“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, – Matt. 5:23 NIV
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Jesus Christ had began his Ministry with a sermon which he delivered on a mount, with a declaration of blessings on several categories of people, in what is today called the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-11). He followed that up with his description of his followers as the salt of the earth and light of the world, demanding that they do all that is needed to live up to this description in their day-to-day activities – Matt. 5:13-16. He corrected any possible impression that his coming was for the purpose of abolishing the laws as they have always been known to be, making them aware that he was actually out to fulfil them, adding that whoever breaks any of the laws of God or as much as teach people to disregard them will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven – Matt. 5:17-20. With this foundation laid, he proceeded to providing better understanding for the people, with regards to some of their beliefs starting with the long standing injuction, “Do not murder”, as anyone who commits murder will be judged – Matt. 12:21.
Murder is defined as the unlawful and premeditated killing of one person by another and this was probably what the people also believed. They must have thought that the purported victim of murder would have to have died before the one who is suspected to have carried out the act, can be accused of murder, but Jesus made them realize that before Jehovah, the crime of murder was more than that. He identified two acts of men, that by human standards, may not be considered as the act of murder but which Jehovah was going to punish as such, and these are as follows;
- The one who is angry with his brother as such a person will be so judged by Jehovah – Matt. 12:22a.
- The one who harbors so much anger as to begin to verbally assault his brother with words such as describing such as a fool. According to him, such a person is in danger of going to hell fire – Matt. 5:22b.
In order for the Christian to avoid such pitfalls, he gave two suggestions, which if strictly observed, will save the Christian from unknowingly falling into the sin of murder before Jehovah. First is that the Christian should quickly resolve situations where another person may have been hurt due to his/her actions, as not promptly doing so, could be the foundation for committing the sin of murder eventually. As far as he was concerned, doing this should have priority over any act of worship including the bringing of gifts as offerings before the Altar of Jehovah – Matt. 5:23-24.
Second is for the Christian to settle all matters quickly before they escalate, especially if the aggrieved party intends to seek for justice, as the judgement may eventually not favour the Christian and attempts to seek reconciliation at that point may be considered too late – Matt. 5:25-26.
Both advises focus mainly on the need to take steps that will prevent anger from taking root, as not doing that could be the beginning of a series of further thoughts and actions, that will be considered as murder before God and man. As earlier cited, Jesus made it clear to the Christian that the act of murder before Jehovah includes thought processes or pronouncements against a fellow brother that are not positive and so it does not have to be until life has been snuffed out of another.
It is very obvious that no one will wish evil for one they will, or choose to take the life of another deliberately if there is no underlying disagreements that will triggered anger, unless of course such a person is a psychiatric patient, or other acts that can be considered as accidental, in which case, the act will be considered by god and even in human jurisprudence, as manslaughter – Josh. 20:2-6. The one that is angry may have sufficient reason to justify being angry but the result of allowing anger to take root will definitely be actions that will be eventually regretted – Eph. 4:26. There is hardly anyone that will claim never to have had cause to be angry, but proper management of the anger will ensure that the sin of murder from all perspectives will be avoided.
Jesus Christ is aware of the fact that it is impossible for two people to exist together without one or the other having cause to be aggrieved, as an individual may even have cause to be angry with self, so his advise is directed at managing the resulting anger. This is the same view of the Apostle Paul with regards to anger, when in his letter to the Ephesians, he advised that they should not allow their anger to take root in them – Eph. 4:26-32.
Jesus Christ suggested two ways by which man can prevent anger from taking root thereby avoiding the possibility of committing the sin of murder which may result from its mismanagement, and both border mainly on managing the human ego that could potentially raise its head during such periods, using the following two scenarios, the first of which is the foundation scripture for today’s Devotional. This is the scenario where a devout worshipper suddenly realises that an act of his/hers has angered a known person. He advised such to prioritize reconciliation moves with the aggrieved person above the act of worship including the offering of gifts at the Altar. In similar fashion, he advised the one who may have angered another sufficiently, such that the latter has the intention to seek redress before a human or the divine judge, to quickly resolve such issues before judgement is pronounced on the matter, as attempts at seeking reconciliation after possible unfavorable judgement to such would have been delivered, may be coming late.
Both suggested actions are aimed at encouraging Christians to take pro-active steps that will prevent anger from taking root. It may seem like the one who initiated reconciliation moves is a fool or may be doing the other a favour, but both points are very far away from the truth. The real truth is that initiating reconciliation will always be a wise step because the one who initially believes he/she has a strong case may discover that the judgement will go against him/her. At that point, reconciliation attempts may have become late but more importantly is that, unresolved issues are usually good breeding grounds for thoughts that may eventually lead to committing spiritual or physical murder. Do not allow the spirit of anger to take root. Attack it with a strong and honest desire to seek reconciliation. That way you will not leave any room for regrets for not acting promptly against the spirit of anger. May God grant us the ability to stop anger from having roots in us in Jesus name. Amen.