Ok, back to the New Testament for a while! I might stay in James for a few weeks – I’ve just been sent a link to a ‘30 Day Marinade‘ in the book which I’m thinking of attempting, though because of various summer disruptions, it might be more like 15 days and spread over 3 or 4 weeks, but we’ll see how we go – feel free to do the marinade yourself instead – or maybe as well, and come back and tell me what you’re learning!
So, this verse had nothing to do with the reflection for today, but it’s the one that stuck out to me.
There are lots of injustices and immoralities that grieve us in 21st century Western society, but often the Christian response gets a very bad press. Part of that is because any time you criticise someone’s philosophy of life they are of course going to be hurt and get defensive, but often it is because we approach it in the wrong way.
It is right that we get angry with sin and angry when we see injustice and immorality running rampant – Jesus himself got angry in the Temple courts, to the point where he turned over tables and chased people out with a whip! But here’s the thing: I don’t see any evidence that his anger changed the hearts of the money-changers or the people selling animals for the sacrifices. They left the place that day, but I’m pretty sure they all started drifting back the next day. They might have been more cautious about their corruption, but I can’t imagine that the one-off angry outburst of a bloke from Nazareth made them reconsider their practices.
If even Jesus’ anger didn’t bring about a transformation to righteousness, what good is our anger going to do?
Our anger at the injustices of the world, and at the works of the enemy in society and in individual lives, needs to motivate us, but needs to be channelled into wise and fruitful action, not impotent rants on Facebook or – if that’s your platform – in the media.
We need to remember why we’re angry and what our goal is – we’re angry at the ‘unrighteousness’ around us, and we’re seeking to bring about ‘the righteous life that God desires’.
The rest of James is a lesson in how to do this, how to live, how to speak, how to deal with the plank in your own eye before challenging the speck of dust in your neighbour’s. I’m sure we’ll be looking at some of that in the coming days but, as ever, Jesus is our greatest example. Expressing anger in the Temple courts was one episode in three years of ministry; how did he go about seeking, and bringing about, righteousness the rest of the time…?