Hindsight and Reflection

Ephesians 4:26 opens with two imperatives.
The second imperative in the sequence is “and do
not sin.” Interesting, and baffling, is the first
imperative, “Be angry.” While I realize
contextually, grammatically, and theologically that
these imperatives are intended to be taken
together as a unit, it remains fascinating that the
apostle Paul begins the sentence with the
command to “be angry.” This is not something that
we expect from scripture. Instead, we know that
we are called to be kind and compassionate and
loving and peaceful. We are expected to care for
others, to receive complaint and persecution with
the joy of Christ, and to maintain our emotional
composure, even in the midst of ridicule. To “be
angry” is not the norm for Christian people. On the
contrary, we are calm, we are measured, we are
respectful, and we are at peace in every
Now is a good time for each of us to pause to
allow for nervous laughter. We laugh because we
realize how often our response to this life—to
persecution, to ridicule, to everyday encounters—
is far removed from what is Christian. Our
laughter is nervous because, for many of us,
bright light is right now shining on a glaring issue
in our lives. We know that we have work to do
when it comes to living as a Christ-follower in this
world. We know that this work is necessary
because of the behaviors that we sometimes
exhibit—behaviors that reflect the ethics of the
world much more than they reflect the image of
Christ. In the past month, how many of us have
mistreated wait staff? What about a cashier at the
grocery store? Who of us has screamed at our
spouse or our children? Who of us has wished we
could take back a “conversation” we had with a
customer, a contractor, a sub-contractor, or other
repair person? What about road rage? What
about the drive-through?

Anger is a human reality. It does not
matter who we are—how calm, how “chill,” or
how laid back we may be. The fact is that we
all experience anger. And, in virtually every
case, our anger is not righteous. We do not
like to admit this, by the way. The truth,
however, is that regardless what the
circumstances may be, we will argue in the
moment that our anger is just. We will insist
that we have every right to respond with
personal fury. But careful reflection almost
always reveals that our angry outbursts are
just that—angry outbursts, with no true
virtuous element.
In John 2, Jesus is angry. While in
Jerusalem for the Passover feast, Jesus
witnesses some shady business dealings
going down in the Temple area. Seeing this
unauthorized trade in his Father’s house,
Jesus fumes. John tells us that, in response,
Jesus takes a moment to fashion a “whip of
cords,” which is surely used to emphasize
the gravity of the crimes perpetrated by the
sales people and money-changers. Jesus
overturns their tables (Mark adds that he
also takes away the seats of the pigeon
sellers!), and he empties their profits onto
the floor. Next, he refuses to allow anyone to
carry anything through the Temple (also in
Mark’s account). In the process, Jesus
quotes scripture to illustrate specifically why
they are wrong. Needless to say, the Lord
was indignant, but righteously so.
This encounter serves as important
context for the encounter immediately
following. Clearly, the Jews (“code” here for
Jewish religious leadership) have been
watching this Galilean from Nazareth.
Though they do not use the word “authority”
in John 2, they are keen to hear what right
Jesus thinks he has to march into the
Temple and perform a personal cleansing.
Jesus’s response to them is priceless. The
reaction of the Jews is instructive. Even
more significant—at least for our purposes
this morning—is what John records here
about the disciples.

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