I shouldn’t read the news on my lunch break. I came to this decision last week when I sat down to enjoy my leftover pasta and saw a post on Facebook talking about the article The New Yorker posted with the alleged victims of Bill Cosby on the cover. It’s a powerful image that tells an important story. The comments under the article? I’m not going to get into it because I want to keep my blood pressure down but there were several very misguided, hurtful, and frankly misogynistic comments. I’m trying to get better about getting into fights on Facebook (they never turn out well and you never convince anyone to change their opinion.) So I texted a friend the anger I felt instead.
This friend wrote back what I at first read as a complete Jesus Juke (if you don’t know what a Jesus Juke is there is really no better explanation than the man who coined the phrase Jon Acuff in this post.) My friend’s response? “One day he will answer for it.” I would like to say that with this response I felt peace and grateful to my friend for his words. I would like to say that, but lets be real, spend any time with me at all and you know that was not my first response. No, my first response was more along the lines of rolling my eyes, heaving a big sigh and thinking “great thanks for telling me 1) something I already know and 2) trying to take the wind right out of my sails.”What did I do? I…wrote back what I thought. I pushed back a little. Because while I absolutely believe that the God of justice will take care of every issue when he brings his kingdom to earth, I do not subscribe to the notion that we are in any way let off of the hook on speaking out against injustice where we see it. As Christians we should be the ones who raise our voices the loudest in defense of the defenseless, the least of these, the ones trampled under injustice.
Before I get to my friends response I wanted to take a quick moment and talk about how grateful I am to have friends who are not afraid to tell me something I don’t want to hear. I’ve heard that I can be….a little intimidating (to put it mildly). It can’t have been easy for my friend to push back on what I was saying. But he did it anyway and thank goodness he did because I needed to hear it.
He agreed with me that of course our response as Christians when faced with injustice should never be “well God will take care of it so we’ll just move on and forget about it.” He agreed that being passive is never the answer. But then he wrote this “I believe we need to fight, but with the right hearts.” He wrote more after that but that line stuck with me. It lodged itself in my brain and my heart and slowly burrowed its way in.
Fighting with the right hearts? What does that mean? What does it look like? There are a few ways to go with this thought, but here’s where it took me. If I look to Jesus I can see he definitely got angry. When he saw the Pharisees were using the Temple as a marketplace to extort money out of the people coming to make sacrifices he was furious. John 2 says he “made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor and turned over their tables. Then going over to the people who sold doves, he told them ‘Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!’”
So fighting with the right heart must mean if my anger comes from a righteous place I can really let my opponents have it; verbally AND physically. Wouldn’t that be nice. But I don’t think that’s the lesson to take from this story. I dug a little deeper in the Bible and the incident at the temple was not the only time Jesus encountered rage inducing injustice. Sometimes he had words just as harsh as the ones he spoke in the temple, but sometimes he just spoke. The content of his words didn’t change. But his approach changed.
I’m thinking particularly of the woman caught in adultery. Now, if there was a moment I would think you could make a whip out of some ropes it would be this one. But Jesus remains calm. His point is not diminished by his calmness. In fact I would argue that his calmness serves him better in this scenario. The Pharisees dragged this woman before him and surely expected a louder response, either toward them or toward the woman, then they got. And I think that’s why Jesus responded the way he did. He veered right when they expected him to go left. And maybe that also explains his reaction in the temple. Maybe the Pharisees assumed he would never make a scene in such a holy place. They definitely thought wrong.
Back to fighting with the right heart. I think this means listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. After all my heart is where he speaks to me. The question isn’t should I fight. That answer is always yes. The question should instead be how do I fight this time? There’s a time and place for flipping tables. And there’s a time and a place for bending down and quietly writing in the sand. We live in a world that tells us true justice always looks like shouted words and angry faces. If you really care about something you’ll fight for it and fight for it loudly. But the greatest fight Jesus ever fought was also the quietest one. To conquer sin and death he allowed his enemies to execute him. To his disciples it must surely have looked like he lost the fight. But three days later they learned how wrong they were.
I’m not going to stop fighting. I’m not going to stop getting angry. But, I am going to try to fight with the right heart. The next time I read something rage inducing on the internet I’ll try to not go with my first reaction, but instead quiet my soul and listen to the Holy Spirit. Because at the end of day he knows the best way to fight with the right heart. I’ll never go wrong if I listen to his prompting.