Summary: All that is hateful and unloving is to some degree evil. Jesus says we need to be aware of this, and deal with it in its early stages, and so prevent all the serious consequences of thinking that negative attitudes are alright as long as you don't murder anyone.
Alexander the Great conquered the world, but anger conquered him, and turned him
into a murderer. Like so many of the murders of history, it was not intended or
designed. It happened because men do not understand that anger is the beginning of
murder. Clitus, his best friend, was teasing Alexander at a banquet. Both of them were
filling up with wine, and they began to lose control. Clitus became quite nasty in his
remarks, and Alexander lost his temper, and he hit him with his fist. His officers
restrained him, and led him out of the banquet hall. Clitus, in anger, followed and
continued to taunt Alexander. Quick as a flash, Alexander snatched a spear from one of
his guards and hurled it at his friend, and killed him.
Remorse followed his fury, and he drew out the spear, and would have fallen on it in
grief had his officers not prevented it. Clitus had been his friend from childhood. He did
not want him dead. All that night and for several days Alexander lay in remorse
piteously calling for Clitus. It was an awful price to pay to indulge in anger.
Anger is no tame pet you can let roam free. It is a wild beast, and it is a killer. Most
murders happen within families because this is where anger is permitted to roam freely.
People kill their friends and relatives, not because they want to, but because they
underestimate the danger of anger. People think that because their anger is over in a
minute or so, they are in control, but that is all it takes to throw a spear, or pull a trigger.
This is why Jesus tells us that thou shalt not murder is not enough. It is a good law,
for it is a law of God, but He came to refine the law and improve it, and make it more
effective. Therefore, He says that the way to prevent murder is to recognize where it
begins, and to deal with the seed which is anger. The rest of this Sermon on the Mount is
an elaboration of how Christian righteousness is to exceed the legalistic righteousness of
the Scribes and Pharisees. From the emphasis of Jesus on bad human relations we can
assume that Jesus is saying to us, God considers man's inhumanity to man as one of the
world's greatest problems.
We like to think, like the Pharisee, that if we get right with God, and worship Him
properly with all the right rituals, it doesn't much matter how we relate to people. It is at
this very point that religion can be the greatest enemy of Christ and true godliness.
Christians are not immune to this perversion anymore than were the Pharisees. They
actually got so caught up in their legalistic religion that they developed a contempt for
man. Man in his sinful nature was forever violating the law of God, and so they hated
and despised man, and they lost the whole purpose of God in trying to save man. Anger,
hostility, and contempt dominated their feelings, in contrast to the love for man that
Jesus brought into the world to fulfill the law.
I had an experience as a teenager that came back to me as I studied these verses. It
revealed to me how we can be tempted to follow the same path as the Pharisees. I was
working at a theater, and was outside putting up plastic letters announcing the next
attraction. The theater was right next to the sports bowl which was a hang out for youth.
The police stopped and grabbed a couple of guys and put them up against the store front
and frisked them. One got smart and got a slap across the head. I was an innocent
bystander, but I got angry at what I saw. I made some smart remark. One of the cops
came over and grabbed me by the arm, twisted it behind me, and marched me to his car.
All I remember is that I started shouting, "I am a Christian!" It must have made quite
an impression because he let me go. As I look back on it I can see that my thinking was
that because I was a Christian he had no right to touch me for my bad attitude. I was
right with God, and, therefore, my anger at men was not to be an issue. All that
mattered is that I loved God.
This kind of thinking is what makes religion so hateful to people with a humanitarian
heart. Religious people often try to combine love of God with hate of man, and are really
convinced it can be a workable plan. Love God with all your heart, and hate your
neighbor. This kind of religion has been the curse of human history, and will be until the