Summary: Jesus’ teaching about anger is: 1. Murder begins as an attitude in the heart. 2. Anger grows as we express it in name calling and cursing. 3. Anger ends by means of reconciliation.
David A. Slagle, from Lawrenceville, Georgia, tells a wild story about an experience he had: “I served as a nurse in the operating room for several years. One day a couple arrived, both with gunshot wounds. He had awakened late for his first day on the job because his wife did not set the alarm. He expressed his displeasure by shooting her in the arm. Not to be outdone, she retreated to another room, got a shotgun, and shot him in the arm. As I gathered their paperwork in the preoperative unit, I heard something one would only expect to hear in a country song. Separated by a deputy sheriff and handcuffed to their respective stretchers, the husband began: ‘I love you, baby, and I’m sorry I shot you.’ The wife responded, ‘I love you too, baby, and I’m sorry I shot you.’”
There seems to be an epidemic of anger these days. Some people seem to be constantly angry and are always peeved. Some wear a constant angry look that makes you realize that there is a smoldering inferno inside. Some are rageaholics — they are addicted to rage and don’t know how to live without it. They use their anger to control other people and get their way. A recent article reported on Dr. Emil Coccaro, a researcher and professor of psychiatry at the University of Chicago Hospitals, who has been studying anger for several decades. The article stated: “He says that many hotheads suffer from Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED). [Oh good Now we have a new disorder on which we can blame our behavior ] Dr. Coccaro is championing a new drug called Depakote, introduced by Abbott Laboratories in 1995. Interestingly, an effort to find volunteers with volatile tempers for the clinical studies has been unproductive. Apparently, few people see their anger as a problem.” I suppose that if you tried to convince some of these people they had a problem you would get whacked. It is interesting that Dr. Coccaro is trying to treat this disorder with drugs. That seems to be the way we attack all our problems in America — just get a better pill.
But Jesus has another solution to the problem of anger. He began by saying that it is not enough just to talk about not murdering people. The solution must go deeper than that, and it must get at the problem long before we reach the place where we want to kill someone. Jesus reaffirmed that it was wrong to murder, but he added to the command in a way that made it much more far reaching. Jesus’ teaching about anger said, first of all, that: Murder begins as an attitude in the heart. Here again the new righteousness of Jesus comes to the forefront. The old righteousness just said, “Keep the rules.” The new righteousness says, “You must have a new heart.” Why is this important? Because all wrong actions begin with wrong attitudes. It is in the heart that the devil plants the seed of anger. And he does what he can to nurture that seed to make sure it grows. He takes a hurt and turns it into hatred. The heart is the beginning place of all evil, for every evil act begins with an evil attitude. Someone has said, “Sow a thought and you reap an act; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”
You will remember the day that the Pharisees came to Jesus complaining that his disciples did not rinse their hands before they ate. Jesus said to them, “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean’” (Matthew 15:11). When his disciples asked him to explain, he said, “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:17-19). Having a pure heart is much more difficult than having pure actions. Many people can control their outward actions enough to fool the people around them, but if you saw into their heart you might see something quite different. For instance, you can hide the anger you have for another person. You can even treat them in a way that makes them believe that you like them very much, while all the time you are demeaning them in your heart, calling them names, or even wishing they were dead. Jesus talked against being a hypocrite and putting on a front. Wearing a mask and living for Christ is incompatible. Jesus was saying that if you want your life to be free from sin, you must not only make sure that you do not murder people, you must stop despising them in your heart. You must give up your anger toward them. You must stop calling them names. More than all that, you must love them. The Bible says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).