05 April 2016

Trotting Out the Table Turner

For a long time, I have given thought to Christian character. I believe that how we present ourselves as Christians is as important as the truth that we proclaim. I am not the first to give thought to this question. In recent times, a term has emerged that reflects this concern: cage-stage Calvinism. R.C. Sproul describes this phenomenon as "those newly minted Reformed believers who are so aggressive and impatient that they should be locked in a cage for a little while so that they can cool down a little and mature a little in the faith." Though Reformed believers seem to have a particular proclivity toward impatience, it is certainly not exclusive to them. Often there also seems to be a lack of awareness of these traits in oneself.  

A related phenomenon that I have witnessed is the tendency to "trot out the table turner" for lack of a better term. When confronted with a lack of gentleness or kindness, too many believers choose to bring up the table-turning Jesus. For reference, John 2:15 says, "And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables." Somehow, it seems like zealous Christians view this as permission to act like a jerk. Consider the meme below (to be fair, in general, I love things posted on Depraved Wretch).

I want to offer a few thoughts. First, I am fully aware that Jesus was zealous for his Father's house and for truth. In several instances, he sternly confronted people and even flipped their tables. Typically, his strongest words were reserved for the self-righteous, such as the Pharisees. The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18 helps us to see the difference. Second, "trotting out the table turner" ignores much of the rest of the biblical narrative about how Christ responds. In the same way that it would be inappropriate to only focus on the story of the woman at the well as who Jesus was, it is inappropriate to always trot this image out. Like us, as someone who was fully human, Jesus experienced and expressed all emotion, which brings me to the third point. Unlike us, Jesus was without sin in his anger and zeal, which allowed him to respond to circumstances perfectly. We do not. Too often, I fear, we view the image of Jesus becoming angry through our own fleshly lenses, using it as permission to treat others disrespectfully. I believe that we have to be very cautious about doing so.

1 Peter 3:15 tells us to "be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks of us, but to do so with gentleness and respect." Too many of us are aching to give an answer with no thought for how to do so. We are more interested in being right than in being loving and that needs to change.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." -Galatians 5:22-23. Before flipping tables, ask yourself, am I being fruitful?

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