Summary: The sermon looks at the devastating effect of anger on Christian relationships and the high calling of Christian relationships.
Introduction: Minor League Manager looses it!
I watched a minor league manager completely loose control when a base runner was called safe on a steal. He disagreed. So, he came out and began yelling in the umpire’s face, which is sometimes just considered part of the show in baseball. But he progressed to demonstrate the slide into second base, pick up the base and force it right into the umpire’s face and then heaved into the outfield. Then he came back to yell at the umpire some more and began covering home plate with dirt. Of course, being ejected at this point, he went back to the dugout and began tossing bats onto the field. Then he took a bottle of water, yelled at the umpire some more, poured the water on home plate and covered it in mud. He threw down the bottle, yelled at the ump some more and finally stormed off the field. He was suspended and assigned to anger management classes.
The TV media had a fun time with this footage. It was amusing, because of such an out of control tirade over a seemingly minor disagreement. But to Jesus, anger is no laughing matter. In fact, he says that when anger is directed at your brother it is equal to murder. Wait a minute Jesus! You go too far! Why I’ve been angry with brother “so and so” for years and I wouldn’t murder him. If that’s you, then Jesus has something to say to you of urgency this morning. He will give you a reason why you should care if you are reconciled to your brother. Jesus again transcends the LOM and sheds new light on what it means to live in relationship with God and with one another.
Move 1: Anger kills (read 5:21, 22).
Jesus has stated that we must have a righteousness that surpasses the Pharisees to enter into the kingdom of heaven. That was startling statement to his audience, because they excelled in external righteousness, but as Jesus expounds upon the Law it becomes clear that he is not simply addressing external law keeping, though it is important in some cases, but he is elevating the law to account for our hearts and our attitudes.
Certainly, Jesus affirms that it is wrong to murder. Jesus’ makes his statement in a startling authoritative way. “You have heard it said” (quoting the LOM), but I say to you.” Jesus is claiming himself as the ultimate interpreter and expositor of the law. He’s not removed it (17), but he has the authority to give the law its true meaning. That’s quite a position to claim for yourself, but Jesus can get away with it, because of the divine authority that he speaks with. The last two verses in Matt. 7 tell us the people were “amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority.” No doubt. Jesus elevates and redefines their most sacred possession, the LOM.
So, Jesus affirms that it is wrong to murder. We all nod in agreement here. Preach on, Jesus! And it makes us feel good, because we aren’t likely to go and out and murder someone. Jesus reminds us that the one who murders is subject to the judgment. Here he probably means the communal judgment of the people.
Jesus doesn’t exactly say that anger is the same as murder, but he implies as much when he links judgment to both of them. “But I say to you anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to the judgment.” Here the judgment is something beyond a human court, because only God can look inside the heart and see anger. But this is shocking! Maybe no one here is actually murdered someone, but we’ve all been angry.
Jesus doesn’t qualify what he says, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do a little discerning here. We all know the verse that tells us to sin in our anger, implying that you can be angry and not sin. We also know that Jesus was angry when he chased out the money changers. God burned with anger many times in OT. It is not right to read these words as absolute prohibition on anger. What Jesus is speaking of is harboring anger in our hearts towards our brother, allowing that anger to destroy my relationship with another brother or sister. The implication is that wishing for my brother’s demise is the same in the heart as physically murdering him. And that hits much closer to home.
Jesus is not content to leave it there. He’s that if we call someone ‘Raca’ that we will be answerable to the Sanhedrin. You’re thinking, “I’m good on that one. I don’t have a Sanhedrin and I have never called someone ‘Raca’!” Considering the context, Sanhedrin, which was usually a reference to a Jewish ruling council, is most likely a reference to a more ultimate judgment, which Jesus is building toward. And you may not have called anyone ‘Raca’, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve ever gone to your car after a church meeting and banged the steering wheel in frustration and yelled, “Idiot!” It isn’t that Jesus is legislating against a particular word, but it’s the contempt in the heart that we have for one another that leads to insulting labels.