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Long-View Living in a Short-View World

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Last week, we looked at anger and righteous indignation, and found that scripture comes at the emotion of anger from a different angle than we might have expected, and certainly different than that of many popular teachers of our era.

Today, we want to look at an incident in the life of Jesus wherein he became angry, and acted on his anger in what we commonly call the temple cleansing. From that incident, and the gospels' descriptions of it, we will try to determine what it is that caused Jesus to become so angry.

If I am to align my passions with the passions of Jesus, then it becomes an important matter for me to understand what it was that so got under his skin, and to draw relevant parallels to my life and my walk with Christ. I wrote extensively about the temple cleansing incident in my unpublished manuscript, The Christ Saturated Life, and am reproducing that chapter here.


Chapter Twenty-Two
My Worship is More Important than Yours

Take a moment and think about what it is that makes you angry. By this, I do not mean things that you find merely irritating or annoying. I am referring to that burning-in-your-gut and welling-up-to-your-red-face angry: anger that spurs you to action, even violent action.

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.” - Matthew 21:12-13, NASB

The event described above is commonly referred to as the cleansing of the temple. Textual evidence indicates that Jesus did this twice, once early in his ministry and once again toward the beginning of the last week of his life. The early cleansing is recorded in John’s gospel, and it reads a little differently.

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and 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; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME.” - John 2:13-17, NASB

The text does not tell us that Jesus was angry, but it is difficult to read these accounts and not see anger. To overturn tables, then premeditatedly fabricate a whip for use in driving men out of the temple courtyard, is an expression of deep, passionate, albeit controlled, anger. So deep was the emotion Jesus felt that it is described as a zeal that consumed him.

Few issues well up inside me with that level of intensity. I feel that inner burn when I see a man abusing his wife. I feel that intense level of anger when I see or hear of adults abusing children, particularly when the abuse is sexual in nature. Overt disrespect shown toward the elderly comes close. Something within Jesus reached a full boil when he entered the temple and saw what was happening there. The money changers, the animals, the merchants, the commotion – all of it combined and fueled the fire within Jesus to the point of decisive action.

How We Got Here

The profession of the money changer is an ancient one, and it involves many of the same functions that international banks perform today, exchanging one currency for another, and charging a fee for this service. By the time of Jesus, the money changers were able to work with standardized currency, exchanging coin for coin, while in earlier times pieces of silver were valued by their weight in payment for services or commodities.

The money changer was viewed as a necessity for temple transactions to be completed successfully. Historian Philip Schaff points out:

The market in the Court of the Gentiles was introduced, we know not when, from avaricious motives, in violation of the spirit of the law and to the serious injury of public worship, though it was no doubt justified or excused, as a convenience to foreign Jews for the purchase of sacrificial beasts, incense, oil, and the sacred shekel or double drachma in which the temple-tax had to be paid.1
Though we do not know when this intrusion became a commonly accepted practice, some have pointed to the High Priest, Caiaphas, as the one who authorized conversion of the Court of the Gentiles into a marketplace, an assertion that aligns with Warren Wiersbe’s statement that the priests collected a share of the profits gained by the marketplace vendors. What was an issue of convenience, presented an opportunity, either an opportunity for ministry and service, or an opportunity for profit, depending on one’s motivation and point of view.

The Jews held three major feasts in Jerusalem each year: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. These were the holiest of events for the Jews, and every able-bodied male Jew over the age of 20 was expected to present himself before God in Jerusalem, and he was not to come empty-handed. The celebration included payment of the temple tax, and the sacrifice of animals.

When worshipers made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, they carried with them coinage from their home country. This coinage typically bore the image of Roman emperors or some pagan god, and as such was considered idolatrous by the Jews. Despite that objection, the Tyrian half-shekel, bearing the image of Melquarth-Herakles on the obverse and the graven image of an eagle on the reverse, was the only acceptable currency for payment of the annual temple tax, a tax instituted by God during the time of Moses. The Tyrian half-shekel was determined to be about 94% pure silver, and the desire for profit seemingly outweighed any objection to the imagery on the coin.

