“The disciples were reproving them [for it]. But when Jesus saw [it], He was indignant and pained…” (Mark 10:13b-14a, AMPC).
As I was reading this story today, I contemplated Jesus’ unpleasant emotions towards His friends in that moment. “Indignant and pained” was not His usual joyful, peaceful manner. The NKJV says He was “highly displeased.” Clearly, the expression on His face and the tone of His voice did not match the Sunday School drawings and pictures where He is always wearing a smile. Apparently, Jesus does sometimes get unhappy with the ones He loves.
As a parent, I can understand this. In fact, Holy Spirit was using this very facet of my life to explain the principle to me. When one of my kids hurts someone, or displays a rebellious attitude, or deliberately disobeys me, or otherwise allows their sinful natures to take control of their decisions… my feelings are not pretty ones in that moment. I, too, become indignant, pained, and highly displeased.
Those emotions certainly come through in my eyes, my words, and my voice as I address the child in need of admonition. (I thank God for Holy Spirit’s empowering to not act out of anger! Still, neither am I going to plaster on a smile and speak to the offending one in a tone of commendation. Correction holds a vitally important place.)
Holy Spirit reminded me of this, and then asked me if the depths of my love for my children falters at all in those moments. My immediate and definitive answer was, and is, no. Nothing in all of creation could shake or diminish my covenant love for them. In fact, it’s the depths of my love for them that causes my emotions to rise up passionately in concern for them when they are headed in the wrong direction. It’s precisely because I love them so much that I don’t want them harming themselves and others with misplaced use of their free will.
Just a few verses later, Jesus addresses another young man who is in the wrong. This rich ruler has made an idol of his riches. What is Jesus’ response to him? “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him…” (Mark 10:21a, NKJV). He loved him. And He loves us. In all of our mess, in all of our rebellion, in all of our idolatry, in all of our disastrously wrong choices, He looks at us, and He loves us.
Jesus’ pleasure in our choices, and His achingly deep love for us, are two entirely separate matters. Even if Jesus was indignant with His disciples in that moment, pained by their insensitivity, He was getting ready to give His life on the cross for them. His furious, reckless, undying devotion to them was an immeasurably deeper well than His displeased emotions in that moment.
I reflect on this truth in relation to how we as Christians engage with the world around us. We sometimes, I believe, toss around the phrase “Love the sinner but hate the sin” a little too casually. I think that oftentimes our hate for the sin ends up being the predominant force in the equation. Our love for the sinner has perhaps taken second stage to our indignant emotions about their wrong choices.
A closing thought. Those ones marching in the parade for the opposite political view… do we look at them, and love them? Achingly, passionately, in the marrow of our bones, love them? Are we devoted to them? Would we give our lives for them?