22 Oct Murderous Attitudes
“Thou shall not murder.” Of all the commandments this one, number six, is probably the one that causes the least amount of controversy. It’s succinct, straightforward, and people almost universally agree with it. At least, we agree with it on the surface, but as we’ve been discovering throughout this sermon series, the Ten Commandments most definitely do not speak only to the surface areas of our lives. They dig down to what’s happening in our hearts—which is where things get interesting, of course.
Jesus makes this explicit by linking murder and anger. “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council.” (Matthew 5:21-22)
Ouch. Once again Jesus goes straight to the heart of the matter—our hearts. He points beyond the outward action to the internal reality. What are the murderous attitudes of our hearts? The Heidelberg Catechism captures it well: We are not to “belittle, insult, hate or kill our neighbor by thought, word, look or gesture.”
The anger Jesus is talking about here is anger we savor, anger we befriend, anger we allow to take up residence in our hearts and minds so that it turns into resentment. Resentment entraps us. It enslaves us by keeping us angry. As author Anne Lamott quips, “Resentment is like feeding yourself rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.”
When we harbor resentment, we keep long accounts of hurtful actions people have committed against us or ways in which they have offended us. Jesus says, keep short accounts. Forgive quickly. Forgiveness is always an option that is available to us. It is always a choice we can make. But, we have to let go of anger and resentment to do it.
When we don’t forgive, we’re the ones who really lose. That’s why there’s such a close connection between anger and murder—when you cling to resentment and anger, you’re murdering your own soul. When you forgive, you set a prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner was you.
The gift of the Ten Commandments is that they point us to the life of joy, peace and contentment—the life of freedom. The question always is, how free do you want to be?
Yours for the Kingdom,