You have heard….You shall not murder…But I say that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fireMatthew 5:21-22, NRSV
I have heard Christians say on many occasions, “I love that person; I just don’t like them.” I get that. Sometimes people are so obnoxious, offensive, or arrogant, you just don’t like being around them. So they get pushed into the people-I-don’t-have-to-deal-with box. (PIDHTDW)
Having that convenient box frees us from having to deal with difficult or crazy-making people. But Jesus doesn’t let us get off the hook with that kind of disconnected, living. This is a good thing because PIDHTDW often creeps into our thought life, emotional life, and compassion life. We say, “as long as I don’t physically harm them, I’m okay.”
Jesus takes this up in his elaboration on what the law against murder really means. Jesus wants us to think about where God wants us to go with respect to human relationships. “You have heard it said…” was a reference to what the religious leaders of that day were teaching and probably also to what the popular, cultural understanding was. “Don’t kill people” is pretty easy. It is when you’re so mad you could strangle them that it gets dicey.
“But I say to you” was Jesus’ redirecting his disciples, pointing them to the intention of the law about murder was really about. And then the demands of discipleship become very tough.
Jesus told the audience listening to him that being his disciple requires thoughtfulness, intention, and self-criticism. When you want to clobber someone because they offended you or cut you off in traffic or said something inappropriate or politically disagreeable, Jesus won’t let you dismiss your murderous emotions.
Jesus was not saying, “don’t ever get mad.” He was saying that we have to deal with our anger, discipline our anger, and act in a way that calls to mind that Jesus loves that person and you may be the only opportunity for them to see how Jesus would respond to them.
Jesus urges us to constantly work on our relationships. Worship, he says, that is preempted by anger and hatred is not acceptable. This is an example of how Jesus says to make sure that our righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees.
Prayer: Dear God, you live in perfect community and designed us for the same. Yet we fight and accuse and blame. Anger takes over our relationships and spoils the relationships you designed for us. Help us to desire the reconciliation of our enemies, from those with whom we violently disagree, and those who have wounded us. May we seek true relationships will those around us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.