Making a snowman is a lot of fun. It’s even more fun when you have a hill nearby! There is a phrase you may have heard of called the “Snowball effect”. It’s defined as “a situation in which something increases in size or importance at a faster and faster rate.” A snowball effect can be good or bad. For example, you can follow Dave Ramsey’s “Debt Snowball” advice. It looks something like this:
- Step 1: List your debts from smallest to largest.
- Step 2: Make minimum payments on all your debts except the smallest.
- Step 3: Pay as much as possible on your smallest debt.
- Step 4: Repeat until each debt is paid in full.
The Debt Snowball can also go the other way if you are not careful:
- Step 1: Buy stuff you can’t afford.
- Step 2: Continue to buy stuff you can’t afford.
- Step 3: Pay only the minimum balance.
- Step 4: Declare Bankruptcy.
In Matthew 5:21-26, Jesus doesn’t speak of a debt snowball, but of an anger snowball and the importance of stopping it before it really gets rolling.
The Act of Murder
The Sixth Commandment of The Law of Moses is “Do not murder” (Ex 20:13, Deut 5:17). Jesus affirms this command, saying: “whoever murders will be subject to judgment.” This was (and is) a grave sin and the charge had to be based on the testimony of at least two witnesses. If convicted, the one guilty of murder was put to death (Num 35:30-31). Jesus does not want people to murder.
The Attitude of Murder
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is not content with simply telling people not to murder. Remember, Jesus is discussing life in the Kingdom of God. Jesus is speaking to those in whom He is developing a righteous character (the Beatitudes). Therefore, Jesus calls His disciples to go further than simply refraining from murdering others; He is calling us to love others. Building on the Beatitude of peacemaking, Jesus commands His disciples to be peacemakers.
Love Replaces the Anger in Me.
“Raca” is an insult of someone’s intelligence. “Fool” expresses contempt for someone’s character. These are ways we sinfully express our anger at other people (or ourselves). It is important to see how the Anger Snowball can get out of control. For example, desires can quickly become demands, demands become needs, needs become expectations, expectations that are unmet can produce disappointment. Disappointment that is unchecked can quickly breed resentment and bitterness. In our anger, we insult others by calling into question their intelligence and/or their character.
Unchecked, bitterness and resentment grow within you. You begin to genuinely despise and–whether you admit it or not–you hate them. Hopefully you haven’t murdered them, but Jesus holds you accountable for all the anger, bitterness, resentment, and contempt you have filling your heart. He calls you out and says that you are just as guilty. The punishment for murder is death and the punishment for contemptuous anger is hellfire! Jesus is at work within us to transform our anger into love. This love is powerful because it originates from Him. God’s love roots out our bitterness and resentment and replaces it with compassion and mercy. We must submit ourselves to Jesus and have Him work in our hearts.
Love Replaces the Anger in You.
Jesus spoke of transforming our anger into love and then He turns His attention to the importance of helping our brothers and sisters do the same. While we are not responsible for our fellow Christians’ reactions, we are called to help them by being peacemakers. Consider closely what Jesus said next: “if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front the of altar. First go and be reconciled…and then come and offer your gift.” It is important to consider if we have anything against someone else, but we must not stop there. We must consider if we have offended or sinned against anyone. If so, we must make reconciliation with them a priority. “Blessed are the peacemakers”, Jesus said. A true peacemaker is bothered by the presence of tension in relationships and strives to live at peace.
Love Can Replace the Anger in Them
So far we have learned that Jesus can replace the anger in our hearts with love. He can use us to help our brothers and sisters in Christ do the same. In the next section, Jesus goes even further and speaks of the ability of love to replace the anger in our enemies. In Jesus’ illustration, He speaks of an adversary taking a Christian to court over a dispute with money. Jesus calls us to “reconcile quickly.” Let us be humble before others, especially non-Christians. If we have sinned or made a mistake, let us acknowledge and confess it and seek peace. If you offended somebody, humble yourself and ask for forgiveness. God uses our humility to display His glorious grace.
The Antithesis of Murder
Jesus not only forbids the act of murder, He forbids the attitude of murder. A Christian must forsake his right for revenge in action and in thought. Hatred, contempt, and anger are as murder to us. We must replace our anger with love. We must replace our contempt with compassion.
- Do you hate anyone? Dislike anyone?
- Is there someone you refuse to speak to?
- Who are you harboring a grudge against?
- Does anyone have something against you?
Humbly ask God to give you the strength to seek reconciliation. Make it a priority. It might not be easy, but peacemakers are powerful witnesses for the gospel of Jesus Christ.