According to the Mishna, on the 15th of the month of Adar, money changers set up booths in every province to collect the half-shekel tax. Ten days prior to Passover the money changers moved from their provinces to the temple courts to assist Jews who had traveled to Jerusalem from foreign countries. With the mandatory half-shekel tax in place, and worshipers coming to Jerusalem from a multiplicity of nation-states, the money changer was assured a lucrative cash flow.

According to theologian, Alfred Edersheim:

This Temple-tribute had to be paid in exact half-shekels of the Sanctuary, or ordinary Galilean shekels. When it is remembered that, besides strictly Palestinian silver and especially copper coin, Persian, Tyrian, Syrian, Egyptian, Grecian, and Roman money circulated in the country, it will be understood what work these ‘money-changers’ must have had.2

So lucrative was the business of the money changer, that investors would lend investment funds to the money changers who were making exchanges and loans with interest rates ranging from 20 to 300 percent per annum. With such profitable business in place, corruption was sure to follow, and it did.

But the money changer was not alone in presenting offense in the temple. The local merchants had a healthy market for animals as well. Consider the difficulty of taking an animal sacrifice in tow for a long and arduous journey to Jerusalem. Then further consider that the sacrifice to be offered would be examined by a temple official to verify that it was spotless, pure, and acceptable as a sacrifice. If, for any reason, your offering was deemed unsatisfactory, then you wasted a great deal of effort dragging it all the way to Jerusalem. You must now secure an acceptable sacrifice, and you will likely drag your original animal all the way back home. How much more convenient it is to have an entourage of entrepreneurs in Jerusalem, sitting at the ready with certified, approved, sacrifice-ready animals, awaiting your arrival.

The Source of Jesus’ Anger

We know that Jesus did not object to paying taxes, whether the temple tax or taxes paid to Caesar. Neither does Jesus appear to object to the actual business venture in which those in the temple court were engaged. Jesus is not opposed to making a profit, though he cautions us against trusting the security of one’s soul to material gain. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”

It is valid to object to the exploitation of the worshipers who had come to Jerusalem to sacrifice and pay their taxes, and many see such exploitation as the abuse that drove Jesus to engage in the temple cleansing. I believe that is only a part of what irritated Jesus.

The issue at hand was not business or profit making as such but the mockery of the entire sacrificial system of the temple and the exploitation of devout men and women by greedy individuals who were capitalizing on religious sentiment.3

But the exploitation of people was everywhere, not just in the temple courtyards. It is a legitimate objection, and it does come off as a desecration of a holy place, but I believe the issue for Jesus goes even more deeply than that. The greater issue, for Jesus, seems to be less what the entrepreneurs were doing, and more where they were doing it.

The Temple

All biblical accounts of the temple cleansing state that the offending activity was taking place “in the temple.” When speaking of the temple, one could be referring to the physical building that contained the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, in which the Ark of the Covenant dwelt. Or, “the temple” could be referring to the series of courtyards that surrounded the physical structure.

The courtyards surrounding the temple covered 19 acres, and were divided into four successive courts. The outermost court was the Court of the Gentiles, and it is universally accepted that this court is where the aberrant commotion was occurring. Everyone was welcome in the Court of the Gentiles. The next courtyard in the succession was the Court of Women. Gentiles were not welcome in this court, and violation of that restriction was punishable by death. The next innermost courtyard was the Court of Israel, or as some call it, the Court of Men. Only Jewish males were allowed into this courtyard. Finally there was the Court of Priests, and as the name suggests, only the priests could enter this courtyard. It is in this courtyard that one reached the actual temple structure.

