Do you ever get really angry? Of course; all of us do. In Genesis 34, we read that Jacob’s daughter Dinah was raped by a local boy. His sons, overwhelmed by their desire for revenge, unleashed a tidal wave of destruction that resulted in the slaughter of every man in town and the enslavement and impoverishment of every woman and child in the tribe. As a result, Jacob’s honor was ruined and his family was endangered. Our anger has consequences! Today, let’s consider something Jesus said—something that may surprise you:
You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. (Matthew 5:21-24)
In this passage we are told that Jesus knows we will get angry. He wants us to handle our anger, because when we’re angry with someone, we are “subject to judgment.” If we let our anger get out of control and we curse someone, Jesus says we are “in danger of the fires of hell.” Wow! According to Jesus, our anger is as consequential as the physical act of murder. Pretty strong stuff, right? Then He tells us what to do next, something we might not expect. Let’s listen to his command again: “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” What do you think of that? Have you ever thought of the context? Jesus not only wants us to manage our anger, He wants us to help others so they won’t be destroyed by their anger toward us! How challenging is that? As we worship, if we remember that someone is angry with us, aren’t we tempted to say to ourselves, “Hey, that’s their problem, right?” According to Jesus, no. Jesus says that it’s our problem too. He says we must make an effort to get it worked out. You and I are called to be peacemakers in this anger-filled world, not just for ourselves but for others, too.
Acting redemptively and being peacemakers: that's being like Jesus. And for both ourselves and for others, that's always very Good News!