You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:21-22 ESV)
Living a life of nonviolence involves much more than simply not fighting violently. Nonviolence also must pervade our interactions with our fellow man.
In God’s eyes, something as “small” as being angry is viewed as a violent act.
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment (Matthew 5:22a)
Most would see this and think of something purely spiritual. Biblical context, however, shows us otherwise. Earlier in the Bible (Isaiah 1:10-15) and later in this passage we see that our very lives can be affected by anger. God won’t hear our prayers and won’t accept our offerings.
If a life of peace is something to be cherished and held onto, then it must be a way of life. Everything we do must be influenced by this idea. A person truly living the nonviolent life will not even for a second let their actions be influenced by anger.
Sadly, too many of us let anger win. Our lives are filled with it. A bad driver cuts us off in busy traffic; a fellow Christian quotes some words from Jesus; a man rapes and murders a young girl, and how do we respond? We cuss. We label. We seek revenge. But Jesus calls us to something higher.
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24 ESV)
“But what if they won’t accept our apologies? What if they won’t be reconciled?” Jesus tells us exactly what to do. He tells us to forgive.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22 ESV)
No matter how many times or how badly someone wrongs us, we are to forgive them.
You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42 ESV)
And after the example that Jesus set for us on the cross (Luke 23:34), do we really have an excuse to do differently?