Jesus said, “My house will be called a house of prayer,” and seems that any level of focused prayer would be difficult in the middle of this Farmers’ Market atmosphere. That reality is sufficient for us to nod in agreement with what Jesus did. But if we look at the greater context of the passage Jesus quoted, we see something that is not readily apparent from the brief quotation above. Read this longer quote from Isaiah, and note the references to the non-Jew, how God will create a special place for them within his house of worship, and how their sacrifices will be acceptable on his altar. Mark’s account confirms this, adding the end of the Isaiah quote, “for all nations.” Here is the quote in context:

For this is what the LORD says:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant—
to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will not be cut off.
And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD
to serve him,
to love the name of the LORD,
and to worship him,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold fast to my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations.”

As we visualize the layout of the temple courtyards, and the restrictions placed on entry to each successive court, it becomes clear that the Court of Gentiles was the only space available to non-Jews for worshiping God. I believe the fact that the only worship space available to the Gentiles had been turned into a chaotic marketplace is what was so infuriating to Jesus. The Gentiles were to have a memorial and a name within the temple walls. They were called to God’s holy mountain, to a house of prayer for all nations, but when they got there, all they found was Wall Street-inspired chaos.

The calloused disregard that allowed the Jews to profane the worship courtyard of the Gentiles was astonishing, to be sure, but just as amazing is the fact that they would never have allowed this activity to be conducted in any other temple court. They knew that worship is a holy activity, and they would not allow the sort of disruption to their worship that they were imposing on the worship of the Gentiles. I see no other explanation for that than the hardness of their hearts that said, We are allowing you to come into this courtyard to worship, but your worship is not nearly as important as ours. They even referred to the Court of the Gentiles as the tabernœ, the Temple-Market, effectively thumbing their nose at the idea that God’s house should be called a house of prayer for all nations.

Converting the Court of the Gentiles into a marketplace made it easy to view that courtyard as an area as common as any other. When we consider that the temple footprint covered 19 acres, we can conclude rather easily that walking around that structure while carrying a load would be a fatiguing endeavor. It would be much easier to take a shortcut through the temple courtyard. Doing so is not a matter of great concern since, after all, it is just a marketplace. Aside from the blatant exploitation of the worshipers through the coinage exchange and sales of sacrificial animals in the Gentiles’ worship area, the Court of Gentiles had become a main arterial for foot traffic from one part of Jerusalem to another. It is this abuse that Jesus addressed when, as Mark tells us, Jesus “would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple.”

The second reference from Jesus is found in Jeremiah chapter seven. As you read through this, try to grasp what is happening in the heart of God as he speaks these words to his people through Jeremiah.

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Stand at the gate of the LORD’S house and there proclaim this message:

‘Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!” If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching!’ declares the LORD.”
- Jeremiah 7:1-11, NIV-1978

The presence of the Gentiles in the courtyard of the Jewish temple provided an opportunity for the Jews to speak to open-minded Gentiles about the God of Heaven. The fact that a non-believer ventures into a Christian worship center emphatically states, “I am interested in what is happening here. I want to know more.” Wiersbe emphasizes this lost opportunity, saying, “The court of the Gentiles should have been a place for praying, but it was instead a place for preying and paying.”

The Christ saturated man and woman will be keenly aware of the need to protect the atmosphere of reverence and worship for all people, and possibly to view that from the reverse angle, asking, What can I do to enhance the atmosphere or environment of worship for this person?

“We have not even begun to understand how seriously God takes this matter of worship – and how we are to draw nigh unto him.” - David Wilkerson

Blessings upon you.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
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1. Lange, J. P., & Schaff, P. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: John (pp. 115–116). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. 2. Edersheim, A. (1896). The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol.1 (pp. 367–368). New York: Longmans, Green, and Co. 3. Dockery, D. S., Butler, T. C., Church, C. L., Scott, L. L., Ellis Smith, M. A., White, J. E., & Holman Bible Publishers (Nashville, T. . (1992). Holman Bible Handbook (p. 611). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.


