking about types of songs or preaching, maybe the style of dress or decorations in the sanctuary. But I’m afraid part of the by-product is downplaying the significance of how God Himself in His inspired Word talks of us in relationship with Him. Maybe there is something about the inherent nature of our relationship with God that is easier understood by a woman than a man. I feel for men who struggle with being the Bride of Christ. I am thankful that analogy brings me comfort and peace. It has, in fact, brought me MUCH comfort and peace over the years. I understand what Paul is teaching through that analogy in Ephesians, and I am blessed by it. I am sorry that for a lot of men that analogy is uncomfortable and even threatening. But I still think it’s unhealthy to downplay it.

If conservative evangelicals want to refocus ministry efforts toward men who have often been overlooked, we need another rallying cry than one against the “feminization of the church.” Scripture feminizes the church! You can’t hold tightly to the Word of God in one hand and decry the way Scripture talks of the Body from the other. I’ve heard the idea that if you get the man into church, you get his wife and family as well. That is true. But if you get the man into church while downplaying and even mocking how Scripture speaks of his corporate identity in the Bride of Christ, what happens to his wife and family in the church as a result is not necessarily a good thing.

*This is a charged issue. If you want to comment, please be respectful – no piling on!! And if you want to push back, that’s fine too. I can take it. But no attacks against specific people or ministries, please.*

Hope for the Angry Spiritual Leader

I originally titled this post, “So easily inconsistent.” And I am soooo easily inconsistent.

My last blog post on the problem with angry spiritual authority figures struck a nerve. Maybe not the most hits ever on this blog, but pretty close. What was most interesting to me was the commenter who had both struggled with his own anger and had angry authority figures direct their anger at him. He understood it from both perspectives and pointed out to me that while I was claiming a lack of gospel grace as the problem with the angry man, I wasn’t aiming that same gospel grace back toward the angry man as his hope for real change.

He was right, and I was convicted. It’s a major tenet of this blog – grace is meaningless without truth, but truth will KILL you without grace. I spoke the truth – pastors and elders with anger problems don’t meet the qualifications of I Timothy 3, and their accountability structures need to remove them from office. Their capability for spiritual abuse is phenomenal and will destroy the work of Christ. But if you have an anger problem and read that indictment apart from the parallel application of gospel grace to yourself, it will destroy you.

So is there hope for the angry spiritual leader? This guy has left many in the wake of his angry destruction. If you’ve run into him or, even worse, been the object of his wrath, you likely just want him out of office. You just want his abuse to STOP. And graceless pressure may do just that. But I think Christ calls us to want more than that, more than JUST the end of his abuse. Christ calls us to believe in transformation. As Paul teaches in Ephesians 4, the gospel doesn’t equip us just to put off the sin but also to put on the opposite righteous action. You don’t just stop lying. You start telling the truth. You don’t just stop stealing. You start to give what is yours to the needy. The angry man who goes through gospel transformation doesn’t just stop abusing. He transforms through humble repentance (not worldly sorrow that only feels discomfort for getting caught in his sin) and becomes a new man who now does the complete opposite of verbal and/or physical violence, perhaps actually advocating for victims of abuse.

If your goal is just stopping bad behavior, we are on different pages. I have a greater hope than that, and it is radical transformation into a new creature. If that is your hope too, then what do you do with the spiritual authority figure that violates the qualifications in I Timothy 3? It’s fairly simple. You take it to your authority structure (in my case, a plurality of elders). Scripture has constraints on this. It needs to be an established, documented issue. If you didn’t witness it, you can’t bring it forward. And it needs to be established by multiple witnesses all of whom are first person witnesses. Hearsay and gossip are absolutely not OK.

What if your authority structure is OK with pastoral anger? What if they don’t feel it violates the qualifications of an elder/pastor/leader? Then you are at a crossroads. I Tim. 3:3 includes both drunkenness and anger as disqualifications of an elder. It may be valuable to think through how you would react if a pastor had an alcohol problem. What if he was drunk (maybe just twice a year, but drunk nonetheless)? I don’t know what to tell you except that at some point, ignoring the qualifications set up in I Timothy 3 undermines the value of the office altogether. You can’t ask people to submit to church leadership if we don’t submit to the Scriptural constraints that set them up as leaders in the first place.

There are many godly, humble, gospel centered shepherds out there all across the world. Many, many, many! God has not left us as orphans. And God calls us to value the truth they speak into our lives. God Himself set up the office of pastor/elder. And He did it because He loves us. But He also did it with restraints. And it is to our great benefit to deeply respect His own limitations on this office in the church.

Beware the anger of man that attempts to produce the righteousness of God.

Angry, abusive men flourish in some conservative Christian circles, particularly in Christian fundamentalism. For some reason, conservative Christianity provides a fairly safe place for them to sin. I’ve been thinking about why that happens. And I have a few thoughts.

