Monday, March 3, 2014

Anger and Lust ... Jesus says be careful.

Jesus said to his disciples:

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you,
whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment.

“You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery.
But I say to you,
everyone who looks at a woman with lust
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”   Matthew Chapter 5

Today we hear some of Jesus’ most challenging teachings. 
He says that anyone who gets angry with their brother commits a sin comparable to murder. Is Jesus saying there is no difference between us who get angry and someone who has taken another’s life?  No, but he is saying anger should be avoided.  Anger is deadly to the human soul.

Jesus goes on to say everyone who looks at a woman with lust commits a sin equal to adultery. Men and women are being challenged today in the area of sexuality like no generation before them.  Lust is beyond an accepted part of our culture.  It is a driving force in our culture.  It’s big business.  Jesus have mercy on us. 

The standard Jesus sets for his followers is high … very high.  We Christians are called to live an ordinary life in an extraordinary way – just as Jesus did. But we also need to consider, whenever we hear Jesus speaking like this saying things that seem a bit extreme, we must always remember he was a tremendously effective public speaker; maybe the best ever.  And one great tool of public speaking, to get people to listen and remember what you’ve said, is the use of hyperbole.  Hyperbole is an exaggerated figure of speech.  Not for literal translation but for effect.

In Luke’s Gospel we have one of the best examples of this when Jesus says:
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple.”  Luke 14:26 

Jesus often uses extreme language to stress a point.  He once said: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”  Matthew 7:3

Of course there is no plank in our eye, but we get his point. He once said:  “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” It is not possible for a left hand to "know" anything.  The thought is absurd. He is exaggerating for effect,
and it does get the point across very well; which is that we are to give without expecting recognition.  Christ’s teachings are full of camels leaping through needles and mountains hurled into the sea. He exaggerates for effect.  

In chapter 5 of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus also says: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; … if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away”  Matthew 5:29-30  Was Jesus teaching us that we should mutilate ourselves in this fashion?  That hardly seems likely.  Here Jesus is clearly using hyperbole to make his point. 

If you get angry and argue with your sister does he mean you literally commit the equivalent of murder? Of course not, but he got your attention didn’t he.

What Jesus is saying about anger and lust is that these are serious problems that we need to work on!  He is saying don’t fool yourself into thinking, these seemingly less significant offenses, don’t matter.  Anger and lust offended God very much!  He is saying, when you are tempted to lose your temper and become angry … don’t.  Resist that temptation and move to love, move to forgiveness, that’s what pleases God. God wants us to be a person of peace – not of anger.  To be a person of peace means bringing forgiveness in place of anger. He gave us the most profound example of this as he hung on the Cross, when he forgave those who were killing him unjustly.

When we are tempted to lust,  when we feel ourselves going off course in the area of sexuality; Jesus says … don’t go there.  Jesus is saying – as dramatically as he can so we will know he means it … don’t lust.  God created sex for something far nobler, and we must not degrade God’s great gift.  Pope John Paul II, in his Theology of the Body, stated it beautifully this way, he said, “The human body reveals the mystery of God!”

To be a person who controls their lustful thoughts means to be a person who sees Christ in the other always; to see them as temples of the Holy Spirit; to see them as God sees them … not just body parts.  When we separate God from the beauty of his creation that’s wrong, that’s disordered, and like committing adultery.  

Jesus says to us – never stop working on yourself! In the book of Sirach it says: “Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.”
Sirach 15:17 

Jesus says – choose wisely.  Hold yourself to a high set of personal standards. 

No comments: