“You have heard it was said to those who lived long ago, ‘Don’t commit murder,’ and all who commit murder will be in danger of judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell.” (Matthew 5:21-22, Common English Bible)
Can you remember the last time you got angry? Really upset? Called someone a name? Acted like a jerk? Said things to someone you wish you could take back?
I’m sure most of us would rather think about how others have done those things to us. But we have to be honest with ourselves, we get angry, we say things we don’t mean. We all have been jerks (or as we discussed in our youth Bible study this past Sunday morning, a butt) from time to time.
Jesus, in this portion of the Sermon on the Mount, draws a connection between murdering someone and calling someone a fool. This is can be hard to hear (a lot Jesus says is hard to hear). I remember one of the first times I taught on this passage. One of the high school students had a younger sibling in youth group which gave us a unique way to look at the text.
Yes, murder is bad, Jesus agrees. But Jesus goes a step further and adds speech that comes out of anger. We will be judged by both, Jesus says. At the heart of all of this, as it is with the whole Sermon on the Mount, is the heart. In other words, it’s about our attitude – our thoughts. The older brother in the youth group wanted to reason away that these two actions could never possibly face the same level of judgment. The younger brother was grateful and felt justice. . . at last.
As we continued our lesson, the older brother eventually felt better. In Matthew 5:23-24, grace comes to the forefront. This indeed is the good news. As Professor Douglas Hare writes, “While anger is damnable, genuine repentance permits reconciliation with God as well as with the injured sister or brother.” Good news indeed!
Words escape our mouths so easily. How easily are we to seek reconciliation – forgiveness – for those words?
Lord, forgive us for those moments where we are jerks. Forgive us when are words are murderous. Give others a forgiving heart to forgive us as well. Amen.