Best of Daily Reflections: That’s a Little Over the Top
“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”
One time on our campus, I got into a heated argument with an administrator. In fact, it was mostly a one-way set of accusations from my mouth against that administrator’s stupid, unjust, and unprofessional act. I used those very words. When I was done I walked away with my blood pressure up, my heart pounding, and my mind asteamin’. I felt very good about myself and what I had said because I had cleared my chest. I felt good about it until the next week when I was teaching the Sermon on the Mount at 8 a.m. to my Jesus of Nazareth class. Then, I read the words from the passage above, and my “interaction” with the administrator came to mind. I wish that event had not come to mind, but it’s the way God’s Word works.
The problem was that as I read the words of Jesus, I got to thinking that Jesus’ words were a little over the top. I mean, after all, anger isn’t the same thing as murder–I hadn’t murdered, I had only chastised. But the words of Jesus kept pushing back against my “over the top” thinking–Jesus sets out three ways of seeing the same thing: anger, calling someone “Raca” (a term of contempt, fill in the translation with your own terms), or calling someone “fool.” Jesus says anger expressed in words of contempt fit the bill, and my words “stupid” and “unprofessional” were close enough. As I continued to teach, I entered into a prayer of confession and I did make up with that administrator later, because I realized Jesus had just pointed his finger at me.
Jesus expects more of his followers. He summons us not just to tolerate people we don’t like or those with whom we sharply disagree; he summons us to reconciliation at all costs (the point made in 5:23-26). He wants us to see that murder begins with anger and accusations, but not only that. Our anger and accusation and contempt can wipe someone off the map of existence and fellowship with us. So Jesus calls us to more…a more exemplary, loving life that seeks fellowship and love with all.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: With whom are you angry? Have you used some caustic, accusatory terms for other humans today or yesterday or this week or month? Do you need to make things right? Do you see that Jesus wants us, because we are called to “more,” to live reconciled relationships with others?
PRAYER: Our Father, even though my sin occurred years ago, its reminder leads me to confess the sin of anger and accusation. I ask for your grace of forgiveness, and I am grateful for your forgiveness and the reconciliation I have experienced.
I ask for quick revelations from the Spirit when anger and accusation begin to roll themselves toward the destruction of another human. I ask for your Spirit to speak quickly and to stop the process. I ask also for the grace of revelation to reveal where else I have acted in anger and am in need of reconciliation. I ask for the courage to respond in obedience.
I ask this because in your Son you changed us from your enemies into your dear children; you took us from rebel lands and made us participants in your kingdom. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
P.S. from Mark Roberts: This week's reflections are written by New Testament professor, prolific author, blogger at Jesus Creed, man of deep faith, and my friend, Dr. Scot McKnight. If you missed my introduction of Scot in Monday's reflection, you can find it here.