“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 judgement …” Matthew 5:21-22a
Over the past two weeks the nation has been saddened by news of two separate murderous shooting rampages. Sixteen people were murdered – six by the hand of a man claiming to be a Christian, ten by the hand of a man claiming to be Muslim. Both were evil in their actions. In our day and age it seems necessary to keep reminding ourselves of fundamental Christian truths. These two shooting sprees are examples of murder, or the unjustified killing of another person. The Lord God chose thousands of years ago to point out on Mount Sinai when writing ten moral commands into stone, with His own finger, that murder is wrong. Murder is one of the basic moral lines we must never cross.
However, murder is also one of the first sins recorded in the Bible. Cain, out of the jealous hatred in his heart, murdered his brother Abel. Anger turned to hatred in Cain’s heart. Cain was warned by God to get his heart under control (Genesis 4:7), or it would destroy him. He did not, but instead gave vent to his hatred and satisfied it through killing his brother. As with all murder, there are terrible and painful consequences for all involved. For his evil, Cain faced the judgment of God.
When one person murders other people, we always ask the question of, “Why?” “Why” questions probe the heart of a person and are very difficult to answer in any situation. What is most helpful is not unraveling the heart of an evil person, but causing the evil of others to turn us toward self-examination. The Bible is clear that murder begins in the heart. Murderous actions flow from murderous thoughts. In Matthew 5:21, Jesus clearly speaks to the reality that murderous thoughts are also evil. It’s not morally permissible, or good, to ruminate in your mind in anger toward another person. This treadmill of mental anger can take you down the same path as Cain. No matter the ultimate motive, the two recent shootings began with a plan in the mind of the shooters.
In our day, many people are angry about many different things. As Christians – followers of Jesus Christ – our lives must not be defined by anger. We must never approve of, or seek to accomplish, the will of Jesus by violent means. The righteous ends of God are also accomplished by righteous means. Murder is forbidden by God, therefore we must also forsake the roots of murder which are anger. Instead, let us pursue peace. Let us be peacemakers and find the blessing of God, instead of the judgment of God, upon our lives. Being a peacemaker does not mean that we compromise our moral standards in living for Jesus, but it does mean that we believe James 1:20, “For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” We cannot accomplish righteous ends through anger and murderous violence. If we cannot see how God will bring good out of evil times, then we must wait and pray. We must work toward righteous ends through righteous means.
Let us mourn the recent senseless deaths of fellow human beings, let us guard our own hearts against evil, and let us be aware of those around us that struggle with hearts full of anger and trouble. Do not shy away from speaking about the good ways of Jesus Christ in our troubled time. The salvation of Jesus is the hope of the world. Only Jesus can truly and fully calm the troubled soul. Only Jesus can change our hearts that we might love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can heal our land. Let’s pray toward that end and live as joyful followers of Jesus Christ this week.
May Jesus grant us peace,