Sermon on the Mount: Anger

“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 carries anger toward a brother or sister will have to face judgment; whoever says to a brother or sister, ‘You idiot!’ will have to face the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You jerk!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” – Jesus, Matthew 5:21-22

Anger retained is not a harmless, excusable emotion – it wreaks havoc and thus judgment. Jesus is commanding the discontinuing of anger and the commencement of some creative alternative. ‘Anger happens.’ Everything depends on what one does with this ‘happening’… Jesus’ command will call us almost daily to conversion, for we meet several difficult people and bad situations almost every day. Every angry incident is a fresh call to conversion.

The first visible or audible fruit of seething resentment is a word of irritation or exasperation – “You idiot!” The next act of bottled anger is a word that tells a person whom we dislike exactly what we think of him or her… Jesus confronts these words with hell itself. Words, as we know from painful experience, have power to hurt. The schoolyard taunt, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,’ is not true. There are many people in mental wards because hateful names or words are lodged in their psyche like bullets in a spine. Words that question our intelligence or our character hurt deeply. Words that throw our mental ability into question or that consider us morally vile reach places in our nervous systems that even lasers cannot touch.

– Frederick Dale Bruner, Matthew: A Commentary

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