The Greatest Sermon Ever
3. On Anger and Murder
New International Version (NIV)
21 "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder,[a]and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[b][c] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,'[d] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.
23 "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
25 "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
I am fascinated how this passage falls directly after the last, for the as we saw last week Jesus emphasised His grace in the fulfilment of the Law, that it is in Him that the law is fulfilled. In other words, grace; and now we have the application of the law in terms of words and next week thought crimes.
Effectively Jesus is warning us to not just murder, he is taking it a step further; if you speak hatefully you are in danger and next week if you think adulterously you have already committed the sin!
And the wonder of it all is that it cures us of our tendency to extremes. You see generally we get two approaches to the gospel that the wickedness of the human heart falls into; last week dealt with the idea that if I am good enough God will love me (legalism) and this week we will deal with the opposite of that; because God loves me I can actually do whatever (antinomianism).
Jesus comes at us hard and relentlessly stating because of what I have done for you, because I am the fulfilment of the law, you can't simply ACT differently, you must BE different in your inner most being.
Now the danger I have as a preacher tonight is to preach as if last week didn't happen, in other words it is up to us to change our anger, it is through self-will and fear of judgment that we change. But I also have to show you that your anger, your resentment, your words matter and have real world and life consequences and that if we don't deal with it we are in for trouble. In other words we have to walk the tightrope of grace.
So, what we will do tonight is look at this in 3 ways; firstly we will see how Jesus describes the Danger of our anger, then we will infer the desire of God for us in looking at the opposite of anger and finally I will give us an application in the miracle of moving forward.
So, let's dive in and look at…
1. The Danger of your anger
Jesus makes it clear that at the heart of murder is our un-dealt-with anger and words. Many of us here tonight, have some idea that if I feel loving to someone then I can love. But although in rare moments we are flooded with feelings and actions follow; most of life is the decision to do something, acting if that is real and the feelings being the reward.
Incidence, choice, action, feelings. This is the general reality of our experienced life. We so often get this backwards, we wait for our feelings to change before we change our actions and therefore get stuck in a personal hell.
Jesus, establishes himself as the true authority here, going beyond what the Law says, and tells us to control our anger, to watch our words, to guard our hearts. Because the action of murder never starts with the action. It brews in a person's hearts and in their thoughts and festers and builds until it explodes in an action that brings chaos, and destruction.
Do you think Hitler simply told people to go and kill Jews, that was his opening remarks when he was trying to rise to power? Did the Hutus simply woke up one day and decide to kill off the Tutsis?
No, it was months and years of ever increasing hate speech, of dehumanisation of these people, ever growing mistreating of the other. It is those people that are the enemy, they are evil, they are the ones who stole everything, they are the true enemy!
And before anyone could know, people were killing others by the hundreds of thousands, or by the millions!
Here is the warning church, and Jesus knows this; every single one of us is capable of the most heinous of action given the right motivation. Therefore, stop the cycle. Jesus pulls the plug; he says, don't insult, don't dehumanise each other with your words, and not hate in your heart!
Karl Bath calls this the wolf within; how we are all essentially murderers at heart. And we must watch this.
And here is where it gets hard, essentially; as through the Old Testament Jesus is calling for us to leave our retribution to God; to allow God to right the wrong; and for us to give him our anger.
Essentially, at the core of what Jesus is saying here is that we are not given the right to hold onto our anger! This is huge!
So, let's look at why? And then how?
So why? And to understand that we must look at…
2. Opposite of your anger
Why are we not give right to our anger? Because essentially it is God's but also because of the reconciliatory work that God is doing through the gospel.
Jesus says; the danger is so great the stakes are so high, deal with it; reconcile and seek to settle matters quickly!
You know what knocks the wind out of your angry sails? Reconciliation and settling the matter. In other words; dealing with it.
Now, let's be real, most of us here, unless you are extremely confrontational avoid dealing with our anger and hurt if possible.
We swallow down the pain, let it lie and try and move on, because it is just way too awkward to actually deal with it.
Now, Jesus again knows us; he doesn't say go fight out the issue (As most of us try and deal with our anger), in other words; that person had an issue against me, it's time they know my pain! And so, we bring the hammer down on them!
No, he says, be reconciled, settle the issue! Literally in the Greek, change thoroughly and agree wholeheartedly. In other words, be the one to make the relationship whole again.
I had to discover this quickly in my relationship with Nats because she is quicker on her feet than I am, she is able to argue like a lawyer, I am more processed and thoughtful and often get flustered by the argument, so right early on I picked up on this and so had to go into our "discussions" knowing the issue; or desperately focused on identifying the issue. This helped us both, because we could keep level heads and deal with what was wrong.
And this is what we are called to; we are to stop making an enemy of the other and rather focus on the fault; focus on what is actually the problem in the relationship!
Now this might seem practical, but I want to warn you it is not; me telling you to go and settle things quick and deal with the actual issues is a nice pie in the sky - perfect world - reality. On the ground, living our lives this doesn't work out so easily and so we must look at how we actually do this? How do we keep level heads and actually avoid the evil of our anger in seeking the other and reconciliation?
Well, let us see…
3. The miracle of moving forward
You see church, again there is a temptation for me to say now go out there and deal with your anger, but have you ever tried to do that? I mean really! When someone has truly wronged you, or destroyed your character or hurt you, how do you just let go of your anger? How do you in that situation seek the other and reconcile and make amends with that person?
The answer is by yourself you cannot. It is simply beyond you in your natural state to move forward. We tend to get stuck in a destructive black hole of resentment and hatred that generally makes moving forward at best toxic and at worst down right demonic as we act out on this growing resentment and hatred to the other.
You see, we want justice, but end up demanded vengeance, i.e. we want the other to hurt like we did, and maybe even more just in case!
We don't want to settle the matter we want to wipe the person out. And so how do we move forward? Well, it is a miracle that moves us forward, the miracle of what we started looked at last week. Jesus fulfilled the Law. The hope of our reconciliation is to move beyond ourselves; or outside of ourselves to identify with the other so that we can make amends and settle the issue; and I need to say that is a miracle!
I have discovered that the only way that this is possible is by identifying your own darkness and evil, and to reflect on how Christ still loves you and forgave you, and it is in light of that love, that undeserved love that we reach out in the same grace to the other and do the hard work of making amends.
You see church, it is too easy, and obviously natural to resent and hold onto your anger and wish the destruction of those who hurt you; either by word or by action. But, as Christ warns us; this does not lead to human flourishing; in fact, it leads to judgment and the fires of hell. Now, I think this is both an eternal reality as well as a consequence. Who here by pouring out your vengeance upon another has brought goodness into the world.
I mean think about it; are relationships so much better when you come after the other and demand retribution? Of course not, it gets worse; it descends, and we bring about our own little personal hell here on earth!
It is C.S. Lewis who states, "Each day, we are becoming a creature of splendid glory or unspeakable horror." (Mere Christianity). We need the miracle of grace to help us bring the splendid glory; it is the miracle of grace that enables us to see the other as a broken person like us and love them, because we are the receivers of undeserved love.
It is that that cracks us open so that we long for restoration of relationship because God did everything possible to restore our relationship to Him. This is a miracle!
So practically how can we live in the miracle:
a.) Leave vengeance to God
God says vengeance is mine; so, take your retribution off the table; you will do it badly! Trust God to bring justice and leave it with Him; this takes a miracle of faith!
b.) Reflect on His love
We by nature do not have what it takes so rather than appealing to your better nature; or trying to be the better person, rather look to Him, see how great and underserving you are of His love. This tends to make it harder and harder to hold onto your anger. But this is a miracle that He gives you! It is a miracle that He loves us!
c.) Act on His love
Take hold of this love and don't wait for the feeling; simply start loving the other, this is done by making amends, by seeking restoration of the relationship and seeking the forgiveness of the other.
Now, in saying all this; the other might not want to let go of their hurt and pain, and here you again have to leave it to God. Paul says in Rom 12:18 - as far as it is possible live in peace with all men.
So, sometimes the miracle does not happen, but you Christian; you Child of the Kingdom, heir of the King, you live, as far as it is possible to be at peace with all mankind everywhere. So let's go into our word and live out this miracle!