When people think of violence, they think of physical violence. But the truth is that our actions are only violent because our hearts and minds are violent first.
For this reason, Jesus emphasizes purging violence from our minds as much as from our physical behavior. In Matt 5:21-26, he reminds us of the OT command not to murder, for “anyone who murders will be subject to judgment” (v 21). But he goes on to stress that hostile thoughts and emotions against others are as inconsistent with God’s reign as actual murder: “I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment (v 22).
Violent attitudes are also reflected in violent speech, which is inappropriate for followers of Jesus. So Jesus adds, “Anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. And anyone who say, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell’ (v 22 and Matt 12:36).
Jesus is saying that anyone who harbors anger toward another or makes a slanderous comment stands under the judgment of God as much as if they had actually committed murder. For such thoughts, emotions, and words violate the intrinsic unsurpassable worth of people and are inconsistent with the reign of God.
If we are going to live in the peace-loving way of Jesus, the place for us to start is by “taking every thought captive to Christ” and purging all violence from our minds.
Our violent tendencies will never stop unless violence is purged from our hearts. Ask God to help you examine yourself to locate any hostility you harbor toward others. One of the best ways to flesh out non-Kingdom sentiments hidden within us is to practice agreeing with God about peoples unsurpassable worth by blessing everyone you happen to come upon or think about. Be particularly intentional to bless people whose behavior you don’t approve of.
As you bless them, be attentive to any thoughts and attitudes that disagree with your blessing stance toward people. When you identify non-Kingdom thoughts and attitudes, do not pass judgment on yourself. Simply turn from them (repent) and embrace thoughts and attitudes that agree with the estimation God expressed toward these people on Calvary. Then ask God to help you discern why you harbor hostile thoughts and attitudes. Behind every anti-Kingdom thought and attitude (as well as action) lies a false source of Life. So ask God to help you locate the idol in your life that is producing the violence in your mind.
—Adapted from Repenting of Religion, pages 95-96, 193-194
Photo credit: ssoosay via Visual Hunt / CC BY