“You shall not murder.”
- Exodus 20:13
“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.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
- Matthew 5:21-26
In the King James Version, this commandment states that we shalt not kill. This broadens the scope of the commandment in interpretation. Some naysayers say that God had told the Israelites to kill all within a town. Thus, He condoned violation of His own commandment. This newer interpretation provides a delineation. Possibly this new interpretation will help with soldiers who suffer guilt from combat.
PawPaw, my mother’s father, had a Civil War rifle in his closet. It was his father’s. When he passed away when I was 10, I asked for the rifle and received it from MawMaw. There was a warning. “The rifle has a round in the chamber, and it is stuck.” My Dad carefully took the weapon apart when no one was at home. He didn’t want an unstable bomb in my closet. There was no black powder or minni ball in the barrel. In fact, an oversized cleaning rag was stuck in the barrel of the old muzzle loader. This caused me to remember what had happened, according to my great-grandfather. After the first day of the two-day battle at Shiloh in Tennessee, he told his sergeant that a round was stuck in the chamber. His sergeant excused him from military service. Without a usable weapon, he was of no worth to the army. My great-grandfather returned home, stored the rifle in a closet, and never touched it again. My great-grandfather had passed the lie on to his son, and the lie was passed on to me.
Had my great-grandfather lost his nerve? Or had my great-grandfather seen the enemy face-to-face and decided that he couldn’t kill someone who looked like his brother? Regardless, he never told anyone his reason to lie.
Let’s look at the passage from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus starts off with anger toward a family member (or brother / sister in Christ) as being equal to breaking of the commandment. Do we get angry with our family or fellow Christians? At times. They may anger us unintentionally or on purpose. Jesus says in verses 23 and 24 to make things right before making a sacrifice at the altar. We have a responsibility to God, but we have to resolve issues with other people.
The word “Raca” is an Aramaic word used to show contempt for someone. That would be deep seated anger, anger that festers. Some murderers kill due to less anger than contempt, but calling someone “a fool” is done every day to total strangers. If you drive in rush hour traffic for at least thirty minutes and don’t think another driver as a fool, I’ll put in the paperwork for your sainthood. Jesus is trying to put range on anger from that which has been on a slow boil for a long time to the instantaneous frustration of someone doing something that caused you distress, however trivial. In all of this, we’ve put ourselves in charge, thinking that we could do a better job than God could do. We decide who we would like to have punished. We may even bristle when we hear that they are going to have their sins forgiven, too. That means the sins done against me. Wow! How dare God do that? Doesn’t God know that the guy cut me off in traffic and I almost got hit from behind when I slammed on the brakes? Come on! (Dripping with sarcasm, or every day reality?)
I know that we don’t think those exact words. We’d feel ashamed if we did, but in essence, we have done that very thought process when we’ve held anger versus friend, foe, or stranger. God put those people in our path not to anger us, but to teach us how to love that person in spite of how they act toward us.