January 12 I Saturday
“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” —Matthew 5:22
The next portion of the Sermon on the Mount illustrates what Christ fulfilling the Law in us looks like practically. There is more to it than letting Christ do it all while we sit passively back. Along with dependence on Him is the need for disciplined living—namely, obedience. The life of Christ will stay dormant within us unless we actively allow the Spirit of God to express Himself through our disciplined obedience to what He tells us.
Jesus begins with the commandment not to murder, by which He addresses the need for discipline in our relationships with others. The root of murder, He says, is anger. This is the emotion we express when people block our paths or prevent us from accomplishing a goal. Our heart rate increases, our blood pressure goes up and our adrenaline intensifies. Our body language may become rigid and distant, and we often raise our voice or clench our teeth. Left unresolved, anger bubbles up into careless words, careless actions and condemnation.
Interestingly, Jesus pairs murder with hateful words as a consequence of anger. He says, “Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca’”—an Aramaic term of contempt—“is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:22). Some of us will remember the saying, “Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you.” We say this to encourage children not to put much stock into what others say about them, but the sad truth is words penetrate where sticks and stones cannot. What is done in us is potentially far more damaging than what is done to us. We can get over a broken nose, but we can become defined for the rest of our days by some careless, insulting word, especially when spoken by a loved one.
There are three things we can do with anger. We can express it by lashing out, which might make us feel better in the moment but does not solve the problems that gave rise to our anger. We can repress it by trying to bury it deep within, but we are often not as good at hiding our anger as we think. Buried anger gives root to bitterness and will inevitably slip out in how we treat others. The only healthy and God-honouring way to deal with anger is to confess it, both to God and to those who have wronged us. Left unchecked, anger leads to distrust and division, but when we are absolutely honest with others about our feelings, we can start making steps towards reconciliation with them.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive me for where anger has made me lash out in bitterness with hateful words, and thank You for the courage to confess and make things right with others.