When I was a kid, Jesus’ cleansing of the merchants and money-lenders in the temple was one of my favorite gospel stories. I mean, think about it. Jesus gets mad, makes a whip out of a rope, drives out livestock, and busts up a bunch of hucksters trying to turn a profit on the worship of God? It’s got everything a little boy could want: Jesus the fighter, with a zeal for justice and the MacGyver-like ability to turn a twine into a lash of righteousness.
Later on, though, I came to appreciate the text for a different reason: what it could tell me about emotions and Christianity. Far too often, being a Christian is associated with being passive, meek (in the doormat sense), and generally stifling every emotion that can’t be cleanly expressed in a G-C-D chord worship song. A whip-cracking Jesus, on the other hand, is anything but passive.
Of course, we can take anger too far—giving ourselves permission to “vent” or “let off steam” could too easily ...1