It is nary impossible to have a discussion about anger without someone bringing up the story of Christ clearing the temple. Sure enough, within 5 minutes of my first anger post, I received this comment:
Okay. Then please explain Christ's anger in the Temple, since he never sinned. Having anger and expressing it are different in my eyes, and so I'm curious how feeling anger is a sin, but feeling sad is not? Or is it? P.S. please note that my greatest weakness is also verbal anger, so I'll be following your ideas very closely.
It was followed by several others, saying basically the same thing. It deserves to be addressed. I will wade in, armed only with the New Testament and my opinion. (Remember - this is my opinion. Key word: OPINION.)
So, here is my request: Please show me in the scriptures where it said Christ was angry when He cleared the temple - either time? (It was twice, you know.) In fact, please show me in the New Testament ANY reference as to the Savior's emotional state when He cleared the temple. I challenge you. Better yet - I dare you!
Wait! I'll even make it easier for you. Here are the accounts from all four of the Gospels:
And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer but ye have made it a den of thieves.
And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;
And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.
And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.
And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought;
Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.
And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;
And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.
Yes, Christ turned over the tables and scattered money. Yes, He made a whip and drove out the animals and the people. Yes, it says that He yelled in an angry rage and was really, really loud and scary. Not really - I made that last part up.
But where is the anger?
What got me thinking about this is from watching too much TV. Now I am not a cop, and I have not served in the military, but I think there is an example here that might be, well, exemplary. We've all seen shows where the police or soldiers kick down a door and burst into a terrorist den, or a meth house. They arrest all the people, destroy or shut down the equipment, and get the job done with ruthless efficiency.
Or, here's another option: Say you are out of town with your spouse, and your wayward teenage son decides to have a blow-out party at your house. It goes late into the night, and some of the kids brought alcohol and illegal drugs. Finally one of the neighbors calls the police. When the cops get there, they go through the house, room by room, and clear out the teenagers.
Do you think those cops are angry when they do this? Or just serious and efficient? My guess is that an angry cop is a dangerous cop, and they are trained to function beyond those types of emotions. Sure, the adrenaline might be pumping, and the enthusiasm high, but I don't think anger would factor in - unless people fought back. When you have proper authority, and can back it up with power, you can go about your business, with much less resistance.
That is my parallel. Christ had ultimate authority, backed by unlimited power. Yes Christ had a whip - but there were stock animals that needed cleared out of the temple. Yes, He said "Ye have made it a den of thieves," but it says he taught it, not screamed it. I see the Savior as someone who was always in complete control of Himself. Both thoughts, actions and emotions.
If find it interesting that after the cleansing, Christ sat down in the temple and taught and healed people. Obviously a Spirit-conducive environment. It would also seem that if this had been an aggressive, angry, violent rampage, the Romans never would have tolerated someone disturbing the peace in such a manner.
When we use the example of Christ in the temple as a way to justify our own anger, we tend to use the term "Righteous Indignation." In his talk The Mericful Obtain Mercy last April, President Uchtdorf said "But when it comes to our own prejudices and grievances, we too often justify our anger as righteous and our own judgment as reliable and only appropriate."
If I'm mad - it is righteous indignation. If you're mad, it is sinful anger. Right?
It would seem that the determining factor between the two would be the presence of the Holy Ghost. We know the Holy Ghost departs when contention arrives - so unless the Holy Ghost is actively involved in our righteous indignation, it is probably just plain old anger. My guess is that righteous indignation isn't legit nearly as often as we would hope.
There you go. My thoughts on anger and Christ clearing the temple. I remind you that this is my opinion - based my reading of the New Testament. And I am aware that I am swimming upstream against thousands of years of tradition when I say that I don't think Christ was angry when He cleared the temple.
Let's not bring it up again as an excuse.
PS: To my wonderful commenter and friend: I think feeling anger is a sin, but feeling sad is not, because anger is one of tools the adversary uses to destroy us, and those around us. Anger drives away the Spirit. But I think that sorrow is part of the palette the Spirit can use while working with us.