Jesus Christ says: You heard what was written in the Law given to Mose: “You shall not murder; and those who are guilty for murder will be liable to judgement.’ However I am telling you that everyone who is angry with his brother will already be liable to judgement; whoever insults his brother will be liable to court judgement; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be threatened with “fire in hell”. So, if you are about to offer at the sacrificial altar and remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar and go to him and try to reconcile. Only thereafter should you come back and offer your gift to the Lord. (Mathew 5:21 f)
Jesus preaches reconciliation. He opens up his radically new view for God's commandments. Jesus directs our attention to our thoughts. Because there is where the problems start, or the quarrels. Violence is built in some ones` head. Thoughts can create bad deeds.
Probably no murderer sat in the audience. But most likely some people who used to swear at someone else in anger: "You idiot!" Or even cursed someone else.
I must admit: such thoughts are not completely foreign to me. Many years ago, I parked my bike just outside a house and went inside. It took me only a few minutes to be in the house! When I came back, my bike was gone! I spotted the thief driving away with my bike. I confess: at this particular moment I had no good thoughts for him!
A theologian once said, "The layer of decency is thin." Jesus scratches at this wafer - thin layer, revealing which negative thoughts can hide beneath it. Evil thoughts can quickly turn into godless acts.
Our language is treacherous. In German, for example, there is the unmasking sentence spoken in rage: "I could kill this man!" If one "cooks with rage" and the other "could cut off his neck" or "crush his throat," then the other will soon be thought-provoking "dead". Done. “Extinguished” in our thoughts.
Jesus confronts me with the question: What could I be capable to do? Especially anger is an ideal breeding ground for sin. “For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” so James is writing in his letter (1,20).
Of course, there can also be a justified anger. I can be angry if I'm wronged. I can get angry when others have to suffer injustice. I can get angry when I faintly watch criminal energy coming through the surface of a thin layer of decency. The question then is how to deal with my anger. Does my anger become destructive or does it release energy for positive change? Am I learning to work nonviolently for law and justice? Am I learning to solve conflicts peacefully? Am I learning to protect myself better?
The anger over my bicycle thief was gone fairly soon. But the anger about my negligence grew within myself. After all, I had tempted somebody else. I was thoughtless, and had not secured my bike. It never happened to me after this incidence again.
Jesus could become angry too. Angry with the Pharisees (Marc 3.5). Under their thin layer of piety, they were hard-hearted. They blocked the fact that God's love could unfold in the lives of others.
How did Jesus react? He continued to help the sick and disabled, he loved the people with no end. He did not curse them, rather did he bless them. He helped them to live with God. He reconciled us to God (Colossians 1, 20): „and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Through him, Jesus, he reconciled everything to himself. Through his blood on the cross, he made peace with everything be it in heaven or on earth."
On the cross Jesus took on himself the sin of all, the sin of proverbial and actual cutthroats. The sin of mental and real murderers. Through him, the Messiah, God performed his judgment. Jesus Christ paid with his life for the many sins in thought, words and deeds. He also died for my bicycle thief and for me as well.
Incidentally, I pray for this young man again. The best we can do when anger rises: folding one's hands, unloading anger and frustration onto the Lord Jesus. To forgive and, if possible, to reconcile as well.