Followers and fans of the England cricket team have had a rough few weeks. After a stunning and exuberant victory to begin the Test series in India, everything has gone wrong.
It’s interesting to observe public reaction to these events in the press and on social media. There is, it seems to me, a tendency to amplify every emotion. Excitement and delight at a victory become unsustainable hype, even unpleasant jingoism. Disappointment and sadness at a defeat are magnified into anger at the players and managers, even implications that they lack effort or integrity. I wonder, do we seriously imagine that these young men, who have been on tour in Covid-secure conditions for several months over the winter, did this to spite us?
Just as cricket is a much easier game from the comfort of the commentary booth or sofa, most things in life are a good deal harder than they look. Yet it is commonplace to hear or read suggestions that ‘they’ don’t know what they’re doing, with the accompanying implication that ‘we’ do.
This also applies to the life of Christian discipleship. It’s harder than it looks. It’s very easy to point out other people’s failings, especially when their besetting sins are different from ours. But our own moral battles remind us, or ought to remind us, that we are as open to criticism as we are eager to criticise.
The pressure we put on other people to be what we need them to be, to do what we need them to do, and the punishments we inflict on them when they disappoint us, are themselves moral failings. They call for ‘repentence and amendment of life’. Holding people properly accountable is one thing – attacking them personally because we feel hurt and let down by them is another altogether.
This weekend we encounter Jesus at his most overtly critical, using strong words and physical force to drive people out of the Temple whose activities profane its proper function. There is such a thing, we must recall, as righteous anger. But we can easily delude ourselves that our anger, our vengeful behaviour, our sour remarks and self-righteous contempt for others fall into this category.
How can we tell the difference? What is the test? The words of Jesus, as always, give us the clue. ‘Zeal for my Father’s house…’ he says. Is our zeal for God? Is our anger against the corruptions and deceptions that detract from the building of God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven? Or are we just a bit fed up because England lost, again?
May God bless you all,