Day 5

Murder Begins in the Heart

from the The Sermon on the Mount reading plan


Matthew 5:21-26, Genesis 4:1-16, Exodus 20:13, Psalm 14:1-3, Mark 11:23-25, James 2:8-13, 3:3-6

BY Guest Writer

Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:21-26, Genesis 4:1-16, Exodus 20:13, Psalm 14:1-3, Mark 11:23-25, James 2:8-13, 3:3-6

Growing up with two brothers meant a constant war of the wills. I wanted to watch Harriet the Spy and they wanted to watch Star Wars. I wanted to do crafts, and they wanted to play video games. It was the usual sibling conflict, but it provided our parents with many teachable moments.

I still remember the awkwardness of learning to apologize. We would mutter “sorry” under our breath, but that didn’t cut it. Our parents would prompt us to say why we were sorry and then ask us to hug one another, no matter how forced it seemed.

You’d think all that practice at reconciliation would make it easier, but the truth is my first instinct is still to avoid conflict. I would much rather ignore the tension in my relationships and hope it disappears. So when I read Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew, clearly stating we need to address and heal the grievances in our relationships if we are going to be in right relationship with God, I start to sweat a little.

In Matthew 5:21-26, we read the first of six discourses found in the Sermon on the Mount. Each begins with Jesus saying, “You have heard that it was said… But I tell you…” These six discourses are heavy hitters. Jesus greatly raised the bar of expectation on how His followers are meant to behave in regard to anger, purity, divorce, honesty, generosity, and love. Christ was showing that God requires righteousness that surpassed even that of the scribes and Pharisees. Who can possibly live up to this standard? No person other than Jesus Christ, of course. And so Jesus calls us to aim higher, but also to realize our need for His mercy and grace.

The new teaching Christ gave on murder said that even anger in the heart would be subject to judgment. While most of us can’t imagine committing murder, who hasn’t been angry or unkind toward another? In realizing that any hate in our heart is worthy of punishment, we can’t stand above the law and pretend we don’t need saving.

What seems especially important in this passage is Christ’s command to get right with our brothers and sisters before we make our offering to the Lord. So often we want to ask God for forgiveness and leave it at that. But the Lord cares deeply about our broken relationships here on earth. Just as parents teach their children to apologize to siblings, our heavenly Father teaches us, His children, to reconcile with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We are meant to be the family of God to one another, and being a healthy family means lovingly facing the pain, tension, and hurt encountered in true relationship.

It is the work of the Holy Spirit to reveal to us if “[our] brother or sister has something against [us].” (Perhaps you are thinking of someone now?) We are called to listen to this prompting and “go and be reconciled” as much as we are able. Some relationships may seem impossible to repair, but the Lord calls us to do our best to reconcile. Whether or not our attempts are accepted is not in our control.

However difficult or broken our earthly relationships may be, we have the peace and presence of Jesus, just as He promised (John 14:26-27). He pursued us at our worst and gave His life so that we might experience the ultimate reconciliation—peace with God.

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Kaitie Stoddard is a professional counselor who recently relocated from Chicago to Colorado with her husband. She has her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and is passionate about helping couples and families find healing in their relationships. On any given weekend you’re likely to find Katie snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains, checking out new restaurants with friends, or catching up on her favorite Netflix and podcast series.

Post Comments (54)

54 thoughts on "Murder Begins in the Heart"

  1. Kristen Clegs says:

    Like God told Samuel as he looked for the king God had picked: “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” God takes the will for the deed.
    Anger is murder.
    Division is death.
    But in the same way…
    Faith is righteousness.
    Obedience is sacrifice.

  2. Kay says:

    Andrea, my pastor taught a series on this. Forgiveness and wanting an active relationship with someone are two very different things. I am in the same situation as you. My heart can forgive this other person without my feeling the need to spend any time with them, and that is totally ok! We can shrug off this burden and lay the guilt down at the feet of Jesus, along with all the others we carry needlessly. Forgiveness is an act that God channels through you by His grace. Relationship is an earthly act and we need not pursue it if it harms us in any way. We can be at peace.

    1. Andrea says:

      Kay thank you! I’ve prayed for peace in knowing that I am protecting my family by not having a relationship but also peace with my heart that I have forgiven that person. I have never thought or viewed of “relationship” as an earthly act. I think it’s a good way to state it. Thank you for your words.

      1. Alyssa says:

        Wow this also helped me so much. Thank you both!

  3. Andrea says:

    The question I find my self asking as I grow older is true forgiveness and not having a relationship with that person okay. I have a family member who I feel in my heart I have truly forgiven. I wish no ill-will towards him and I pray for him. I pray God guides him and works in him. I, however, do not want to have a day to day relationship with him. I don’t want to text him to “see how things are going.” I don’t want to have dinners. I don’t want to take my children to visit him. Is it possible for me to have forgiven him but not want to have a relationship with him? Is it possible for me to have forgiven him but live as if he is stranger?

