Am I A Murderer?

by Rhonda, February 13, 2022


There are some passages in the Bible I wish weren't there.  Jesus explaining the fifth commandment in Matthew Chapter 5 is one of those passages:

 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] 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.

If it weren't for this troublesome text, the fifth commandment would be an easy one to check off the list.  I haven't yet murdered anyone in my forty-four years on this earth, so check.  Commandment number five is good to go, let's move on.

Yet, Jesus says that anger and bitterness are part of the fifth commandment.  Its a good thing my pencil comes with an eraser, since perhaps I was premature in checking this one off of the list.  Do you ever wish just one of the commandments were easy?  Just one?

Anger is one of the most debilitating emotions we wrestle with.  Left alone long enough, it turns into something even worse, the ugly word I detest.  Bitterness.  

The last thing I want in my life is to become a bitter old lady.

I've seen this play out in my own family.  I can recall my great-grandmother being in a nursing home.  She was in her eighties, but everyone in our family was afraid of this frail, elderly woman.  When we went to visit her, she was angry.  In fact, my grandmother visited her daily, and the two of them often fought when she visited her.  

Great-Grandma would sit and stew whenever she was alone in the nursing home.  She would remember every terrible thing that happened her.  She thought about the things family members said that she didn't like. When we would visit, the deep creases in her face seemed to intensify, and the anger in her eyes shone through her perfunctory greetings.

The minute someone said something she didn't like, she immediately corrected them.  The visits were painful, and we often left as soon as we possibly could.    

I can recall once buying her a birthday gift.  I'd picked out a cross necklace with her birthstone in the middle of it.  But my mother stopped me from giving it to her.  "That will upset her," Mom said.  I never knew why, Great-Grandma was a Christian.  But, I'm sure there was a problem with giving her this particular gift and the family was afraid of dealing with any further anger from her.  Rather than upset her, I simply kept the necklace for myself.

I remember when she died.  There were no tears at her funeral.  Children were running around the church pews chasing one another, several adults sat in the corner playing cards waiting for the service to start.  The only people who showed up were family (she didn't want anyone else invited).  It was the strangest funeral I've ever attended.  

The funeral workers tried to carefully craft a meaningful service.  But, no emotion whatsoever came from the audience.  I wondered during the service if there were fun, touching stories of her from her childhood.  But, those years were long past and no one remembered any of them.  She'd been mean for so long.  I realized halfway through the service that I had no idea who she truly was, and how sad it was for me to lose someone to such bitterness. 

Honestly, she's always haunted me.  What if I become her?  Am I genetically predisposed to her type of anger and bitterness?  What if my funeral feels like a relief to my poor family members?

Without Jesus, I will become her.  

I certainly have my days when I'm mad at everyone.  The kids left their jackets and shoes strung around the house again.  The dogs won't quit barking when I'm trying to have quiet, meditative time.  My ex said something that drug up a hurtful memory.  All of a sudden, there I am.  Great-Grandma in the nursing home, mad because no one ever does enough for me.  I can feel the creases in my face deepening, and the fuse to my red hair has been lit.  

Jesus would even go so far to say a heart like this is murderous. 

Ouch.

While I may have my moments, or even full days, that are like this, I refuse to let it become a lifestyle.  There's two ways Jesus leads me find my way back from anger and bitterness:

1.  A Thankful Heart

2.  Forgiveness

Neither are easy when in the heat of anger.  But, both are necessary.  The first can be immediate, and the second may take more time.  

Anger is a choice that easily becomes second nature, but a grateful heart protects us from negative thinking.  Thankfulness enables us to see the abundance God showers upon us daily.  It takes our eyes off of ourselves and puts them onto God, where they belong,  

Colossians 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful and thankful.

We can choose to be grateful, or we can choose to be bitter.  One leads to freedom, and the other leads to bondage.  Every time I find myself down a road of anger and bitterness, I can look back and see I've been straying from having a grateful heart.    This is illustrated beautifully in Sarah Young's book Jesus Calling:

Ponder all I have done for you and all I am to you.  This will lift you up above your               circumstances.  When you became My follower, I empowered you to rise above the conditions in your life.  Whenever your world is looking dark, brighten your perspective by focusing on Me.  

Our attitude will improve the moment we shift our focus to the God and we'll be lifted above our circumstances. We need to let God use our problems to change us, instead of allowing our problems to teach us the ways of anger and bitterness.  Its time to find a new way to respond to old problems.  Let's be defiant against bitterness, and try to find something good in everything.  God sees a heart searching for Him, and He will reward it.

Once our hearts are in a place of gratefulness, forgiveness becomes more attainable.  Forgiveness doesn't mean reconciliation to someone who is continuing to cause hurt over and over.  No, instead forgiveness is about allowing ourselves to move forward instead of continually looking for restitution.  The person who has hurt you can't possibly make it right anyway.  They either don't have power or the will to do so.  Only God can heal, and allowing God to heal our hurts instead of looking to the perpetrator for healing allows for forgiveness and moving forward.

Unforgiveness causes bitterness, and bitterness impacts everyone around us. When we choose a course that's not God's plan, it affects those who trust and depend on us.

While I definitely have my days that I fall into the pit of anger and bitterness, choosing to climb out and cast down my toxic thoughts over and over is worth the battle.  The devil cannot defeat someone who refuses to give up and continually turns to God for their protection.  When the devil tries to drag me off track and back into the pit, God is always accessible to me.  He's always ready to defend me and bring me back under his wing of protection.

What a beautiful anecdote to bitterness.

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