‘You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment”, but I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell….
You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
It has been said, “Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.” But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.’
Matthew 5:21-22; 27-28; 31-32
Imagine three friends walking in a dark and dangerous forest. One asks: “Do you suppose we’ll meet any wild animals?” The second person answers: “We might…” The third asks: “Animals that could eat us?” The second, again: “Yes, but mostly lions and tigers and bears” So, they lock arms and walk, chanting: “Lions and Tiger and Bears, oh my!” Then, out jumps the cowardly lion: “Put ‘em up, put ‘em up!!”
The words of Christ, above, from his Sermon on the Mount, have the power to make us a little like Dorothy, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow: “Anger and lust and divorce – oh my!”
But this is true: If you’re in the Kingdom of God, you’re not in Kansas anymore. In fact, you’ll find in the Kingdom that these, very real enemies want to bring you down, and an evil, spiritual ‘lion’ is loose in the world – the one the Apostle Peter describes this way:
“Your enemy the devil prowls around
like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
(1 Peter 5:8)
The devouring is sometimes quick, sometimes slow, but the three things Jesus just spoke about – anger, lust and marriage – are where the Devil loves to do his work.
Anyone who hears what Christ says about anger, lust, and divorce, is probably tempted to shift in her seat, pull at his necktie, and sweat a little, because these are high standards.
In the first place, these standards should help us to see the truth of Paul’s statement in Romans:
“There is no one who is righteous – not even one….
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
That’s just it, isn’t it? What we hear in these words of Christ about anger, lust and marriage – they are the glory of God shining a very bright, uncomfortable light into the corners of our hearts, our minds, our lives.
If we are open to it, there is a kind of healthy conviction that we can feel, when we hear Christ’s commands: They can and should help us to see those moments in our lives when we fell short. They can and should help us to see more clearly ongoing patterns in our lives that are fueled by anger and lust and a desire to divorce.
But if Christ’s words only do that, we have not heard him completely: These words, like the 10 Commandments, should not only convict, they should also instruct – they can be followed as instructions from the One who created and redeemed us; the One who wrote our instruction manual – our user guide.
All of us were probably tempted with the disciples to say: “If that’s how it is, maybe it’s better not to marry…” (Matthew 19:10) We might just as easily say: “Lord, if that’s how you think about the least little bit of anger; or a glance at a beautiful person, then maybe we can’t even get started on this thing you call The Kingdom!”
The answer is that you can’t. You can’t do any of this in your own strength.
It’s why Jesus says: “Aren’t you tired, exhausted and beat up, trying to do all these things without me? (Matthew 11:28-30) Trying to get your anger and lust under control. Trying to get your marriage back on track, and centered in me?”
The promise is that if you confess that Jesus is your Lord and Savior, he comes – and he comes quickly – to make his home in your soul. Then, the Spirit of God will live in you (Romans 8:9), and give you strength to experience:
- Less anger, more joy
- Less lust, more purity
- Less choruses of Fleetwood Mac’s “You can go your own way”, and more Christ at the center of your marriage.
No one wants to go to bed angry. But no one can say these words without supernatural power: “I love you. Forgive me. Let’s go have dinner…” Turn to him, today, give your life – every corner of it – to him, and see what he will give you power to do.