Passage: Matthew 5:21–26
”You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,
leave your gift there before the altar and go.
Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount with a series of statements that describe the character of the citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. And what we saw was that Kingdom citizenship promises everlasting happiness. It is
Anger is a destructive force that lives inside all of us. Just because you don’t have explosive outbursts, that doesn’t mean that anger is absent from your life. Your anger may be manifested in less obvious ways. Here are some questions that might help you identify anger lurking in your heart:
- Would you be little glad if things weren’t going well for a particular person?
- Is there anyone whose name everyone knows to not talk to you about?
- Is there anyone you avoid in public?
- Is there anyone you are waiting to let back in your life?
- Is there anyone you have had more conversations with in your head than in person?
You might use other words (annoyed, frustrated, etc.) to mask this reality, but these are all reflections of anger in your life. Anger leaves a trail of broken relationships in our lives. And, when Jesus wants to explain how seriously he takes broken relationships, He explains that the consequences of anger are parallel to murder. The Pharisees taught that as long as you didn’t physically kill someone, you were walking in obedience to God’s command. Jesus, in teaching about the exceeding righteousness of Kingdom says otherwise. What we see is that anger in you isn’t just destructive to your relationships with others, it is destructive to your relationship with God.
Is all anger sinful? No. If it was then God Himself would be sinful. As we read the Scriptures we hear over and over about God’s anger and wrath. He is slow to anger, yes, but angry nevertheless. How can this be? Some might argue that they only believe in a “God of love”. Tim Keller says it this way, “Anger is the result of love. It is energy for defense of something you love when it is threatened. If you don’t love something at all, you are not angry when it is threatened. If you love something a little, you get a little angry when it is threatened. If something you love is an ‘ultimate concern,’ if it is something that gives you meaning in life, then when it is threatened you will get uncontrollably angry…Anger is love in motion toward the thing that we love.” This is why God’s anger is righteous, but why ours if so often sinful. Our problem is that our loves are disordered. We love the wrong things or the right things in the wrong order. Anger is righteous when it defends the right thing. Sinful anger is when we defend the wrong thing or the right thing in the wrong way.
Why is it such a big deal? It is a big deal because it is exposes idolatry in our hearts, broken worship, and sin (rejection of God’s authority and goodness). And this sin is murderous towards the other image bearers that God has created. The murderousness of anger is seen in the way Jesus describes the way this anger is most often expressed: our words (whether spoken or not). Two words in the original language encapsulate this: moros and raca. Moros translates into “You fool”. It is where we get the word moron, and Jesus says this explosion of anger makes us liable to the fires of hell. Why is this is so serious? It is in this explosion that we see the seed of murder. A desire to wound someone is at the core of murder, a desire to destroy someone. There is a difference between anger expressed in words and anger that turns to murder, but the only difference is the right conditions. Similar to the difference between an acorn and an oak tree (give an acorn the right environment and it will become an oak). The other word “raca” is Aramaic for “nobody” or “non person”. This is not an active hate like moros. It is a passive hate, indifference. You aren’t worth my attention or care. You aren’t human. In Mark 7:21–23 Jesus says, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” This is what Kingdom righteousness is about: heart level obedience. Rightly ordered loves.
How can we pursue this sort of obedience in our lives? First, ask yourself, “What am I loving. What am I defending?” Anger acts to protect what we love and so it will reveal what we love. Is what you are defending your ego, pride, comfort, control? Capture that moment to find your idols and bring those to Jesus in repentance. Second, ask for forgiveness. Worshipping God rightly means prioritizing reconciliation. Jesus calls us to urgently pursue reconciliation in relationships fractured by sin. We do this by asking for and extending forgiveness. Forgiveness costs something, but we can afford it. Jesus paid our debt. He has forgiven us first. Because of this forgiveness, our reconciliation with others has been funded.
- Who or what came to mind from the “you might be angry if” list?
- How has anger impacted your life? What relationships has it impacted?
- Is there a time that someone’s anger has wounded you?
- What do you think that person was defending or loving in their anger?
- If you catalogued instances of anger in your life from the last season, what would it say about what you love?
- How does the gospel help us to reorder our loves?
- When is the last time you reconciled a broken relationship?
- What relationship do you need to pursue reconciliation in today?