Sermon on the Mount, Fourth

Now we begin the fulfillment of the law. Here is what Jesus says about murder:

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,[FN1]’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

[FN1] An Aramaic term of contempt. Matthew 5: 21-26.

So, you are not only prohibited from killing, but from being angry. Is this purely aspirational? Does Jesus really expect his followers to not be angry? I don’t know, but I know that it matters whether you make an effort to find solutions during a conflict rather than just prove you are right. In other words, you live a better life by doing more than not murdering.

Here’s another question: Is some separation of church and state inherent in this passage?

Does Jesus acknowledge one set of laws that are to be compulsory and a second, fulfilled perhaps, set of laws that require willing compliance? There are a whole slew of things I believe in that I don’t want mandated by law but that I think are important. Is that dichotomy, a Christian distinction as well as a Western distinction?

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