I Murdered Someone This Week
I murdered someone this week. I got away with it, too . . . well sort of.
I like to think of myself as a good Christian man. I try to follow the teachings of Jesus. I try to love folks the way that Jesus loves me. I try to not hold grudges, unforgiveness or judgments against other people, although I will admit that this is easier said than done. I like to think of myself as a good, moral person.
And yet, I found in myself that I am a serial killer. Many of you are most likely shocked and wondering why I am writing this instead of laying in a jail cell somewhere.
Jesus and the Law
It has to do with some teaching that Jesus did in his teachings commonly referred to as The Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was talking to his fellow Jewish brothers and sisters. In the crowd were also Pharisees, Sadducess, and scribes which were the religious leaders of his day. They all followed the Mosaic Law which was a pretty tough thing to do. Many of them prided themselves in how well they kept the Law but Jesus was about to expose their (and our) self-righteous hearts. He’s really good at that!
The Law was pretty strict about a lot of things. As most of us do that are given rules, we tend to look for loopholes in which we can follow the rule but still do what we want. The majority of us like to bend the rules. Sadly, a lot of us don’t feel like the rules apply to us, just everyone else.
The Pharisees did their best to follow the Law and to make sure that everyone else did too. In addition to be religious leaders, they also fashioned themselves to be the Sin Police, much like many in our churches today.
What they missed though, and Jesus so adequately exposed, is the spirit of the Law. They taught and tried to follow the letter of the Law but missed the spirit of the Law. The spirit of the Law is the heart and nature of God.
In Matthew 5:20, Jesus tells his followers that unless their righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, they will not enter the kingdom of heaven. That was a pretty tall order because the religious leaders were so dedicated to not breaking one of the Mosiac Laws that they would institute laws on top of those laws to keep from even getting close to breaking them. For example, if the Mosaic Law said you could only walk 20 miles on the Sabbath Day, the Pharisees would make it a law that you could only walk 15. They were so intent on following the letter of the Law.
But God has never been interested in rules. He’s always been interested in our hearts.
Now, back to my confession of being a serial killer.
Murder and Anger
In Matthew 5:21-24, Jesus begins to show how we were to go further than the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.
21 ” You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘ You shall not commit murder ‘ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court. ‘ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘ You good- for- nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. 23 Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.
Jesus gets straight to the heart of the matter. God is always interested in our hearts more than our actions because our actions come out of our hearts. Jesus said that out of our hearts come our intentions (Matt. 15:18).
God created us for relationship with Himself and with others. He takes those relationships seriously and He wants us to take them seriously as well.
In this passage Jesus talks about anger, slander and contempt. He equates them all with murder. He takes murder to a whole different level here. He is telling his followers that even though they may not have committed the physical act of murder (the letter of the Law), that they were still guilty of murder because of being angry with a brother, slandering a brother’s character or having contempt for a brother (the spirit of the Law).
God wants us to treat each other equally and with respect. We are all made in the image and likeness of God. None of us are perfect which means we are not better or worse than anyone else. We are all on equal ground. Yet, many times, we put ourselves above someone else because they have offended us, or they are different than us, or we have a personality difference with them that results in us having contempt for them.
Or maybe they hurt us and we hate them.
Or they wronged us in some way.
Or they think differently than we do politically, religiously or socially.
Maybe they have done really bad things, sinning very differently than we have, and we feel justified to say, “at least I haven’t done that……”
According to Jesus, when we have those feelings or we say disparaging things about someone else, we are guilty of murder.
You may be thinking, “Now hold on a minute, Michael. Your interpretation of what Jesus meant here is way off base. I have never wanted to kill anyone, even when I was angry at them. I may not like my neighbor but I certainly don’t want to see him dead.”
Maybe, maybe not.
The reality is this: when someone has done something we don’t like, or has offended or angered us we usually want to retaliate. If you have ever wanted to hurt someone because of them hurting you, then you are guilty as charged. If you have ever wanted to tell other people what someone did to you because you wanted them to look bad . . . guilty as charged.
If you have ever called someone worthless, idiot, a moron, good-for-nothing, or (insert your favorite put down here) then you are guilty as charged.
I know that it seems extreme but what Jesus is getting at is the attitude of our hearts. We may not physically go out and murder them, but we can murder them emotionally, mentally or assassinate their character. It’s a heart issue and that’s what Jesus is addressing.
We say that all sins are equal in God’s eyes. We say that one sin is as bad as another. We don’t really believe that, but we say it. None of us would put lying on the same scale as murder. No body would give the death penalty to a liar, but we will to a murderer. Yet, God tells us that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. In other words, we are all in the same boat when it comes to perfect living . . . we aren’t even in the boat! We are drowning in our own sins. Jesus is the boat that rescues us.
If we truly believe that all sins are equal in the eyes of God then we will have no trouble believing that if we are angry with our brother or sister then we are guilty of murder. But, we don’t believe that because we don’t want to believe that we are capable of being that bad. But we can be.
We don’t want to equate hating someone with murdering someone but the Bible does exactly that (1 John 3:15).
What Jesus is really doing here with the Sermon on the Mount is blowing away people’s self-righteousness. He is showing them the spirit of the Law while many of them had been keeping the letter of the Law. The issue here is the condition of people’s hearts versus their outward behavior. I can keep myself from physically killing someone and yet kill them with my words. I can keep myself from physically hurting someone out of angry but in my mind wish something bad would happen to them.
Jesus is saying that our inner feelings are just as important as our outward behavior.
The reality of what Jesus is showing us is that we cannot keep the rules and regulations of the Law. If we think we are good and moral people because we obey some rules, Jesus is showing us that God sees deeper than simple outward behavior. We cannot ever put ourselves above someone else. When we criticize someone’s character, when we wish someone harm, when we devalue another person . . . in the eyes of God we have committed murder.
I murdered someone this week. I got away with it . . . sort of. They don’t know that I murdered them but God knows what I did in my heart.
How about you? Have you murdered anyone lately?