Sitting on the Mountainside-Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

Day 19: “Murder” Part Two- ANGER 08.27.18

Matthew 5:21-22 (NIV) “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

In our previous article, we spoke of anger that amounts to murderous thoughts about another person. But we need to say more about anger itself. This teaching from our Lord can be easily misunderstood. In short, Jesus did not say a person must never be angry, as if anger is always sinful and ought never enter the Christian life. That would be unrealistic and even unhealthy.

The Word of God shows us that God Himself gets angry. The Old Testament is filled with statements of God’s anger at those who broke covenant with Him. For example:

Leviticus 26:27-28 (NIV) “If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over.”

God was angry the same way Jesus was angry at the defilement of the Temple. Consider:

John 2:15-16 (NIV) So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”

Sometimes we say well-meaning but unhelpful things at this point. Such as “That was not anger but righteous indignation!” Perhaps. But Jesus was angry, and the Father was angry and since we are made in His image, we will experience anger the same as we experience grief and affection and compassion. The problem is not with anger but what we do with the anger.

I get angry every time I hear a politician defend abortion, but I do not blow up abortion clinics. I get angry when racism abounds white on black and vice-versa, but I don’t join in the hatred. Actually, we would be less than human if we did not experience anger at times. So, what are we to make out of the statement Jesus made about anger?

“I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”

Again, notice that Jesus did not say we must never be angry. Jesus often spoke in conditional terms. He used “IF/THEN” arguments. A parent might say to her daughter “If you don’t study for your exams then you might get a bad grade!” Jesus spoke that way, but he can be misunderstood. A common example would be an idea that we have all heard. “Jesus said we should never judge anyone else. We must not be judgmental.” Jesus most certainly did not say that. How could we get along in life without judging right from wrong or wise from foolish? Now, often we would be wise to keep our judgments to ourselves lest we hurt others because we don’t approve of their actions or choices. Different topic. But, in any case, let’s look closely at what our Lord said:

Matthew 7:1 (NIV) “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Jesus is saying If you want to judge someone else’s actions fine…but understand that you will be judged by the same standards! If I am offended that my brother is a gossip, am I also guilty of gossip? Jesus taught that before I am angry at my brother, even if my conclusions are just, I’d better be prepared to be judged by the same standards.

A perfect example of anger being played out is found in Matthew Chapter 18 when the master ordered the dishonest manager to pay what he owed or else go to jail. The master was unhappy, probably angry. The man begged for forgiveness but then he was angry with another man who owed him a small amount! His actions were judged by the people and then they were angry! They observed his behavior and reported it to the master and then he was angry! Thus, the whole dynamic with anger invites more anger. Our Lord wants true disciples to realize that anger is emotional dynamite.

Ok. Perhaps the more important point is to remember that anger can easily become rage in the heart and that is something that should cause us to push the “pause button.” The anger may be legitimate, but a few steps might be wise to take at this point. Some good Christ-centered self-talk. This set of questions has helped me. If you find them useful then great. By all means disregard if they do not interest you. When angry, we might ask:

ONE: Is this a reasonable thing to be angry about? What shall I do with my anger that it does not become murderous rage in my heart?

TWO: Have I followed the guidelines given by Jesus if I have been hurt by someone? Namely:

Matthew 18:15 (NIV) “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”

THREE: Have I been praying for the person(s) at whom I feel angry?

FOUR: Am I keeping in mind that people are flawed and no doubt, at some point, I have also angered someone?

FIVE: Am I following this guideline from the Word of God?

Ephesians 4:26-27 (NIV) “In your anger do not sin….and do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

Next: “The Unwanted Offering”

Peace. Pastor Alberta

1 Comment

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One response to “Sitting on the Mountainside-Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

  1. George Lin

    Your five-fold meditation on anger is helpful, although it might be more than I can remember the next time I need it. My go-to is Proverbs 19:11
    Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Thank you, Pastor Alberta, for the opportunity to sit under your pastoral teaching!

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