Teaching About Anger
“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.
So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.
When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison. And if that happens, you surely won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny.”
Matthew 5:21-26 NLT
Anger has been prevalent in my life for more years than I care to remember. My earthly father was an abusive alcoholic and not only did he rage and harm my Mother, his unquenchable rage impacted his three oldest children (I was one of the three).
With no remorse or shame he raged at work, and he had no qualms about being verbally inappropriate and out of control around strangers. To say he was a very angry man, would be an understatement. I would like to say this ended the day our family escaped from him but anger has a way of infiltrating lives and sticking around, even when it’s something you hate, especially with children.
Our verses today touch on a specific Moral Law from the Ten Commandments, “You shall not murder.”
The first time I heard a sermon series on the Ten Commandments, I said to myself, “At least there is one commandment I haven’t broken because I’ve never murdered!”
I was so relieved until the pastor asked, “When was the last time you murdered someone with your ugly thoughts or words?” Uh oh…. Our verses make it very clear how serious it is to think or say or do something ugly about or to another person:
“But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” Matthew 5:22
Perhaps after reading these words again we are squirming a little from guilt, and asking, ‘you mean it’s a sin to even think about things in anger?’ Yes it is, because the “meditation” of our heart is where anger starts and ultimately contributes to our mouths (and worse) committing murder!
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalms 19:14 NLT
When I read these verses and consider what I’ve thought or spoken out loud…., let’s just say, I’m ten for ten on breaking those commandments. Not a proud moment for me.
The second paragraph speaks about sacrifices at the altar, or the Ceremonial Laws. But remember, Christ died for us so we don’t have to make a literal sacrifice anymore. Jesus is the final and perfect sacrifice. We do, however, approach the throne of God when we pray and confess our sins. We cannot ask for forgiveness for our sins when we won’t forgive someone else for their sins.
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15 NLT
Don’t get angry with me if you are feeling a bit convicted right now! As you can see, this truth comes directly from God’s Word!
I want to stress something to you before we go any further: DO NOT confuse forgiveness with association. For instance, God wanted me to forgive my father for his heinous acts, but He would not have asked me or any of my family to stay in that abuse. We forgive because we are forgiven and because it frees us from being forever bound to our abusers in negativity and bitterness when we refuse to forgive. But that does not mean we stay in an abusive relationship.
The best peace and freedom I ever received was the day I chose to truly forgive my father.
The worst thing about my life before I chose to forgive was living my life in bitterness and anger. Even though I despised those qualities in him, without proper counseling about the importance of forgiveness and how to forgive, I repeated those nasty character flaws.
If you or someone you love has been impacted by abuse, especially if there is a child involved (voice of experience!), I encourage you to lay down your pride and get Christian counseling for everyone to break free from the potential long term effects.
Finally, the last portion of these verses has been the most challenging for me because not all “adversaries” wish to reconcile, and we can ALL be adversaries. God tells us:
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 NIV
Meaning, don’t wait for them to make the first move, we need to make the first move.
But it’s their fault….
Sometimes all it takes is a kind word sent in a card. No expectations, no judgment, just make the first move.
Father God this was a very difficult lesson and I thank you for guiding me through it. I pray Your words and my honesty will be the encouragement someone may need to get help, and heal any unresolved brokenness or unforgiveness. Father, I especially thank you for the reminder that it’s important to settle our differences quickly, otherwise we may end up in prison…, perhaps a prison of our own making. Give us all the strength and courage we need to take those first steps towards healing and reconciliation. I ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.