I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! (v.22).
At its best, anger alerts us to injustice. At its worst, anger becomes murderous in intent. Beyond wanting to see a wrong righted, we find ourselves wishing the destruction of a person—through the use of words if not a gun.
Many years ago, I experienced a dark and prolonged feud with a co-worker. “It troubles me to say this,” I confessed to a friend, “but sometimes I truly wish they were dead.” So tormented had I become that I dreamed of this colleague’s demise. My anger at having been wronged had become ugliness of the highest order.
To the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who followed the letter of the Ten Commandments only (Exodus 20:13), no sin was committed in such situations without actual murder. But Jesus saw beyond murderous acts to their root. Intense anger was the real sin (Matthew 5:22). And murder was only one way this sin could destroy someone.
Raca was an Aramaic word used to insult someone’s intelligence. A modern equivalent might be to call someone a “dipstick” or an “idiot.” Mōre,the Greek word for “fool,” is an exclamation of hatred and is an insult aimed at destroying/blasting someone’s character. It would be like using vulgar terms to call someone worthless or good for nothing. Can you see how murderous these words are? Such contempt dehumanizes a person, declares them worthless, and seeks their destruction. Jesus warned that such words would incur the severest of divine judgment (v.22).
All humans—even our enemies—are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). They’re to be valued. Anger may at times be a natural reaction to others’ wrongdoing, but love is to be our defining characteristic (Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39). I, for one, need the supernatural love of the Holy Spirit to love those I would otherwise sin against (Romans 5:5). How about you?
Jesus gives two illustrations of how to live out this teaching in Matthew 5:23-26. Notice how both move to managing others’ anger toward us.
How can Jesus and the Holy Spirit help you to deal with people you might wish were dead? Why is it so abhorrent to God if we ridicule or swear at people?