Matthew 5:21-37 (NRSV)
Verse 21"You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder'; and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' Verse 22But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire. Verse 23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, Verse 24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Verse 25Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Verse 26Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
Verse 27"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' Verse 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Verse 29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. Verse 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. Verse 31"It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' Verse 32But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Verse 33"Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.' Verse 34But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, Verse 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Verse 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Verse 37Let your word be 'Yes, Yes' or 'No, No'; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
When I taught confirmation classes and got to the commandment “You shall not murder,” we included this section of the Sermon on the Mount. During these three chapters in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus reveals that many of these commandments are more complex than at first glance. One of the exercises for the class was to create a name tag that captured who you are. Then, we pinned on the name tags and whenever someone felt insulted, they would rip off a piece of the name tag that felt proportional to the put-down. Ninth graders, being who they are, made a game of seeing who could make the biggest insult, causing the most damage. Later, when we talked about it, we found that the insults really did hurt. Emotional hurt that takes a piece out of self-esteem is no game. It is slow murder, just like Jesus says.
Loving God, thank you for the insight that angry psychological and emotional hurts are not just the result of being too sensitive. Let us protect our siblings from our anger and that of others, for, then, we are preserving their lives. Amen.