“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
“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. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (NIV)
For the guy that just said, “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 5:18-19, NIV) it is sounding strangely like he is setting aside the law… AND MAKING IT STRICTER!
Jesus is changing everything. He is moving away from an ethic of obedience to an ethic of love. Obedience is still valued, but it is no longer the end in itself. It is the road to a higher purpose. Jesus is changing from a morality based on behavior, to a morality based on attitude and its consequential behavior. That is a huge step in a new direction. We take it for granted that motive matters, but that was a new thing in Jesus’ day.
In an ethic of love, anger is a deadly force. Angry words cannot be taken back. Anger that lashes out strikes hard and wrecks relationship. An angry episode can be forgiven and a relationship can survive it but a steady expression of anger kills just as effectively as the sword. In other words, if you get angry, you can calm down and deal with it, but if you stay angry, it will kill both you and the person you are angry with. Anger has its place, of course. We are supposed to be angry when we see injustice. We are supposed to be angry when we see something wrong. It is a motivator. When we see something that needs fixing we are to fix it. Work to end injustice. Live love so justice prevails. A loving person cannot do wrong by anyone. We cannot lovingly take advantage of someone.
And that’s the thing. We cannot be a godly person and hold a grudge. God doesn’t hold grudges. God forgives. So when we give an offering—whether it is a financial gift or an act of service—we are to make peace with all around us first. Our gift is tainted if we have not. Our vision of God is clouded when anger is in our eyes. God is patient with us so we are called to be patient with one another. God has forgiven us much, so we are to forgive.
You can see where this is going.
I might write more about it another day, but for now, just know that we are called to emulate God’s character. We are to love those whom God loves (and everything that God loves too.) We are to forgive those whom God forgives (things don’t usually need to be forgiven.) So just for today, find someone to love. Forgive someone who needs forgiven (especially if it is yourself) and know that God is with you today and every day.
Blessings to you,
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.