Have you ever been angry?
Silly question, I know. We’ve all been angry before. But I think that’s where we struggle. Since it’s so common, I think we forget sometimes just how hurtful anger can be.
Have you ever murdered anyone?
No? Ok, good. You see, that’s a sin that very few people commit. Those who do are, rightfully so, held up to justice at a very high standard.
So why does Jesus compare the two in this passage?
Well, first off, I don’t think Jesus is comparing the two in the sense that both are on equal footing. Sometimes we use comparison to equate things. But sometimes we use comparison to catch attention. That’s what I believe Jesus did here.
Everyone knows murder deserves judgement. Not everyone knows that anger deserves judgement too. They may not deserve the same judgement, but both are wrong.
Now, you might respond by pointing out that Jesus himself got angry. And you would be right about that.
Of course you’d be referring to passages like Matthew 21:12-17 (when Jesus cleanses the temple) or Matthew 23:1-36 (Jesus rebukes the Pharisees).
So how can Jesus condemn anger in one breath, and yet be angry himself with another?
Go back and read our passage for today.
Jesus talks about being angry with your brother, insulting your brother or calling your brother a fool. Now Jesus isn’t only talking about your biological brother. He also isn’t excluding sisters from the conversation.
What he means is that when the focus of your anger is another person, there’s a problem.
The focus of Jesus’ anger was injustice and hypocrisy. Before you think his anger was directed at the people who were in the temple or the Pharisees themselves, think about some other moments in Jesus’ life.
He showed love and respect to Nicodemus – a Pharisee.
He accepted a tax collector as one of His disciples.
Jesus loved people. But He wouldn’t let people live in sin or hypocrisy without calling them out on it. There’s a difference between that and the type of seething anger Jesus is talking about in our passage.
You know the difference. I do too.
I remember times in school when one of my friends would get a really good score on a test. They got a better score than me. They worked hard for it, but I was jealous inside.
Not the right type of anger.
Now, if that same person had cheated on the test and I knew about it, that’s a different story. I should go to that person directly and call them out on it.
Right type of anger.
This discussion is extremely nuanced. I encourage you to go pray over this passage and read through the other passages I mentioned above. Ask God to help you with anger. Ask for wisdom to know the difference between anger at injustice and anger at another person.
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