Scripture: Matthew 5.21-22
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, “Raca,” is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Reflection: Killing With our Hearts
By John Tillman
Some of the most popular sayings of Jesus are here in Matthew’s fifth chapter. So are many of the most ignored sayings of Jesus.
Christ’s words about how murder begins with inner violence, adultery begins with inner lust, and divorce is not only adultery, but a victimization of the vulnerable party are as shockingly harsh to modern ears as they would have been to the original audience.
When Christ goes into further detail about marriage in Matthew 19, his teaching about the unbreakable nature of the physical and spiritual bond of a man and woman in marriage was so extreme that his disciples despaired, saying to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
Even then, males seemed to fear commitment.
As much as we might be amused by a zinger at the expense of commitment-phobic men, all Christians are commitment-phobic about Christ’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount.
“Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world?” — Søren Kierkegaard
With Kierkegaard’s words in mind, let’s just focus on Christ’s first topic—murder. But more specifically murdering someone in your heart and with your words.
“I do not kill with my gun…I kill with my heart.” — The Gunslinger’s Creed, Stephen King, The Dark Tower Series.
Stephen King’s fictional Gunslingers understand Christ’s teaching about murder in a deeper way than some Christians.
We rush to soften Christ’s teaching about violent thoughts and words because we are unwilling to let go of them. We love calling opponents “libtards” or “deplorables” and if we are too classy to use those names, we call them idiots, or stupid, or brainless. And even if we don’t use these terms, we too often like them, share them, or comment with support.
According to Jesus, this places us in danger of the fire of Hell.
“It’s just name calling. Is it that important?” I think so.
Naming things is Adam’s first specific God-given job. Name calling is intended to be a holy and powerful affirmation. When we use it to dehumanize someone, we are taking humanity’s first ordained task and weaponizing it against our brothers and sisters.
May we commit to no more name calling. And may God have mercy on us when we fail.
Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let my mouth be full of your praise and your glory all the day long. Do not cast me off in my old age; forsake me not when my strength fails. — Psalm 71.8-9
– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
Read More about Choosing Gentleness Over Violence
We cannot continue posting and liking things that are resentful, quarrelsome, and the opposite of gentle, yet expect to represent Christ and the Gospel in the world.
Read More about Awe and Devotion
Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.