21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
Last night at youth we studied these verses from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. While we understand that most of us won’t commit murder, all of us will experience intense anger in this life. So, we want to talk about what anger is and what it looks like in our lives.
The first thing that is important to remember when discussing anger is that anger can be justified. There are often times in life when someone does something really hurtful to us, and in those moments we are justified in our anger. Following that path, it’s important to remember that the other person can be in the wrong. Often times we have anger towards someone that hurt us and they are, without a doubt, in the wrong! They did something that everyone would agree, is wrong. And we can look at this situation and understand that.
Now, we have established that you can be justified in being angry and the other person can be wrong, but next it’s important to understand that our anger doesn’t hurt other people, it hurts us. When we sit and stew in our anger, we are letting it control our lives. We are saying that whatever they did was so awful that I cannot possibly forgive it. Our anger doesn’t only hurt us, but it hurts our relationship with God. Verses 23-24 tell us that if we are trying to bring a gift to the Lord but have not reconciled with a brother, go first and be reconciled! We cannot go to our God and ask for mercy and forgiveness, then turn around and REFUSE to extend mercy and forgiveness to a brother. Jesus makes that clear. So then the question becomes, why do we insist on staying angry? Why don’t we forgive?
We believe we are the victim, therefore we believe we should be angry. When I can’t let go of my anger, it’s because I believe that I am the victim and I want the victimizer to pay the price. But when I remember my relationship with God, I am reminded that I am, indeed, the victimizer. That I am the one that put Christ on that tree, that drove the nails in. This realization always drives me back to humility. How can I possibly withhold forgiveness for someone that hurt me, when I did all that to my God and He humbled himself to forgive AND save me. The humility I’m called to may seem hard, but in comparison to the humility Jesus had to display, it is nothing.
This is where our anger dies. In the seat between humility and forgiveness. Knowing that I myself have such a great debt, that if not repaid, would put me in prison for eternity, yet was reconciled for me. When I stop believing that I am the victim, and start believing I’m the victimizer, my anger is shown in a new light and I am free to forgive.
Anger says that you hurt me, and you deserve punishment. The Gospel says we all hurt Jesus, and we all deserve death, but Christ forgave us. Therefore, we have no excuse to continue on in our anger. Anger open’s us up to judgment, and none of us want to be judged because none of us are perfect people.
- Who are you angry with in your life and why won’t you forgive them?
- Who does your anger effect most?
- How do I defeat my anger?
I pray that none of us would be slaves to anger. That we would humble ourselves enough to extend forgiveness to others. That we would remember all the harm we have caused. Father, give us humility.