Reading: Matthew 5: 21-26
In this section of Matthew, Jesus deals with three of the ten commandments. As always, Jesus seeks to get at the root of the Law instead of just the surface letters. Today’s segment of this section deals with “do not murder”. For most people in Jesus’ audience and for most of us reading it today, we hear this commandment and think, ‘no problem’ – we would never think of actually murdering someone. It is one of the commandments you read and move right by because it seems so easy to abide by.
But Jesus says, not so fast. He dives right into the heart of this commandment. He first addresses the root that can cause murder. Jesus focuses in on anger. He states that if we are angry with our brother (or sister) then we are subject to judgment. First, He says, in essence, do not come to the altar seeking God’s forgiveness or blessing if you are harboring anger or if you have wronged someone else. Jesus advises us to make things right with our human relationships before trying to right our relationship with God. Second, Jesus advises us to settle disputes quickly and personally – long before it ever gets to the judge. Jesus is telling us to be personally accountable for our relationships.
On the surface, Jesus is speaking to our relationships with each other. But there is also an inner layer. Anger is something that can burn and smolder within us. Think of the deepest grudge you have ever held or have heard about. In the original text, the word translated ‘anger’ carried the idea of seething or underlying rage. If we allow our anger to fester and to feed upon itself, our anger soon comes to match this idea of rage bubbling just below the surface. It can build pressure until it erupts in a verbal tirade or even in violence. Suddenly murder may not seem too far away in an extreme case. In most cases, the words spew forth and much damage is done to our relationship.
It is relatively easy to obey “do not murder”. The concept of “do not be angry” is much harder to master. The battle must begin early – we must be honest and open and deal humbly with one another. We must seek to love first, to listen carefully, and to be quick to reconcile when we wrong another. May the Lord our God strengthen and encourage us in our walk.