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At the suggestion of a friend, I recently plowed through Andy Stanley's controversial book Irresistible. This is one of those books that divides people into camps of "love it" or "hate it." It's sort of the Ford versus Chevy debate where someone absurdly proclaims they would rather push a Ford than drive a Chevy.

I have run across people who love Andy's book, and people who hate it, even some who are downright angry over it. That is fitting, because today's blog post is about anger.

Toward the end of the book, Andy says, "The proper new covenant response to sin is not jealousy. It's not anger. It's not even righteous anger. The proper response to sin is a broken heart." This statement falls amid a larger conversation about judgmentalism and how that is rooted in jealousy masking itself as righteous indignation.

Be Angry

I understand Andy's point, though I am not sold on his conclusion. He comes off as saying there is never a context wherein it is appropriate to express righteous indignation, much less anger. I cannot square that conclusion with scripture. In Ephesians 4:26, the apostle Paul instructs us to "Be angry and do not sin," clearly indicating that anger by itself is not sinful.

What is amazing about Ephesians 4:26 is that the verb "Be" is imperative mood. The reference is to Psalm 4:4 which says exactly the same thing, and which was translated from Hebrew to Greek in the Septuagint as an imperative.

As bizarre as it seems, this is a command. Do this! Be angry!

Anger is not merely okay, it is commanded and righteous. The apostle James did not say not to become angry, but rather, "be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger" (James 1:20).

God becomes angry. He became angry at Horeb and almost destroyed his people (Deuteronomy 9:8). He became so angry at Aaron that he almost took him out (Deuteronomy 9:20). Multiple times in scripture we read of "the anger of the Lord."

So, it is not anger in and of itself which is the problem. It is what we do with, and in the midst of our anger. Jesus cautions us that anger is the first move toward murder (Matthew 5:21-26).

There are those who seem to revel in anger, pursuing it, seeking it out. Just last evening, a man on social media was pushing my buttons rapidly and strategically. He accused me of misquoting scripture (which I didn't), of believing the devil's lies, of promoting "cheap grace," of closing my eyes to the truth, of denying confession, repentance, and knowledge of God.

In this man's eyes (and accusations), I am promoting the doctrines of Satan. He was diligently trying to get under my skin. He failed.

I could have become angry with this man, and would have been able to "justify" that anger, but we do not want to become angry easily or quickly.

Do not be eager in your heart to be angry,
For anger resides in the bosom of fools.
- Ecclesiastes 7:9

Be Reconciled

The second part of the statement from Paul is, "Do not let the sun go down on your anger" (Ephesians 4:26b). Resist the urge to see this as a "sunset deadline." That's not what Paul is saying.

Once you have transcended the initial burn of your anger, go to whomever or whatever has angered you and get it worked out as soon as possible. Don't stew in your anger, carrying it with you throughout the day, feeding and nourishing it. Deal with it, and be done!

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger - Proverbs 15:1, NASB
A nourished anger grows into a hatred, and subsequently gives the devil a foothold on our lives.
...and do not give the devil an opportunity. - Ephesians 4:26
The term "opportunity" is derived from "topos." It is a place, an allotted space. It is as though we parceled out acreage within ourselves specifically for Satan, a place of his own to come hang out. Don't do that. Don't give Satan a foothold or opportunity.

Topos is the same word and concept we see in Romans 12:19, where we are told to "leave room" for the wrath of God, not seeking our own revenge. Rather than give place to the devil, Paul tells us we are "sealed" for the day of redemption by the Holy Spirit of God.

Anyone can become angry, but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way—this is not easy.
~ Aristotle

Next week, we will look at a specific incident that awakened anger in the Lord Jesus. Until then...

Blessings upon you.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
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Twitter - @DamonJGray
Minds - @DamonJGray
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Donning a look of deep concern, my counselor fixed his eyes on mine and said, "With everything you have been through over the past two years, I am amazed that you are still sane." Sometimes life astonishes us with its ability to inflict pain.

