Scripture: Matthew 5: 21-26
Key verse: (22) “But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; . . .”
Reflection: Today’s passage is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It is thought that this sermon was a collection of teaching and preaching that was put together into this long passage (Chapters 5-7) about living a full and faithful life. Jesus himself said he came to fulfill the law and the prophets; not to do away with them. He broadened the understanding of what it means to follow the commandments of God. This portion of chapter 5 makes reference to the commandment against committing murder, stating that one can murder another with angry words. Most people believe that if you don’t actually murder someone then you haven’t broken this commandment. But, how many times have we called someone a fool or cursed at them? How many times have we said harsh words that killed another person’s spirit? Words that we couldn’t take back.
When our children were little, my husband and I were both working and I was in Seminary. We were under tremendous pressure. it was hard not to have tempers flare from time to time. One thing I discovered during those stress-filled days was that I couldn’t be angry when our family sat together in worship. There was something about being in the presence of God and other believers that softened our anger and made forgiveness possible. This is the advice Jesus gives in our text today. He tells us to make things right with others before we enter worship. He goes on to say that we should make friends with our opponents and try our best to avoid going through life as angry people. Angry people lash out at others on a regular basis and many of them have intentionally or unintentionally murdered another person with their words and actions. Of course, everyone gets angry. Anger has a place in our lives when it leads us to speak out on behalf of those who are experiencing injustice, poverty or hopelessness. It’s OK to be angry, but it’s not OK to hurt someone when we are angry with our words or actions. Constructive anger can lead to action that is fruitful, such as building community, changing lives and crossing divides, but it can just as easily lead to destruction. At the end of this passage, Jesus reminds us that unresolved anger can become a prison if we let it. If you are in such a prison today, freedom is a possibility. Forgive and make amends as you are able.
Prayer: Gracious God, you know us better than we know ourselves. Help us resist the temptation to harm others with our words. Reveal to us any part of our lives that need forgiveness. Free us from any anger that imprisons us and help us deal with anger in healthy ways as we seek to break cycles of depravation that we find within us and around us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Author: Deborah Conner
[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].