21 “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.’ 22 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.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
1. It’s important to know yourself
The first thing this teaching is telling us is that we need self awareness. We need to know ourselves well enough to understand how damaging our anger can be and to know what to do with it.
"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. (Ephesians 4:26)
Anger in itself is not sin, it is anger that leads to something else that is sin. When anger leads to bitterness it is full grown.
- Bitterness is poison
- The root of bitterness is disdain
- Disdain is caused by pride
In other words, our hearts in their natural sinful state will continually tend toward bitterness.
Stages of bitterness:
2. If you know yourself well, you will put yourself in community
We all long for community, but community is hard work – it is a discipline that requires the denial of self.
The story of Ulysses and the Sirens is an example.
The Sirens are mythical creatures that are depicted as beautiful winged singers. In order to lure men from onto their island, the Sirens would sing beautiful songs. If a man fell for the tempting song then they would most likely experience tragedy or death. These Sirens are the embodiment of temptation. In order to defeat the Sirens, Ulysses tells his men to tie him to the ship’s cast. Before sailing in the Siren’s territory Ulysses tells his men to plug their ears with wax so they could not hear his pleas.
In other words, in preparation for the temptation ahead, he relied upon the people who were around him. Biblical community is similar in that we plan ahead for the deceitfulness of sin.
Hebrews 3 says
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:12-13)
3. Relationships are in constant need of repair
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
Think of how outlandish this must have sounded: To go to an alter the Israelite would in most cases make elaborate preparations and sometimes would travel for days. He was making the point that we are to go to the extreme to maintain and repair our relationships.
The path to repair is repentance and forgiveness. To stay in community we all have to be good at relationship repair because relationships are constantly falling apart.
To repent is to change your behavior. To forgive is to let go of desire to get back.
The more you understand the gospel the less you stay angry at people. What is the gospel? I am more forgiven than I deserve.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
Do you remember that Jesus told Peter “Forgive seven times seventy”? As followers of Jesus, we are to live in constant awareness of our own forgiveness. Jesus told Simon the Leper: “He who has been forgiven much loves much”
The more we are aware of our forgiveness in Christ, the more habitually forgiving we will be.
Definition of forgiveness : the give up the right to see repayment. To forgive is to say I don’t need to see repayment.
- Why is it important to know yourself?
- What does anger do to the human heart?
- Why is it important to be in community?
- Why do relationships need constant repair?
- How do we forgive?
- Why do we forgive?