I believe we need routine heart checks. I’m not speaking of our physical heart, though there is merit in that, but I’m more so thinking of our soul heart where our emotions and thoughts lie. The Bible says out of our hearts flows the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23). The thoughts and meditations of our hearts manifest themselves in our actions.
In the remainder of Matthew 5, Jesus addresses our heart issues because of the detriment they have on our actions. Each section, Jesus says, “you have heard…but I tell you…” As we learned from the last blog post, Radical Fulfillment, Jesus is not contradicting what was previously written in the Old Testament. Rather, he is giving us more in depth tools to obey them. These next few verses of the Sermon on the Mount, which we will dive deeper into over the course of a few blog posts, capture the essence of the message Jesus was giving us: a call to a higher standard of living.
You have heard it was said to the people long ago, “you shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister “raca,” is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, “you fool!” Will be in danger of the fires of hell.
While there is righteous anger for an injustice, this is not the anger Jesus is addressing. Rather, he is condemning the deeply rooted anger we have allowed to grow in our hearts.
We can be upset about things. Anger is a secondary emotion that is generally masking disappointment, hurt, embarrassment, frustration, and so on. It it natural to initially have some anger stirred up within us when we experience these other emotions. Jesus understands that and gives us grace and strength to work through the root emotion we are experiencing.
It is when we don’t address the core issue and let anger run rampant in our hearts that we sin. This deep seated anger is likened to murder because of the strong effects it has on our heart. We know not to murder. That is ingrained in our morals. But Jesus calls is to higher living not because he enjoys putting impossible standards on his disciples, but rather because he knows our wayward hearts. Murder is the physical manifestation of an angry heart. By calling us out to refrain from anger, Jesus is encouraging us to intentionally work through our true emotion and setting us up for a successful, righteous life.
Likewise, he added two more progressions to the initial building on this commandment.
“Raca” essentially means “empty headed.” In today’s age, it would be similar to calling someone an idiot. Insulting someone in such a way would have them answer to the Sanhedrin. Yet he he said that calling someone a fool puts you in danger of hell. To say that attacks the identity of another human. What is God’s problem with a little name calling?
While we seem to have a recent awakening to the detriment of verbal and emotional abuse, Jesus was always acutely aware of it. They are progressions to the higher call of riding ourselves of anger because when these insults come out of us, anger has already taken root in us. We can’t have peace and the abundance of Christ in our heart if we are insulting others that are made in his image. What we are full of, we will pour out.
Therefore, if you are offering a gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something agaisnt you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
Let me paint a picture for you. You and your significant other are in the car fighting. He’s throwing names and you’re dragging up issues from the past. The yelling is only broken by icy pauses that last only until someone can find the right nerve to step on. You park with a glare on your face then walk up to the building with a painted on smile and say “good morning, pastor!” Sound familiar?
Maybe this isn’t you on Sunday mornings. But I’m willing to guess that you have had a similar situation with a spouse, friend, family member, or someone of thr sort. You’re blazing with anger yet trying to simultaneously do something good in another area of your life. Maybe that good other area doesn’t feel as fulfilling as it should. Or maybe your questioning why God feels so far away.
God is holy and cannot be with impurity. If our hearts are so jam packed with discord against our fellow humans, we have no room for God in our lives. God cannot receive what we offer him, nor can we receive the blessings of giving to him.
I won’t promise you this is easy. Many times before posting a new blog, God lays it on my heart to apologize to someone for a wrong I’ve done. Some people receive it with grace while others reject it with anger. Apologizing is not anything I truly enjoy doing. Yet I will do it because I want to offer up everything I have to God and him to receive it so I might one day hear, “well done good and faithful servant.”
Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judg may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown in prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
We think its easier to delay asking for forgiveness of sin. It’s uncomfortable to admit we are wrong. But it is worse to prolong the situation.
Have you ever had a secret that eats at you? Something you know you’ve fallen short in but were too afraid to admit it? You think you can sweep it under the rug, but it becomes your personal monster and torments you regularly. You begin to realize it would have been better to confess your sins quickly after they happened rather than live with them for eternity.
On the contrary, we can also not reconcile our sins quickly and not feel guilty over them. This is breeding ground for the behavior to grow and for us to fall deeper into it. Either way, we will not be living the life God designed and Jesus sacrificed for us.
We need to settle our issues with others with urgency. Dwelling in our sins and wrong patterns will eventually lead to a much worse situation for us.
This higher standard of living and reconciliation Jesus calls his disciples to, though difficult and painful, will bring our hearts closer to God’s. Some of the commands in this passage seem far out of the realm of our abilities. Humanly, we are doomed, but with God, all things are possible. Allow him to move in your heart and fill you with love instead of anger.