Have you ever noticed how when people are angry, things tend to get broken. As teenagers, my brother and I got into a fight after school when our parents weren’t home. I ended up pushing him through the living room wall.
In anger: someone throws a punch and a nose gets broken. In anger one nation lashes out against another and a pact or a treaty gets broken. Use angry words and perhaps a heart gets broken…relationships get broken. Jesus talks very plainly about anger and relationships between Kingdom of God people in His the Sermon on the Mount.
Remember as we began last week, we were reminded that for the first 300 years of the church many Christians died because of their faith. Christians refused to bow to Caesar (LORD). Penalty for claiming Jesus as Lord. Christians refused to submit to things that conflicted with Jesus’ authority. Would you have come here today if this was illegal and you could be arrested for being here? Or lose your job for being here. That’s how radical the Gospel was. Then in 313AD Constantine legalized Christianity and it became comfortable and easy to be Christian. Anytime Christianity is easy or comfortable it has not be good. The revolutionary Gospel became civilized and the radical Jesus became tame and domesticated and the movement of Christianity became institutionalized.
Today, we are going to begin looking specifically at Jesus’ teaching as radical and revolutionary words that challenge our worldview and our lifestyles. As a disciple with undiluted devotion to Jesus, his words will need to become our actions.
In Matthew 5:20, He tells us that our righteousness needs to surpass that of those who look perfect on the outside. Because far from being satisfied with good appearances, God is looking for hearts that have been changed.
It’s safe to say that the average person would consider themselves to have a good heart. You know to be a basically good person. A common line of reasoning that exists today in determining if we are good sounds something like this – “Well, I know I’m not perfect, but at least I’m not a murderer!” As if murder is the line between good and bad – perhaps also assuming that murder is the point of no return. Once a person commits murder, they can never be considered a good person ever again. That’s actually a very ancient way of thinking. Because that appears to be exactly what some thought about what it meant to be a good person in Jesus day. I’m basically a good person. I haven’t murdered anyone.
So Jesus starts out by saying…“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder.’” (That’s in the OT. That’s commandment number 6 of the 10 Commandments. Do not murder…) And… (now here’s the oral tradition part) “…anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” That’s what had been handed down for years. If you murder, you are subject to judgment – in other words, you would be brought before the local courts.
The crowd on the mountain with Jesus would have been as familiar with that statement as they were with the simple command – “Do not murder.”
So here is what Jesus says…“But I tell you, that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” (v. 21) That is…worthy of the same consequence as murder. Jesus equates angry thoughts with murder!
Not all anger is bad – even Jesus got angry when people were having obstacles put in the way of their coming to God at the Temple; the Bible teaches about the wrath of God.
But Jesus says, we shouldn’t even allow ourselves to become angry enough to consider harming someone in any way (feelings too), because then we’ve already committed murder in our hearts. In verse 22 Jesus says, “Again anyone who says to his brother ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin.” “Raca” – an expression of contempt. Raca – means “emtpy head; imbecile.”
The word may have originated from the sound a person makes in clearing the throat in preparation to spit. Rrraaaacah! That’s what I think of you! It’s meant to cast someone aside – like spitting on them – and saying you don’t belong. Sometimes these words hurt so bad that murder would almost be a mercy.
“But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” “Fool” was an expression of malice. It is moros or where we get our English word “moron.” It was used to call people godless.
The Pharisees would never commit murder. Yet they were angry enough at Jesus to have him killed. But they got someone else to do it. Keeping the rules – but overlooking the intentions.
Hateful words spoken in anger are treated like a crime – specifically murder – in God’s eyes.
A kingdom heart is a heart of love and doesn’t just want to get by with the rules, and say, “Well, at least I’ve never killed anyone.”
And then, here is where Jesus gets radical and revolutionary. He turns living upside down: 23“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
Right then you remember – someone is angry with me. I am at odds with someone. My actions have knowingly hurt someone else. Jesus says, go! Settle matters – now! He says it is far more important to be reconciled to someone than it is to engage in religious activity. Worship becomes a sham if we’ve behaved so poorly prior to coming to worship that we’ve knowing hurt someone. So settle things before attempting to worship.
One of the times that I will often get frustrated with Christians is when I hear them say something like this: “I just can’t forgive…you don’t know how badly they hurt me. I’ll be angry at them until the day I die.” In my head I’m screaming – what do you mean can’t forgive – Jesus said to forgive; he died to forgive you. But those words usually never make it past my lips. But it’s true. Reconciliation is revolutionary. Reconciliation and forgiveness are radical moves that must be modeled in the kingdom of God because they are certainly not modeled elsewhere.
It’s easy to hate; to destroy; to slander someone. It’s easy to stay angry and believe you have the upper hand. It’s harder to forgive and to heal relationships. But that’s exactly what Jesus says separates kingdom people from everyone else. Whenever you forgive and whenever you take the steps to reconcile a broken relationship – there is the radical kingdom of God. What if Jesus really meant what he said?