Daily Office Readings – ( John 2:13-22 )
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.John 2:13-22
The words “Cancel Culture” are often thrown around by journalists and by those in social media in recent years. Usually, you hear the words from those who have said something outrageous – or outrageously inappropriate, hateful, misogynistic, racist – and are dealing with the public shaming by calling those coming after them as evil and seeking their “cancelation.”
Cancellation, by definition, is having one’s career ended for inappropriate behavior or comments. And while it occasionally happens (e.g. Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby), more often than not, people deal with a firestorm of public outrage for a while, and then return to work, with their livelihood intact. Just recently, one actress was complaining about “cancel culture” in an interview for getting fired from a show, even while having just signed on to the lead role in another film. She’s hardly canceled, but merely dealing with the public outrage for her public insensitivity.
The issue is that what some had considered appropriate behavior in years past is becoming more and more scrutinized for its oppressive rhetoric, insensitive behavior, and hurtful language.
If we look at today’s Gospel through that lens, we see that the behavior of the money changers and the salespeople within the temple had become commonplace, and therefore accepted behavior. This was a normal occurrence: selling livestock in the temple, a temple dedicated to the God of Israel.
And Jesus is outraged by this behavior. He attempts to call out those who are destroying his Father’s house. He turns over tables, he forms a whip from cords and chases them out of the temple.
Jesus is outraged. Because that which was offensive to God had become commonplace, and deemed appropriate. And Jesus wanted to “cancel” that behavior.
And these people, driven from the temple, then ask, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Which is basically asking, “Who gives you the authority to question what we are doing?”
This question by these money changers and livestock peddlers is essentially the same as those who complain about Cancel Culture. Rather than take the public outrage as a correction, and a chance to learn, they push back, attempting to prove their innocence. It’s not my fault; I did nothing wrong; why would someone do this to me; don’t they recognize that they are infringing on my right to live and make money?; I’m the victim here.
And, just like those who deal with the outrage at their actions today, these people from the temple probably returned to their work in the temple the moment the threat of Jesus’ outrage had disappeared.
The bible doesn’t tell us that Jesus shut them down for good, just that he was outraged, and drove them from the temple. And human nature is such that we do not take correction easily, especially when money or our livelihood are on the line. And once Jesus, the one opposed to their work, had left them, they probably returned to their same practices and behaviors, selling livestock in the temple. They had weathered the public outrage, after all, and confronted Jesus with an accusation that he didn’t have the authority to do what he did, which is to say, they were claiming to be the victims in this scenario.
And, we know, this outrage over Jesus’ outrageous behaviors, actions and words continued, progressing to the point of Jesus’ public humiliation, until the only person in the story that faced any real “cancelation” was Jesus himself, through his death on the cross.
So what is our takeaway from all of this? No matter how good we think we are being, and no matter how well we manage to behave and interact with others on good terms, eventually someone will be outraged by what we say or do.
And, we can react like the money changers in the temple; we can go on the defensive; we can make the claim that we are the victims. This serves nothing but to escalate the situation. Or, we can learn from the interaction. It is very true that some people will take offense where none was intended. We may feel like we are being unjustly attacked, but a simple, “I’m sorry. I did not intend to offend. Please explain,” will go a long way to restoring peace.
We know that Jesus’ death was not the end. Despite the actions of those seeking to kill Jesus, his death on the cross proved to be the moment at which reconciliation and peace were provided to all. If Jesus could humble himself “to become obedient to the point of death” (Philippians 2:1-18) to reconcile the enemies of God, then I’m sure that we can humble ourselves just long enough to seek understanding, before jumping into defensiveness and claiming we are being “canceled.”
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you — and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me.Philippians 2:1-18
Mike is a jack of all trades, master of none. He’s a data analyst, programmer, and loves to cook. If he doesn’t have his face buried in a book or is staring blankly at a computer screen, you can find him on a motorcycle, enjoying the ride.
Mike holds a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary.