You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
We were preparing for the evening gathering at a summer church leadership training camp. One of the trainees arranged logs “teepee” style over dry twigs in the fire ring and set a match. The flickering dark orange flame needed help. The trainee had an idea. He found a gas can, unscrewed the top, and poured gasoline onto the teepee. We watched in horror as the flame from the fire followed the stream splashing out of the can setting everything aflame. In a moment the entire camp was focused on one thing- to put this fire out!
Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount raises the problem of anger and how it spreads quickly with devastating results, even “murder.” At the root of anger is the feeling that our way is being thwarted. Think about what happens when someone cuts you off in traffic. Unchecked anger in our spirits ignites “contempt”- the utter disregard for another person. To say “fool” (“raca”), you must make the sound of spitting. Jesus is warning us here. When we lose sight of people as created in God’s image, we are treading on the edge of the abyss.
Jesus gives us two ways to keep the fire inside the ring. First, He blesses us with His presence regardless of the conditions or situations where flames of anger might spread quickly (Matt. 5:10, 11). Second, Jesus teaches us to pray (Matthew 6:9-13) according to His kingdom coming, His will being done here on earth, where we live every day. Pray for this at the beginning of your day. Over time, your way becomes more and more His way — which we know will not be thwarted!
Lord, I will begin to pray the way You want us to pray. Make your will what matters most in all that I say and do today.