During a keynote address at the 2019 West Coast Christian Writers Conference, Bill Giovanneti said "The world is a morally broken pain machine." Adding emphasis to his point, he made the same statement twice, about ten minutes apart. Everyone reading this knows the truth of Bill's words.

In our egocentric lust for money, sex, and power, the human race has an appalling capacity for using and abusing others with absolute disregard. We form an emotional callous to the needs of all but ourselves, convinced that our needs and our comforts are paramount. It is sociopathic, and it is not the life to which God has called us.

Such has been the story of humanity since the day Cain killed Abel. But the Christ-follower knows God's history of turning horror into glory, and secure in that knowledge, we refuse to stay paralyzed in the role of a victim. "So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'" (Hebrews 13:6, ESV)

Joseph's brothers, in their hatred and jealousy, sold him into slavery. God used Joseph to "save many lives" from seven years of famine. The Persian official, Haman, hated the Jew, Mordecai, and in his rage toward Mordecai attempted to annihilate the entirety of the Jewish people. But God turned circumstances on their head, exalting Mordecai and humiliating Haman.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were to be burned to death in Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace. Daniel was to be devoured by lions for refusing to pray to Darius. Jeremiah was to be drowned in a well because Zedekiah's court officials disliked his prophecies. Jesus was to be beaten, crucified, dead, and buried forever.

None of these succeeded!

God has other plans, and in those plans, the wrath of humanity is turned to the praise of God. "Surely the wrath of man shall praise you." (Psalm 76:10a, ESV) The more God's enemies rage against him and his people, the more their plans are turned to frustration because we will not be defeated, and in this, God is glorified.

I am not proposing that life is without pain and trouble. The Word of God never promises that - indeed it promises quite the opposite. What I am saying is that, as we walk faithfully with Jesus, the troubles of life do not defeat us, and that the wrath of humanity can never ultimately prevail against us. We are "super-conquerors" in Christ! (Romans 8:37) We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God and who are called according to his purposes. (Romans 8:28)

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. - 2 Corinthians 4:17, ESV

As Christ-followers, we intentionally pay no mind to the momentary bitterness life dishes out to us. Rather, we "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." (Hebrews 12:2) It is he who will bind up our wounds and comfort our sorrows.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
- Isaiah 61:1-3, NIV-1978

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray
Minds - @DamonJGray
Bible Gateway Blogger Grid
YouTube Channel


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[Last evening, Alean and I watched a two-year-old movie that we'd never heard of - "Me Before You." We knew nothing about the storyline other than that it was supposed to be a love story. The movie is well written, well acted, and quite convincing.

The underlying message of the movie, however, is horrifying. The movie promotes the idea that one who is disabled is a burden, thus life is not worth living, and physician-assisted suicide is an option to be glorified.

This week's blog posting is a guest post from my friend Shadia Hrichi. Shadia addresses my concerns with the movie employing both skill and grace.

Welcome Shadia!]

Have you heard of the movie called “Me Before You?”

I have not seen the movie; however, based on various reviews, one thing is clear. The movie ultimately celebrates a handicapped person choosing to take his life through physician-assisted suicide. No matter how delicately the story is weaved together leading up to that moment, or how compassionate the characters are toward one another, this kind of movie sends a subtle but dangerous message. The movie suggests that taking one’s life – a gift from God Himself – is not tragic, but heroic.

Even more, it sends a heartbreaking message to those who live with extreme disabilities. As if their lives are somehow less valuable than others. This opens the door for the enemy to plant seeds of doubt in their hearts as to whether they are loved by God.

I certainly cannot speak for someone who lives with a disability. However, an inspiring article written by 11-year old Ella Frech, a wheelchair-bound professional skater, speaks volumes. Nick Vujicic, a man born without any arms or legs, inspires thousands to embrace life to the fullest. (Links to their stories are below.)

The source of these lies should not surprise us for Jesus Himself warns us.

