Whew, my “God Thoughts” have been interrupted!
I am memorizing Matthew 5:21-22 today. It reads, “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.”
As I pondered that verse it occured to me that I really need to include the next four verses to make sense of the flow of what Jesus was getting at. He went on to say,
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your nbrother, and then come and offer your gift. 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. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”
I wonder if Jesus was reverse engineering…he goes on to give a blueprint for not getting into such an anger that leads to murder. Everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment–now here we go with the language again…is that liable as in the sense of liable as in “likely to make judgments,” or is it liable in the sense of being culpable? I will be heading for the Greek to see what Matthew said in a minute!
Verse 22 goes on to say that whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council…Sanhedrin? Do you notice that the anger comes first and it was not resolved on the spot. Whatever offended became a continual irritant which goads one to make snide remarks. put-downs and ultimately insults. I have been around people like that who have perfected scarcasm to a fine art. There are whole familites where the atmosphere is constantly prickly with emotional pokes and jabs. It is all excused with the assurance that you know you are loved if you are included in all the acidic harrassment. That feels to me like a very twisted definition of love, not at all like the picture of love that Jesus presented. It certainly does not feel like II Cor. 13!
The final escalation of unresolved anger is that we would call a brother “You fool!” In other words, we dishonor the brother; we will be liable to the hell of fire. Perhaps He means that as anger matures our emotions become inflammed. That irritation has rubbed and scratched the soul so badly that infection sets in with the accompanying inflammation that finally erupts violently. Our western culture has attempted to separate the spirit, soul and body, but they remain connected whether the mind believes it or not. Inflammation of spirit and soul can eventually manifest themselves with inflammation of the body. We know that resentment can lead to artheritis and unresolved issues can result in all sorts of physical ailments.
Today Jesus might say, “The way to solve the murder issue? Don’t allow offense to stand. Nip it in the bud whether it be between family members or if it is someone you are doing business with…”come to terms with your adversary,” “first be reconciled with your brother,” then carry on. Don’t allow the offense to fester. It sounds to me like the master engineer explaining what the manual says.
Now I need to go do the word study on “liable.”