But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:22)
Beyond Cultural Norms
Christ's first address of the law took us beyond the culturally acceptable. In Christ's time, you didn't get called out for having bitterness or saying bad things about people. As we saw repeatedly with Christ's ministry, he was falsely accused several times and several groups looked on him with rage and hatred. They weren't being called before the judges or the Sanhedrin as Christ suggested (in several cases they were the judges and the Sanhedrin). Attitude was a major problem in Christ's time and it still is today.
It's not hard to find an angry person today, regardless of the country, region and class you find yourself in. People hold grudges, spew venom and project rage on a consistent basis. You can see it on the television screens, hear it on the radio, read about it on the internet and experience in your own conversations. Negativity and unjust anger are epidemics in humanity. Christ recognized this and he also recognized the deadly implications of them. Looking back at the above scripture we see the severity of the consequences.
Anger in Your Heart Leads to Having Your Witness Cut Off
Christ first addresses the anger that seethes beneath the surface. It is the bitterness we build up inside us but do not share with others. It's that angry look that forms on our faces when we even think about the individual or situation that bugs us. Over time, it festers and our hearts become dark with bitterness. It is a blackness that cannot easily be removed.
For this type of anger, Christ uses the analogy of being called before a judicial council. In the cases of murder, judicial councils typically heard crimes of passion and manslaughter cases. The party didn't intend to kill, but they did and must face justice. If found unjustified, their act of murder was punished by beheading. B
Bringing it back to Christ's sermon, when we allow anger to fester in our hearts to another, we are cutting off our ability to be used by Christ in their lives. That person may need Jesus one day, but our hatred and bitterness towards them precludes our abilities to bring Him to them.
Anger in Your Words, Buries Your Purpose
Christ next addresses the anger of our words. The word Raca was a reproach used to defame an individual in Christ's time. It literally means an empty headed man. Basically, it's to call a person good for nothing. This doesn't go to the level of spiritual condemnation, but it does work to hurt an individuals reputation.
For this type of anger, Christ uses the analogy of being called before the high council. This form of judgment was reserved for those who committed premeditated and egregious murders. They were to be made an example of for their knowing defilement of God's laws and His people. The punishment was stoning, which symbolized an individual being buried beneath the weight of his or her sins.
We are all God's children. To defile someone's reputations with gossip, backbiting and other hurtful approaches, we set ourselves up to be buried beneath the weight of our words one day. No man is perfect and everyone falls. People will remember our sins of anger and calculated rage when the time comes for us to seek mercy for mistakes. Moreover, people will not accept anything we have to say about Christ if all we spew is venom about others.
Spiritual Serial Killers
Finally, Christ addresses the anger that has no love. To use the term fool, is to ridicule an individual beyond just their actions or their background. It means to hate someone at the core of their being. It means to revile someone so much that we no longer see them as human or deserving of mercy. We treat them as a dog and thus lose our humanity as well.
The third type of murder was handed directly by the Sanhedrin. It was when someone committed a murder so grave, it could only be classified as pure evil. There was more to their actions than just simple rage. Satan or his minions had consumed the individual and they must be completely eradicated. The individual was burned alive so as to remove the evil within them completely.
To be annoyed and bitter at someone or to stir up gossip or call people out negatively for their actions. However, to get to a point to where we start looking at people as less than human is another. It is to lose love and take on hate. It is to be completely consumed by rage, which in and of itself is an evil spirit. We become possessed with it and are unable to control ourselves. One gets the visions of abusive husbands, radical racists, and serial killers. However, it can just as easily be our coworkers, family members and fellow churchgoers who appear docile and kind without. Inside, though, they have an apathy for someone or all people that will cost them with God. It will completely burn up their desire to reach others and impact the Kingdom of God positively. In the end, the one thing that is truly murdered will be our witness.
This lesson doesn't seem so bright, but don't worry. Christ never gives a critique without offering a solution. In our next Truth lesson, we will see what can be done to prevent these states of judgment from being reached. We can overcome our anger and become true servants of God with love and mercy guiding us. Until the next lesson, we'll have an activity up on our ACCESS page for you to try out. It might just help with any anger that is under the surface.
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.