Satan disguises himself as an angel of light … he was a murderer from the beginning … When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (2 Corinthians 11:14; John 8:44, ESV)

Thirty-three years ago, I also fell for the enemy’s lies. I had no understanding that every person conceived is known and loved by God. Tragically, I took the life of my only child by having an abortion. I believed the lies. Her life was deemed less important than the wants and needs of myself and those around me. Years later, God opened my eyes to His love. From there, He birthed a passion in me for sharing the Truth that every human being is known and loved by God.

Inspired by this precious truth, I wrote a poem called “Before Me, You.” In light of the release of the movie Me Before You, this seemed like the right time to share it. The poem celebrates the Truth that God knows and loves each one of us intimately. We are loved so much, in fact, that God the Son came into the world He created and gave His own life to save us. He did not take His life, He gave it. That is the difference between “Me Before You” and the message of “Before Me, You.” Only one celebrates the precious gift of life and gift of God.

May we never forget that only God, Creator of all Life, has the authority to give life or take it away:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep … I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father. ~ Jesus -(John 10:10-11, 18, ESV)

At the end of the day, what will make a difference in each of our lives is whether we choose to fix our eyes on the magnitude of our trials … or the majesty of our God.

Jesus promises peace to everyone who belongs to Him. “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, ESV)

I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? (John 11:25-26, ESV) Shadia Hrichi

… do you? Have you embraced the precious gift Jesus offers?

To read Ella’s article, click here. To read Nick’s story, click here.

Shadia is a passionate speaker, author and teacher, who has a heart for seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. She holds a master’s in biblical and theological studies from Western Seminary and is author of several books and Bible studies. You can learn more about Shadia at https://www.shadiahrichi.com.


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CONTENT WARNING:This article will be addressing sexual abuse and the church. If this is a topic that you find objectionable, please stop reading now.

What I describe below is something that, until now, I have told no one other than my wife and my eldest sister. Even my parents went to their graves not knowing this happened.

I am sharing the incident here (from a high level), not to elicit sympathy, or pity, but rather to establish a baseline for examining our attitudes toward God, and toward faith in his Son, Jesus Christ.

Searching for Something

I was fourteen years old, a high school freshman with a faint, but growing interest in spiritual matters, particularly Christian matters. I had a sense that there was something more ... something beyond myself, and I was convinced that it somehow involved this God thing.

Despite the fact that devotion to Jesus was exceedingly unpopular among my peers, even actively opposed by some, at the age of fourteen, I set out on my spiritual quest. I was determined to figure out that larger-than-me reality.

I had a friend in a neighboring community, about ten miles away, who invited me to attend a church camp with him, just outside Topeka Kansas. Of course I accepted the invitation. I was on my quest!

New Friend at Church Camp

The camp was overwhelming for me. I saw and heard things I had never before seen or heard. This was particularly true of the music. Since early elementary school, music had been a strong influencer in my life, and the music I was hearing at this camp was unlike anything I had previously heard or sung.

The Worship Leader (at least 10 years my senior) seemed to pick up on my enjoyment of the music and took me under his wing. We became friends, and I was honored to be singled out as the friend of this older, influential man.

Throughout the week, that friendship grew and intensified. This guy really liked me, and he even invited me to participate in a youth retreat at his home church in Nebraska, where he was the Youth Pastor. I was not even a Christian, so I did not see what I could possibly contribute to such an event, but I was so deeply honored to be asked that I enthusiastically agreed.

The relationship continued on this track until the last night of the camp, the night that he sexually molested me on my camp cot. He had been grooming me all week for just that moment.

Puzzling Response of Camp Leadership

When I was able to escape the attack, I found the Camp Director sitting alone in the chapel, seemingly in prayer. I seated myself behind him and sobbed out what had just taken place. Rather than offer comfort, the director's reaction was to turn away from me and cry out, "Oh, Jesus, no. No. Please Jesus no."

Forty years after the fact, I am still astonished that he offered no comfort to the traumatized fourteen-year-old attendee at his church camp. His only concern was with the fallen state of his Worship Leader.

