“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.“
Jesus has shifted to the very everyday, practical issues in His Sermon on the Mount. In this case, anger. Jesus does this unsettling thing where He says “You know you shouldn’t kill people” and every nods, feeling justified and good about themselves because they aren’t murderers. They know of and have seen murderers, and they are terrible people. They are referred to as “sinners.” But then, Jesus says, “But if you’ve ever wanted to kill someone, you are still guilty.” Silence. People who just felt good about themselves and justified now are being accused, they feel guilty, their consciences are pricked. Jesus is calling them “sinners”!
WHAT?! How can this be? Being angry and wishing someone were dead is just as bad as killing them? Jesus is making a very convicting, vivid point here. The distance between thinking and doing is socially and legally a huge gap, but spiritually there is no distance between them. In God’s eyes, they are the same thing. If I want someone to die but don’t kill them, I’m legally not a murderer. But with God, who sees and knows our hearts, there is no distance. You are a murderer. If I wish someone dead, I am filled with anger, hate, jealousy, ugly passion … and God sees it. It slowly poisons us, crushing our souls, slowly killing us. Jesus says that there are implications and results of our hate, and that hate makes us sinful.
Then Jesus pulls this apart a little and says that if I realize that someone is angry with me or that I’ve caused someone to hate me, dislike me … then that realization is from the Holy Spirit, and I need to stop what I’m doing, and go make it right. Jesus doesn’t want us to be filled with spiritual poison and hate. Stop what you are doing, go and make it right. Do it quickly, Jesus says. Because not only are there spiritual consequences to my anger, but there are practical ones too. I may be sued. I may cause a division with someone else. I may alienate or hurt others with my anger. I may end up in hell.
And so the question has to arise – Does anyone I know have something against me? Do I have something against anyone? This question hit me like a punch in the face the other day. Yes. Yes, there are people I’ve sinned against, and there are people I need to be reconciled with. At first I thought, “No, of course not.” But then I prayed, asked God to reveal anyone or anything that has gone unnoticed, and a flood of 17 people came to mind. Seventeen! How have I lived with this anger for months and years! I am blind to my own sin, and I need Jesus to open my eyes daily. Consider the extremely probably possibility that you may be blind to your own sin as well.
Who do you need to forgive?
Who do you need to ask for forgiveness?
So I stopped what I was doing, repented, confessed to the Lord that I had anger and bitterness, and started writing emails and making phone calls. I was harboring hate toward others, I felt angry toward others who had done things to me, and I also realized that others were angry toward me for things that I’ve done!
God takes anger very seriously, and so should I. And so should you. So who has something against you? And who do you have something against? What names, when you hear them, cause your stomach to lurch and your heart to get angry? What are you repressing and ignoring?
Jesus extends freedom. Just confess it, repent, forgive … and be freed.