Have you ever met a murderer?
I bet you have.
In fact, I know you have. We all have.
How can I make such a sweeping statement? Well, murder is not what you think it is. Murder is not the same as killing. Killing is taking one’s life. Murder is taking one’s dignity and destroying one’s personhood.
The 6th commandment in Exodus 20:13 says quite succinctly in 4 words: “You shall not murder.” The Hebrew word here for murder is “rasah”, a specific type of killing. It’s an intentional, premeditated taking of a life. It is not the accidental (unintentional) killing, nor the killing of an animal required for sacrifice (retributional).
The first murder in the bible was committed by Cain against his brother Abel. Cain was so angry with Abel because Abel’s sacrifice was more pleasing to God. That preference incited such anger in Cain that he chose to murder his brother. The root of murder is anger.
In Matt 5:21-23 we read “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca, ‘ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Whoa! This verse in the New Testament surely casts a wider net over the definition of murder! It’s clearly not limited to simply stopping a heartbeat. It’s about spewing the poison of our anger with someone towards that someone. Like Cain, when I make someone the target of my vicious anger, I am subject to the same judgement as a murderer! WOW! That stops me in my tracks.
Does this mean I cannot get angry? No, of course not. The world is filled with injustices and irritations that can and should anger me. I am a sinner living in a sin-stained world, and I will indeed get angry with people, situations and circumstances. The bible doesn’t say to NOT get angry, but to not STAY angry. Eph 4:26 says: “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”
So, what anger is murderous? Wll, anger about an injustice is ok. But anger that is expressed in a way that destroys the value of a person (even yourself) is not. I think there are several types of this murderous anger. If you’re like me, you’ve seen each of these at some point in your life:
Radical anger: explosive, violent and destructive fits of rage because someone ticked you off. Think child-like tantrum.
Resentful anger: nursing a wound, holding a grudge, not forgetting an insult. This blocks the path of love toward another person, and almost ALWAYS shows up as bitterness or an “edge” in your personality. It will push other people away.
Repressed anger: holding it in, not expressing yourself honestly and constructively. Studies show this has significant effect on your health. It’s just not worth it!
Revengeful anger: Demeaning, plotting schemes or words that are intended to “get even.” The bad news is that we aren’t entitled to “get even.” The good news is that God will. Paul writes in Rom 12:19: “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” Of course, God’s “repay” is ALWAYS in the context of ultimate and unquestionable love. He certainly will do it better than I will!
If you can understand the underlying cause for anger, you can see that most times, it comes from a commitment to want life your way. And since this isn’t heaven, life won’t go our way. It’s hard and it’s frustrating. So, confess to God that you demand that life go your way, remind yourself that through Jesus, you can do all things through Him who strengthens you, and chose to walk away from the temptation to spew your murderous anger on someone. Simple. But not easy. I know.