You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment. Matthew 5:21-22
At work, we are currently changing electronic records, which is a dramatic transition and significant challenge. I adopted a good attitude though, knowing that we’d soon get through it and be better for it. I started my day with a smile, but after a few hours, that smile faded as I became frustrated that things weren’t going exactly how I wanted. I knew simple tasks would soon be simple again, once I learned the new way, but I grew tired of learning. I started pouting, frowning, and stomping (at least in my head). I don’t think I yelled at anyone, but my demeanor was apparent to those around as they kept their distance.
As mild as my anger was, it still darkened my disposition and injured my relationship with others. This is the inevitable effect of my anger and as it grows, so does its destructive effects. When my will is thwarted, I get frustrated and feel the need to make sure everyone knows I’m frustrated. Like alcohol, anger intoxicates, making me do and say things I don’t mean.
In today’s passage, Jesus radically compared anger to murder, teaching that the one who lives in anger is liable to the same judgment as the one who murders. He wasn’t suggesting that we should incarcerate angry people, but rather was teaching that the condition of our heart matters. We may keep the letter of the law, avoiding murder, but if we live in anger, we just kill in different ways.
We may not literally take another’s life, but in our toxic anger, we poison our relationships with friends, coworkers, and loved ones. Even worse, our anger is deadly to our spiritual life. While indulging in resentment and wrath, we cannot also be filled with the Spirit of God. In our anger, we think, do, and say things that are incompatible with living a life of faith and recovery.
If we want to avoid the destruction of our anger, we must recognize its deadly effects and be honest about it. Then we must do what it takes to daily abandon it to follow Christ.