“Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” – Matthew 5:21-24
I was reading the book of Matthew when I came across this passage, and it struck me. Being angry at anyone is being compared to murder. I believe that being angry with someone, holding grudges, feuding, or having strife with anyone is regarded this way because of what happened with Cain and Abel.
“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his fock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” – Genesis 4:3-8
Cain’s anger and jealousy brought him to the point of killing his brother. Our sin lies in holding anger towards others, rather than humbling ourselves to reconcile. It is not a sin to feel anger in the first place if we have been wronged, nor is it a sin to refrain from making things right with the other person directly. We don’t really need to involve those we feel angry towards to make things right with God. We simply need to let go of our own anger towards them, whether they do so as well or choose not to. Having mercy anyway and forgiving them is the key. That’s what makes things right, even if it only takes place in your own heart and mind. Holding anger towards others drives us to sin even more, gradually. It breeds wickedness and can eventually envelop your heart with utter hatred. God can’t accept your offering, whatever it is, until your heart is free of animosity. It is hypocritical to try to be in good standing with God and win his favor when you find it so difficult to be at peace with another person, even if you feel justified to feel the way you do. I understand this a little deeper now that I’ve connected how the way Jesus declares that holding grudges is sinful can be justified by how anger influenced the first murder ever committed.