Updated: Aug 1, 2022
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A lot of us have preconceived ideas about Jesus. For example, many believe he is just an exceptional moral teacher. He is, but more than that he is TRUTH. And TRUTH demands reflection and response that looks like a radical reorganization of your life.
In Matthew 5:21-26, Jesus brings some truth that demands just that. He highlights a danger: an unhealthy heart leads to death. He gives a directive: urgent humility leads to life. The context is Jesus teaching about the kind of TOV life that characterizes his people, of which he is the prototype. This is who he is calling us to be! By the way, TOV is the Hebrew word for "good", but with a fuller intent which implies something which fulfills the purpose for which it was created. When something is doing what it was created to do - that's TOV.
Matthew 5:21-26 21“You’re familiar with the commandment taught to those of old: ‘Do not murder or you will be judged.’ 22But I’m telling you, if you hold anger in your heart toward a fellow believer, you are subject to judgment. And whoever demeans and insults a fellow believer is answerable to the congregation. And whoever calls down curses upon a fellow believer is in danger of being sent to a fiery hell. 23“So then, if you are presenting a gift before the altar and suddenly you remember a quarrel you have with a fellow believer, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar and go at once to apologize to the one who is offended. Then, after you have reconciled, come to the altar and present your gift. 25It is always better to come to terms with the one who wants to sue you before you go to trial, or you may be found guilty by the judge, and he will hand you over to the officers, who will throw you into prison. 26 Believe me, you won’t get out of prison until you have paid the full amount!”
Jesus is referring to the 6th command - don't murder. Many of his hearers thought as long as they didn't commit the act, their attitude didn't matter. However, Jesus shatters their self-righteousness but highlights that heart attitude counts. To describe the consequences of relational disunity, he uses pictures of judgment, gehenna ( translated as hell, but really a rubbish dump outside Jerusalem where child sacrifice used to take place), impaired worship relationship with God, and imprisonment. The idea is that this trajectory does not lead anywhere good.
We live in an angry age. Passive aggression is normal, road rage is a given, and social media is a place where people comment without consequence. It doesn't seem to matter what the subject is, and it gives voice to what is in the heart. The things people want to do to each other...
To be clear, Jesus is not saying one can't get angry, but he is warning about holding on to unrighteous anger, which is we feel like we have been wronged. Righteous anger, which Jesus himself demonstrated, is when a person is angry because of injustice done to others, or dishonor of God.
In our country, 6083 people were murdered from January through March 2022. That is incredibly tragic. The gravity of Jesus' words is that if one carries anger in your heart, in God's eyes, it's the same as murder.
You are called to Take Responsibility: Guard your Heart. Watch Your Words. Make the First Move.
GUARD YOUR HEART
Jer 17:10 (NIV) “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”
Our son was in agony in January of this year. From the outside, he looked fine, but he couldn't walk because his back was so sore. Eventually, an MRI scan revealed an abscess on his spine, which if left untreated could result in paralysis or at worst, fatality.