Conservative Christians hate sin and value authority structures. And I concur with those sentiments. Sin is THE problem with the world, and I hate it. God set up authority structures in the Christian community as a means of His GRACE and GOODNESS in our lives (this sermon is particularly good on this subject). I value God’s authority structure deeply. But we can hate sin and value authority to the point that we sin in our hatred and sin in our authority. Sin in defense of both of these ideas happens with sickening regularity in conservative Christianity, and it is as wrong and destructive to the kingdom of God as anything we’re trying to react against.

Thankfully, Scripture clearly addresses these issues.

James 1:19-20 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

This is a profound warning. Man’s anger does not produce the righteousness of God. Don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking that an angry rant against sin is any less sinful than the original sin itself. That is unbiblical thinking.

The authority figure that wants to justify his sinful anger will often cite Jesus overturning the moneychangers’ tables in the temple as justification. But this act was particularly about revealing Himself as the Son of God with the authority to do exactly what He was doing (read the reactions of His disciples and the Pharisees in every one of the gospels – they all marvel at His AUTHORITY). Claiming this particular act of His as justification for angry rants of righteous indignation is COMPLETELY without merit. It’s like claiming you can forgive sins because Jesus does in Mark 2. Or that you can heal a blind man because He does in John 9. Each of those acts are particular things that Jesus did that established His identity as God and His authority as His Son. And He does NOT call us to do the same. There is no command anywhere in Scripture that even remotely comes close to justifying a turning-tables-in-the-temple response by you or I.

Yet, we are called to be like Christ. But we must let Scripture define what that looks like as well.

Phil. 2:3-8 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Be very wary of the teacher or spiritual authority figure that doesn’t get this distinction!

The Scripture at times allows for anger, but it commands that if you are angry, don’t sin with it. The context of that instruction in Ephesians 4 is our language. So if you are angry, deal with it before it exits your lips. Angry speech never ministers grace to the hearer. It doesn’t “produce” anything righteous. Instead it sucks grace out of the room. Ephesians 4 is clear on this. Nowhere does Scripture EVER say that anger accomplishes any good for God’s Kingdom. Nowhere!! And Scripture does actually say the exact opposite – that man’s anger definitely does NOT accomplish God’s righteousness.

You can get angry and not sin. In other words, you can maintain the status quo if you control your anger and keep your mouth shut. But you cannot get angry and positively move yourself or others in righteousness. Anger submitted to God can morph into something God can use. But it must transform – perhaps into resolution, resolve, or conviction but always submitted to the constraints of Biblical language – before it can have any use in God’s kingdom.

So our first problem is that we conservative Christians hate sin and have bought into the lie (that is directly contradicted in Scripture) that “righteous anger” actually accomplishes anything righteous. The second problem is that we, rightfully, value God’s authority structures. I won’t write out the Biblical restraints that Scripture enforces on it’s own God ordained authority structures because I just did in a recent blog post. But we need to understand that God not only sets up authority structures, He also sets them up with restraints. On this particular issue, God specifically says that a man is disqualified from holding the office of an elder if he has an anger problem. The Amplified Bible is insightful on the qualifications of elders.

1 Timothy 3:3 (Amplified Bible) … not combative but gentle and considerate, not quarrelsome but forbearing and peaceable, and not a lover of money [insatiable for wealth and ready to obtain it by questionable means].

Angry men shouldn’t be elders. God knows that authority can be abused, and His restraint on the office of elder/pastor is that men known for their verbal anger or physical violence are not to be trusted with such authority.

If you hate sin and realize that “righteous anger” isn’t the answer, what is it that equips you to change?

Titus 2:11-13 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

It is the preaching of gospel grace that disciples us in righteousness! Gospel grace trains us to renounce sin and to replace it with godly living. Beware the spiritual authority figure who doesn’t understand that GRACE is God’s chosen method for dealing with sin and turning man toward righteousness. He doesn’t believe in the power of the gospel, grace seems wimpy, and he takes it into his own hands to bring about righteous change. He has an anger problem. But more importantly, he has a gospel problem.

“Righteous anger” is reserved by God for the day of judgment, and it is His and His alone to use. Beware the spiritual authority figure who uses such faulty reasoning from Scripture to justify his anger problem. He is not qualified to hold spiritual office, and it is not becoming to Biblical Christianity to allow him to. If we want to be more than just conservative Christians and actually be Biblical Christians, we need to honestly assess ourselves and obey Scripture on this issue.

**A commenter pointed out the lack of grace and hope extended in this post to men who struggle with anger. I must correct that. For the angry man too is not defined by his anger but by his identity as a son of God. I have seen angry men humbled and tearful when they come to their senses after a rant of angry destruction. Many hate their sin. And there is great hope in the gospel that through the renewing of the Spirit, they (or you) can put off their anger and put on new ways of dealing with sin that reflect the humility and grace of Christ.**