The following morning, as everyone's parents arrived to take their happy campers home, the Worship Leader approached me in the parking lot, fumbled out what seemed to be a prescribed apology, and then had the gall to ask if I would still come to his youth retreat in Nebraska.

This man should not have been allowed within 100 yards of me, and indeed, should have been sitting in a Topeka jail cell, but the leadership of this camp seemed to believe that some sort of relationship resolution could be accomplished if we could just "talk it out."

The Question

How does one not completely write off Christianity after a nightmarish experience like that? Indeed, beyond that, how does one attend seminary and work more than a decade in full-time ministry having undergone such an experience?

There is no doubt that events like those described above happen on a regular basis. The church presents a forum for both vulnerability and power. It is a cultivated garden in which abusers can nurture and practice their craft.

Many who experience traumas similar to my own will be inclined to equate church abuse, elder abuse, or pastoral abuse with God abuse. When we entertain such a view, however, it is indicative of a misplaced trust and respect on our part.

If I am trusting in church, or body, I will be disappointed, because that trust is misplaced. The church, the elders, the pastors ... these are flawed human beings, just as I am and just as you are.

The body of Christ will let me down. Pastors will let me down. Elders will let me down. But God will never let me down.

God is not the one who molested me on that cot. That was done by a hypocritical, sinful, perverted man who was allowed into a position of power he should never have been in. He let me down, but God did not let me down.

The sinfulness of humanity does not nullify the goodness and the love of God. As Paul said emphatically in Romans 3:4, "Let God be true though every man is found a liar."

Yokes and Heavy Burdens

Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden.” Is there anyone breathing oxygen to whom that does not apply? Life is hard. Burdens are heavy!

The good news is that Jesus did not say merely “Come to me,” but rather “Come to me, and I will give you rest!” Rest! Relief from your burden.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. - Matthew 11:29, ESV

When a man in the Middle East wants to buy a yoke of oxen, he will go to the place where they are sold, most likely a location on the edge of the village. There will be a number of oxen from which to choose, as well as a small field nearby where he can work the oxen together to test them out.

The man will make his selection, yoke the oxen together, lead them to the field, and work with them for a time. He wants to see if he has a well-matched pair.

He is looking at their disposition as a team. He is looking to see if one is taller than the other causing the yoke to tilt uncomfortably. He wants to see if one is strong and the other a little weaker. If so, the stronger ox will eventually be injured by pulling with a weaker ox, as the strong ox is bearing the repeated strain of the greater load. The yoke will twist with every use resulting in damage, sometimes irreparable damage, to the stronger ox.

The man may plow with a half-dozen pair of oxen that day till he finds the matched pair.

Please note that in Matthew 11:29 Jesus did not say, “Let’s get you yoked up, sister…” No. He says, “Take MY yoke upon you…

Jesus is willing, as the Son of God, the strong ox, to allow himself to be yoked to you ... to me. Jesus is willing to plow the fields of my life yoked to a much, much weaker ox. Jesus is willing to bear the heavy burden of life that, without him, I would find so wearying – even overwhelming.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:30, ESV

We have all heard the lessons on the “well-fitting” yoke, and how that phrase can just as accurately be translated, "My yoke is well-fitting." And that’s good. But what I want us to see is that last phrase – "My burden is light."

Take a long, hard, honest look at the burdens you are carrying. Some of us are carrying overwhelmingly heavy burdens, and it is time to let those burdens go. Accept what Jesus is saying here, and jettison that burden. Carry it no more.

One thing we know with certainty is that when I am carrying a heavy burden, that burden did not come from Jesus. And if my burden is not from Jesus, then I should not be carrying it. Jesus said his burden is light.

So come to Jesus, you who are weary and heavily-burdened, and you will find rest for your souls.

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

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Acts 17:28 - ἐν αὐτῷ γὰρ ζῶμεν καὶ κινούμεθα καὶ ἐσμέν