However, when pastor Terry Jones, and his plan to burn Korans, was catapulted into the spotlight last week, he made an amazing statement. He said that he believed that if Jesus were here, he would burn the Koran. This steps out of politics and into Biblical interpretation, and it got me thinking. Here is what I’ve decided on the topic.
We have three, possibly four, examples of Jesus becoming angry enough to do physical harm to property. Overall, Jesus’ life is exemplary in terms of peaceful responses to any wrong that was done. So, perhaps we should look at those examples and see what they can reveal as a lesson in when we are allowed to damage someone’s property.
First of all, we have to remember that all of Scripture provides details on several major periods of human history. There are three primary ones, Israel as God’s people under the Law of Moses, the Church as God’s people under Grace, the redeemed as God’s people after the Second Coming and Judgment. Each has specific types of action associated with it. This matters to the current question, because many people pick up a Bible, open it and read something like, “An eye for an eye.” So they assume that God believes in tit for tat vengeance. Or they read “God is love,” and assume that God will never do anything that seems harsh, such as mete out judgment. The critical student of the Bible knows that right now we are living under Grace, and we should live by the rules as set out for us in this time period.
Jesus’ life is given to us as the example to follow. I Peter 2:21 says, “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” So we would do well to see how Jesus did act on questions like the one we are asking. Interestingly enough, the bulk of the answer follows in verse 23, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”
Almost everyone remembers the story of Jesus overthrowing the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple. Some scholars say that there are two separate instances of this, but that’s beside the point. Why was Jesus angry? Was he demonstrating his authority to proclaim Jehovah God as Supreme over other gods? No, he was angry with people within his own religion, Judaism, who claimed to serve God, but who had defiled the Temple and were using it for their own greedy passions.
There is also the confusing story of Jesus cursing the fig tree and causing it to wither. It’s impossible to explore the meaning of that incident in a paragraph! But it certainly was not an example of Jesus lashing out at any of the beliefs of the surrounding nations or factions.
The other example of Jesus destroying property comes from a story told in three gospels, where he cast demons out of two men. The demons begged to be sent into a herd of pigs instead of just being left in limbo, so Jesus complied with their request. The pigs immediately ran off a cliff and were killed. This seems pretty tough on the farmer! One possible explanation is that the farmer was Jewish, and pigs were an unclean animal to them, so that this part of the episode becomes similar to the cleansing of the Temple. No matter what the reason, the destruction had nothing to do with making a statement on some other culture’s religion.
Now, this is not to say that Jesus believed that all religions are fine. He boldly stated that He is the Only Way to reach God. But the phase of history where his authority is revealed to all has not yet been reached. Matthew 25 gives us a picture of that day when Jesus will return in glory, and will separate the nations and the people into believers and non-believers.
If there is condemnation to be done, God will do it then. It’s not up to us. Meanwhile, we are told to love others, perhaps even to let them take advantage of us. I don’t see Jesus burning any Korans just yet.