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Monday, October 05, 2009

With Bad Intentions: Matthew 5:21-26


"For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God." - James 1:20

Reading the words of Christ in this passage (Matt. 5:21-26) takes us back to the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-16).  This is a pivotal story in the course of mankind, as well as the very beginning of the case study on human anger.  The anger that is produced in the heart of Cain is so closely linked to the type of anger here in this passage due to the fact that it is anger without cause. It is important to note that Jesus is not saying that all anger is wrong. He himself got angry on several occasions (Matt. 21:12, Mark 16:14). The anger that is discussed here is not a righteous anger, but one that is born out of our sinful nature that seeks to covet and destroy (Romans 3:10-18). Cain didn't just decide to murder his brother on a whim; it was premeditated (Genesis 4:8). To examine it closely we will see that he hated his brother because of his willingness to do right by God (Genesis 4:6-7). Cain, desiring to have the approval of God himself, decides that it would be so much easier to eliminate the obstacle (than to do right by God as he is told). His unjust anger was the precursor to the crime. He has killed his brother in his heart long before he actually laid a hand on him.


And so it is with all of us (James 3:8-10, 4:1-3). How often do we call names out of anger or speak ill of another person? This is something that we should really give a lot of thought to for good reasons:


1. All men are created in the image of God.


Man is a peculiar creature because of this very distinction. Therefore, God takes the shedding of man's blood very seriously. To degrade, disfigure, or destroy another human is to attack the very image of God. If you stop to consider all of the crimes against humanity throughout the ages, it will be clear that before any form of physical abuse, oppression , or genocide ever took place...there was poisonous rhetoric that began to flow out of the mouths of certain individuals. Spilling forth from a heart of darkness came the wrath of Cain that set the course of bloodshed into motion. So it is with all men in their fallen, unregenerate state. Any unjust attack on the character of our fellow man is an attack on the Creator himself (Genesis 9:5-6). We must be conscious of this before we speak in judgment on anyone (John 7:24) .


2. Christ brings about reconciliation for both us and God and one another.


Being followers in Christ we must remember what he truly accomplishes in his earthly ministry. The key theme is reconciliation from start to finish. Because Christ has died for our sins, thereby reconciling us to God. In turn, as we are being conformed everyday more and more to the image of our Savior by the Holy Spirit, we will in turn out of our love for God, be reconciled with our fellow man. We will not regard them only as there status allows or by the size of there pocket books, or whatever petty means by which we judge, but we will see all men the same: even though the image has been shattered, ALL men, women, and children are made in the image of the Creator, which gives them infinite worth in the sight of the Lord. After all, God sent his Son to earth, in the form of a man, to bring man into his presence and to glorify his name throughout the earth. This is where man's true identity lies in Christ - not as some sort of cosmic mistake that slithered out of some sort of primordial ooze and then grew legs. And if it is important enough for God to crush his own Son for our sake, how much more important should it be for us to do the same. It is through reconciliation that the gospel is born (Matt. 5:7; Rom. 5:10;  2 Cor. 5:18-20, 7:10-12).


3. Failing to carry this out has serious consequences - both physically and spiritually.


We cannot ignore Jesus' warning at the end of this passage. Several things must be taken into consideration. The first is that reconciliation should come before sacrifice. If we know that we have wronged someone or that someone has something against us, we should take care of that before we go before the alter. To go without being reconciled only produces a hardness of heart on both parts; our sin of impenitence will only serve to incite the sin of vengeance in the hearts the one who has been wronged. As we heard it said be fore, two wrongs don't make a right...and in this case the seeds of anger planted will reap wrath on all sides the wrath of Cain in our own hearts, and even worse still, the wrath of God on our vengeful, slanderous, murderous hearts (Psalm 79:12, Isaiah 65: 6-7, Matt. 18:23-35, Luke 6:38) . 


So let us turn away from our sin, by accepting the reconciliation with God through Christ, who turns away the wrath of God, and in doing so we shall be able to learn how to turn away our wrath against our own kind as we are commanded; Let's put anger in its proper place - towards the sin in our own lives (Rom. 8:13, 12:17-21; Eph. 4:26-27; 1 John 3:11-16; 1 Peter 3:18).




"An I for an I will never satisfy 'til there's nothin' left to see." - Derek Webb


Soli Deo Gloria,
Shon
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