This is one of those commandments which most of us imagine that we’ve cracked. After all, murdering someone is an incredibly drastic act. The problem is that Jesus widened the meaning of this commandment much further than we might imagine, and far enough to make all of us feel uncomfortable. You can read that passage in Matthew 4:21–26. Here, Jesus teaches that if we are angry with somebody without cause, then we will face judgement, just like the murderer. He goes on to say that anyone who denigrates another person, by calling them contemptible names for example, will also face God’s wrath.
How can this possibly be the case? Wouldn’t we say that murder is far, far worse than either of these things? The point Jesus is making isn’t that murder is equivalent to calling someone names, but that what we do and say and think all matter to God.
Our world judges us by what we do. So murderous acts are punished. Violent threats or certain kinds of abuse are against the law. But, according to the law of the land, we can think murderous thoughts, as long as we don’t act on them.
But the Bible says that not saying or doing the wrong thing, isn’t good enough for God. If we are to be holy as God is holy, if we are to live lives that reflect Jesus to the world, then what goes on in our hearts and minds matters just as much as how we act. Growing in holiness, being made more like Jesus, means that our hearts and minds and thoughts are transformed too. And since that’s where our actions originate, in time our lives end up looking different.
So whatever anger, hatred and grudges you are carrying around with you, bring them to Jesus. Ask him, as David did in Psalm 51, to give you a pure heart, that you may love him as you should and love others as you love yourself.