  4. Pam says:

    My father died several years ago after a long illness. We had an almost nonexistent relationship stemming from his infidelity to my mother. It lasted many years and he basically turned his back on his family. Even though I was bitter and hurt from the treatment I received growing up deep down there was still love for him. The last time I saw him was at my uncles funeral. He was sitting in a wheelchair and looked so broken and lost. As difficult as it was for me to do, I walked over to him and wrapped my arms around him and told him that I loved him and then just walked away. There were never any more words said between us. I pray he made peace with Jesus and that one day we can meet again.

  5. Kristi says:

    God ended up teaching me about anger yesterday in a way I didn’t even expect. I’m a teacher and my class is pretty well behaved. However, a little girl (six years old) got extremely angry during the last few minutes of the school day and threw a tantrum.

    As I watched her while she was trying to calm down, I realized that anger is something that has always been a part of our sinful nature. Although I was frustrated at first by the behavior, I was able to be firm yet compassionate as I spoke with this little girl after her classmates left.

    I realize that even as an adult, I’m not so different from her. I get angry over things too and though my tantrums are mostly internal these days, that doesn’t make my anger any less sinful than hers.

    It led me to dig deeper into the story of Cain (and also Jonah), which reminds me that it’s a heart issue. I think it’s interesting question that God asked both Cain and Jonah, “Why are you angry?” Our omniscient God already knew the answer, but He chose to reach out and communicate with both of these men before teaching them a lesson (especially in Jonah’s case.) That speaks volumes to me about the character of God. I think the next time this happens in my classroom or in my heart, I will be asking my students or myself that same question: “Why are you angry?”

    1. Shelly Mallon says:

      ❤️

      1. Deborah says:

        Kristi- Thank you so much for this. I didn’t realize anger was a problem for me until I became a mother. My sudden outbursts and tantrums seemed fine to display to my children when we were alone at home, until…I saw them acting the same way. I realized how wrong my outbursts were, even if they were so tiny, and began to see my need for their forgiveness. Oh that I would have the compassion of our Father when my children display the anger they already have in ways that I showed them was permissible. I learned more about my anger and twice as much about forgiveness upon becoming a mother.

  6. Shelby says:

    As I have read through the comments for today; it appears a lot of us have difficulty with relationships with our biological sisters. I for one, have a little to no relationship. The early aspect of 7 years ago, she stated she hated me and wanted nothing to do with me.. nowadays just no contact from either her or me. Grant it I haven’t attempted because I don’t want to be hurt.. does that mean I sin because I don’t want to try and get hurt again.

    1. IAB says:

      Shelby – i think perhaps not focusing on if you are in sin rather what does your heart feel towards your sister is of more importance. Reconciliation on your side – surrendering her and your relationship with her to the Lord – and knowing you have peace is what Lord asks of you. In my familial relationship s that has often looked like reaching out – asking for forgiveness for my failings in the relationship and opening the door- your sisters response is not your responsibility- but BIg things can happen when one person bends towards peace. Pray through this and I know you will hear from the Lord as to what He would have you to do – I will be praying for you.

  7. Wow!! Something I truly needed to read tonight. Praying for boldness and strength to work towards healing in a very close relationship.

  8. AimeeJoy says:

    In this part of the Jesus’ sermon, he addresses the pharisees. Back in the day, Pharisees would create ways to “get around” the law. They would say, “certainly you cannot murder. But if you just get really angry at someone, or treat them unfairly because you are angry, then you wouldn’t be murdering them”. They would create loop holes to the law so that people who weren’t as educated in the law could look to the pharisees for answers. The pharisees looked at the actions and not the heart. Here, however, Jesus reframes the law back into a heart issue. When Jesus reframes the law, I see that he is simply telling us to be open to the Spirit’s work/leading in us. If we are resentful and harbor an anger that refuses to be pacified, how can we have room to listen to the Holy Spirit? I think as people, we like to know we are behaving rightly by knowing what behaviors to perform. But this is exactly what Jesus was telling the pharisees not to do. When I am about to come to the Lord’s table, I used to be slightly paranoid, thinking, “what if there is a sin or a wrong that I committed against someone that I don’t know about? Is it wrong then, for me to come to the table?”. Over the years, this fleeting thought has been replaced by simply coming back to a focus on Jesus and a state of being open to the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the lamb of reconciliation. Often there are relationships in our lives that cannot be completely reconciled. But because Jesus spoke on behalf of people, when we could not see what needed to be healed, so too does Jesus intercede for all parts of relationships that we have no control over. We must simply live as members of the Kingdom, not trying to fix and behave, but listening to the heart of our Lord!

    1. Gina says:

      Great insight. I too would worry about some unconfessed sin instead of “resting” in the Spirit.

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