To describe the law in Matthew 5 (v.21-26) about anger, or murder, I have written a story to illustrate what the bible says. I have tried to cover all areas of this law in the story. It is totally made-up by me, so I hope you enjoy it and it helps you to understand what it says in a new light.
‘Hi everyone!’ chirped the Youth Leader, Sally. It was the first Friday evening of the church Youth Group that term. She flicked open the register and quickly marked off the names.
‘Here Sally!’ said Rose, a brunette sitting near the back.
‘Yep,’ Mia replied, sitting next to Rose and comparing holiday pictures. The girls had known each other for years now and had been members of the youth group from the minute they were old enough.
‘Leila? You must be new to our group. Welcome!’ said Sally. All the heads in the group now swivelled round to get a look at the ginger curls of the girl sitting at the front.
‘Thanks!’ Leila replied confidently, ‘Nice to meet you!’
‘Today,’ said Sally. ‘We are going to continue looking at The Sermon on the Mount. To start with I want to discuss whether you think the laws are relevant to your generation. Mia, let’s start with you.’
‘Um… probably. I guess that we have bent lots of other laws though. Not really sure…’ stammered Mia.
‘Okay, anyone have any more specific ideas?’ said Sally.
‘I think the laws are one hundred percent as applicable to us now as they were back then,’ said Leila. ‘Jesus didn’t lay them down for us to ignore! If we want to go to heaven we should try to obey them.’ Leila continued for a while, becoming so passionate about what she was saying, she started to look almost angry.
When she had finished Sally said, ‘Thank you for a wonderful description of that side of the argument, you really backed up everything you said. That passion for something is totally acceptable in the laws as well – what they call ‘righteous anger’. I’m very pleased to welcome you to the group, Leila.’ Sally smiled warmly at her and Leila beamed back.
Mia looked irritated. She muttered to Rose, ‘Teacher’s pet. She thinks she’s so great, walking in here and going on like that.’
‘I know!’ whispered Rose. ‘You’d think she’d been here for years – typical attention seeker. I wish she’d leave as quickly as she arrived.’
After they had finished that evening’s activities it was time to leave. Rose and Mia were behind Leila as they headed out. Sally stopped Leila by the door, blocking the way out.
‘I was so impressed with your input today Leila, you’re a natural leader,’ said Sally. ‘I was wondering, would you be able to help out at kids’ church on Sunday morning? They’d love to have someone younger doing some of the talking for once, and there is quite a lot of them to the couple of leaders who run it.’
‘I’d absolutely love to!’ cried Leila. ‘Thank you so much, I wouldn’t miss it for the world!’
Leila left and Mia and Rose said goodbye to Sally, expecting to also be asked. They were surprised when she said nothing as, after all, they had been in the youth group for years now and Leila had only been to one session. Leila heard their feet on the gravel behind her and stopped to walk with them.
‘I’m going to help at kids’ church!’ said Leila. ‘I can’t wait to be an active part in teaching the younger kids stuff…’
‘About that…’ said Rose. ‘You know Sally always says stuff like that to new people to encourage them. She doesn’t really want people like you hanging around at kids’ church.’
‘Most of us would turn it down anyway so she wouldn’t have to worry,’ continued Mia. ‘But I guess you’re not like most people…’
‘Really?’ said Leila, creases appearing on her before cheerful face. ‘Are you sure, I thought she really meant it!’
‘No you fool!’ said Rose, laughing. ‘If you went to kid church they probably wouldn’t be able to get you to be quiet. You talk far too much.’
‘Do I?’ said Leila. ‘I only said what I thought was…’
‘Never mind,’ said Mia. A car pulled into the carpark, illuminating them in the headlights. Mia and Rose jumped in.
‘See you next week…’ started Leila as the car pulled away.
The next week at youth group Leila was quiet. Sally seemed quite surprised when she didn’t get any response from her in the debate about the law on murder. Mia and Rose were both in a very chatty mood which Sally thought was odd, and wondered whether they felt they should give more input after hearing Leila last week.
‘I like this law because it says we should not murder anyone in our anger…’ said Mia.
‘…And we haven’t murdered anyone so we needn’t worry!’ continued Rose.
‘Ah, but girls you have missed the point entirely,’ said Sally. ‘Let’s use the example Jesus gave involving name-calling. Jesus appears to say that when you treat a person as nothing by calling them names, you have effectively already murdered them. In essence, you have murdered their character.’
‘But what if it is just a joke, or you just lost your temper or something?’ asked Rose, blushing.
‘Insulting people was considered as awful in Jesus’ time. To publicly belittle someone was dreadful, as in those days people had little to trade except their honour,’ said Sally.
‘What about if you call someone a fool?’ questioned Mia. ‘That’s what they say in the passage. Is it really bad?’
‘Definitely,’ said Sally. ‘In those days, the Greek term was not only used to describe someone’s character, but their mental ability and morals.’
Mia and Rose looked guiltily down at their laps. They were both willing Leila to say something, to return to her bouncy self. They realised how horrible they had been through their jealousy. Was this God’s punishment? It felt pretty bad.
At the end of the session Mia and Rose followed Leila again as she darted across the room, obviously eager to leave quickly. Sally was also fast though, and caught Leila before she could leave. ‘Will we be seeing you on Sunday then?’ she asked. ‘The children can’t wait to meet you!’
To Mia and Rose’s horror Leila replied, ‘No, I don’t really want to anymore. Sorry…’ Leila turned to leave.
The girls jumped forward quickly. ‘But Leila, you should do it! You’d be so great at it, the kids would love you.’
Leila looked at them, confused. ‘But I thought you said…’ She stopped, realising what had happened. She didn’t say anything because, despite what the girls had said to her the week before, she didn’t have the heart to drop them in it with Sally standing listening.
However, Sally was quick to realise something was wrong. ‘Is there something you girls ought to tell me?’ she asked, quizzically.
‘Yes, there is,’ said Mia, looking at Rose for support. Rose nodded, and they looked at Leila.
‘We are really, really sorry for what we said to you,’ said Mia.
‘We were just upset because we’ve never been asked to help, and without thinking took it out on you,’ continued Rose. ‘Sally, it was us who told her not to do it.’
Sally replied, ‘Girls, if you want to help at kids’ church, you could have asked me…’
‘No,’ said Mia quickly. ‘I think we knew all along that Leila was best suited for it.’
Leila smiled at this. ‘It’s okay, I forgive you,’ she said.
‘And will you reconsider helping at kids’ church?’ asked Rose.
‘There’s nothing to consider – yes!’ replied Leila.
‘In Jesus’ law about anger we have just read, girls, he reiterates that we should not get angry with our brothers and sisters. You are all sisters in Christ. It is important you think carefully before you speak.’
‘Does that mean we have sinned really badly?’ Mia and Rose ask together, fear in their voices.
‘No, and shall I tell you why? Because you apologised, and quickly before it became too harmful. Jesus says if you get angry with someone and ‘murder’ their character, you should ‘First go and be reconciled to them’. You have made up, and learnt a good lesson in the meantime.’
The girls all thanked Sally and turned to leave. Just as they were nearly out of site, Sally called after them:
‘On the other hand girls, in the future it won’t be necessary to act out what we are learning!’
If you are struggling with anger, pray to God about it. Never wait until it’s too late to make peace with others.
Tomorrow I shall be writing about a very different matter… adultery.