The season of Lent is upon us and, once again, we are encouraged to reflect on the way in which we live out our Christian faith.
The set gospel reading for the third Sunday of Lent this year is John 2:13-22, the account of Jesus clearing the temple courts. The sight of Jesus making a whip out of cords, driving out the people selling cattle, sheep and doves, then scattering the coins of the money changers and overturning their tables must have been quite hard for some people to take. We wouldn’t expect to find animals and money changers in church, but if we think about how we would feel if someone came in and overturned the furniture and threw the offering across the church, we can perhaps get an idea of how upset some people may have been because of what Jesus did in the temple courts.
To those who asked Jesus to prove his authority to behave in that way, the NIV says that he answered “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” People seemed to think that Jesus was speaking about the building, but his disciples later saw what he said as a reference to Jesus’ own resurrection – something which helped them to believe in him.
Jesus is sometimes said to have displayed righteous anger in clearing the temple courts, so what might this tell us about living out our faith some 2,000 years later? There may well be things that we feel angry about, but the first set of questions to ask ourselves when we do might be ‘why?’: Why here? Why now? Why this? As these questions help us to understand the root of our anger, a further question to ask ourselves might be that of whether this feeling of anger is due to a prompting from God; if we are convinced that it is, then another question might be to ask what God would expect us to be doing about it, bearing in mind the letter to the Ephesians speaks about not sinning due to being angry.
Over the centuries, many Christians have helped to shape the world for the better through their responses to abuse, exploitation, suffering and greed. Such things affect not only people, but also animals, the environment and the natural world. Are there instances of such things happening which make us feel particularly angry? If so, what might God be prompting us to do about them? As the season of Lent continues, may we get a sense of how we might respond to God’s promptings by using our particular gifts, skills and personal qualities to help to shape a better world.