Scripture: Matthew 5:21-26
Key verse: (21-22) You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; 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 fire.
Reflection: As was the case for the people Jesus addressed in his Sermon on the Mount, I am encouraged by the blessings in the Beatitudes, challenged by the metaphors of being salt and light, and convicted by the call to righteousness in following the Law. But I can get over all that. I can convince myself that I am not a bad person because I really try to be a good person. Jesus, however, can’t leave well enough alone and moves from preaching to meddling in my personal life.
I get the Ten Commandment admonition: You shall not murder. I’ve lived my whole life without murdering someone. That’s something, isn’t it? But Jesus ups the ante and says that the way I deal with my anger puts me in the same league as murderers. What?
My anger at a brother or sister subjects me to the same judgment as if I murdered him or her. If I publicly insult someone or call them a fool (and who hasn’t at some point?) then I am deserving of hell. Isn’t that a bit radical, Jesus? Surely there is a big difference between taking another person’s life and being angry with them. What do you mean there isn’t?
If I had to worry not just about what I do to other people but also about how I treat them, I’d have to change a lot of things. Can we go back to the Beatitudes?
Jesus, if you make the Law not just about our external actions but also about what’s going on in our hearts and minds, then who of us could ever be worthy of your love and acceptance? We’d have to pray every day for the forgiveness of our sins! What? Oh. Now I get it.
Prayer: Our Father in heaven, forgive us our sins, whether obvious or hidden, and lead us always away from temptation. Deliver us not only from the evil of our actions, but also from the evil of our desires and intentions. In the name of Jesus, I humbly pray. Amen.
Author: Von Clemans
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].