“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; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matt. 5:21-22)
These words of Jesus should cut to the heart of every contemporary American Christian. Today, because of the rhetoric spun by the media and politicians there is a national epidemic of discourteousness and disrespect toward our fellow human beings. Due to the platform that social media had granted everyone we can now easily speak words of vitriol, anger and hatred to people who do not agree with us or who have the effrontery to tell us we are wrong, or worse, tell us we are in sin. Jesus tells us here that these angry words and attitudes are sin. We should, rather, seek to forgive and ask forgiveness, to be reconciled with those we do not like starting with our brethren in the Lord.
The fact that we are all sinners condemned by Jesus’ words should humble us enough to curb our tongues. None of us is perfect so why do we demand perfection in others? Jesus came to fulfill the Law, to fulfill the Scriptures, on our behalf, as He was the only one who was able to follow the Law to perfection. He fulfilled it with His life of righteousness, death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.
What Jesus taught was more stringent than the Law, and impossible for any human being to fulfill. He taught that the attitude of the heart, what a person thinks and believes is essential to God’s Law, not mere actions or the keeping of rules. That is why the man who entertains lustful thoughts about a woman is just as guilty as the one who has committed the physical act of adultery (or fornication), and the one who is angry or disrespectful toward another is just as guilty as the murderer. If our hearts are right with God we will do what is right and in accordance with His will because He enables us to do so. And we will pray for and love those who do not share our opinions as well as those who reject Jesus.