If a person cherishes a spirit of malice and unkindness, he is cherishing a spirit that will result in hatred and a desire for revenge. This is why the Bible says that a person who hates his brother is a murderer and cannot hope to have eternal life. The question is, how can this spirit be removed or changed?
Across the Sea of Galilee from where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount was the land of Bashan. This land, filled with wild gorges and wooded areas, had for a long time been a favorite lurking ground for criminals of all descriptions. Even in Jesus’ day, there were reports of frequent murders and robberies committed in the area. People thought that if Jesus was teaching the law, He would have a stern rebuke for the people committing these crimes. They were shocked when He quoted the sixth commandment that says, “You shall not murder,” and showed that the commandment applied to them.
The people of that time cherished bitter hatred against the Romans and other people of their own country who did not in all things conform to their ideas. They were contentious and passionate, and so Jesus said to them, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ [an empty-headed, vain fellow] shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ [a person who has abandoned himself to wickedness] shall be in danger of hell fire.” Matthew 5:21, 22
Actually, many of the most accurate and ancient manuscripts leave out the words “without a cause.” The text would then read: “I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council.”
This spirit of hatred and revenge is at the basis of murders. It originated with Lucifer, the leading angel of heaven. His name became Satan, which means adversary, devil, or slanderer. This spirit led him to put to death the Son of God. The New Testament is very clear, the person, the intelligence that was behind the crucifixion of Jesus, was not just the Jewish leaders or the Roman government or Pilate, but an influence of supernatural forces. The devil wanted to destroy the Son of God, so he engineered and programmed the whole event. The heavenly universe saw and knew exactly what was going on, but the people of the earth did not know or understand.
So, as with the devil and many in ancient Israel, whoever today cherishes malice or unkindness is cherishing the same spirit and its fruit will be death. The revengeful thought is the seed that once grown or unfolded, produces the evil deed. The Bible says, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” 1 John 3:15
In the gift of His Son, given for our redemption, God has shown how high a value He places on every human soul. He gives no one permission or liberty to speak contemptuously about another human being. It is true, having eyes and ears, we will see and hear of faults and weaknesses in other human beings. But God claims these as His property, first because He created them, as we find in Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.”
But human beings are doubly His because He purchased them back by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. So, since all human beings were created in the image of God, even those that have been most degraded by sin, we are to treat one another with respect and compassion. When we study the life of Jesus, we find that He treated even His persecutors with politeness and courtesy.
Jesus teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount that God will hold us accountable if we speak contemptuously about anyone for whom Jesus laid down His life. The New Testament also is very strict about this principle. Notice what it says in 1 Corinthians 4:7: “For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”
Paul says that everything you have received is from God, so why do you talk as if you produced something on your own? Paul also says in Romans 14:4: “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”
We are not to speak contemptuously of any human being no matter how degraded they are because of a life of sin. We are not to condemn our brother or sister as someone who is beyond the reach of salvation, as though they cannot be saved. If we pronounce judgment on someone else and say that we believe they cannot be saved, Jesus says that we are in danger of hell fire ourselves. The book of Jude provides us with an example of how we should talk and treat our fellow human beings. “Yet Michael [one who is like God] the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ ” Jude 9. Jesus did not bring a railing accusation against the devil. If He had, He would have placed Himself on Satan’s ground for accusations are the weapon of the wicked one. Revelation 12:10 says, “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.’ ”
This scripture calls Satan “the accuser of the brethren.” Jesus did not bring an accusation against the devil; He left it for His Father to decide the condemnation and judgment of the devil. We are to follow His example. When we are brought into conflict with the enemies of Christ, for He still has many enemies in this world, we are to say nothing with a spirit of retaliation, or anything appearing to be a reviling or railing accusation. If we stand as a mouthpiece for God, as all Christians should, then we should not utter words that even the Majesty of heaven would not use when contending with the devil. We must leave with God the work of judging and condemning.
The love of God is a positive, active principle, a living spring ever-flowing out to bless others. If the love of Christ really dwells in our hearts, we not only will refrain from cherishing evil against our brother or sister, or speaking in a contemptuous way to them or about them, but we will ever and always seek to manifest love for them. In Matthew 5:23, 24, Jesus said, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” In other words, don’t even go to church to worship the Lord in public until you have made things right with the person that you have wronged. We cannot expect to be able to express faith in God’s pardoning love if we are indulging an unloving spirit.
If, when we come before God, we remember that someone else has something against us, then we are to leave our gift of prayer, thanksgiving, or freewill offering, and we are to go to that brother or sister with whom we are at variance, and in humility confess our sin and ask them to forgive us. If we have in any manner defrauded or injured them, we are to attempt to make restitution. This has been a principle in the Bible from the most ancient times.
Ezekiel 33:15 says, “If the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die.” So, if we have unwittingly borne false witness against a brother or sister, if we have misstated their words, if we have injured their influence in any way, we need to go to those with whom we have conversed about them and take back all the injurious misstatements.
If Christians would do this in matters of difficulty between Christian brothers or sisters, if instead of laying them before third parties we went frankly and honestly to speak directly to them to make things right, in the spirit of Christian love, how much evil might be prevented. How much bitterness, would be avoided, and how closely Christians would be united in a bond of brotherly love (Hebrews 12:15).
As Jesus presented His sermon, the Jews prided themselves on their morality and they looked with horror upon the sensual practices of the Romans and other nations. But when Jesus showed them that the sixth commandment had to do with what was in the mind and heart, not just in the action, He also revealed something shocking about the seventh commandment. He said in Matthew 5:27, 28: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” When the thought of evil is loved and cherished, even secretly, it shows that sin still reigns in the heart.
He who finds pleasure in dwelling upon scenes of impurity, he who indulges the evil thought and the lustful look, may behold in the open sin the result of what he has been thinking. The Bible is very clear that all human beings are tempted in this world. But temptation does not create the evil that is revealed; it only develops or makes manifest that which was already in the heart, although it has been hidden. The Bible says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7. “For out of it [the heart] spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23, last part
To prevent a physical disease from spreading to another part of the body and destroying the life, a man would submit to having a part of his body, an arm or a hand, amputated. How much more should a person be willing to surrender whatever imperils the life of his soul? In Matthew 5:29, 30, He said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”
This is a spiritual principle: whatever endangers the soul must be given up. If we are looking at something that endangers our souls, then we must stop looking at it. If we are handling something that endangers our souls, we must put it away. If where our feet take us is somewhere that endangers our souls, we must stop going there, because, through the gospel, souls that have been degraded and enslaved by Satan, by sin, are to be redeemed and are to share the glorious liberty of the sons of God. God’s purpose is not just to deliver us from the suffering that is the inevitable result of sin, His purpose is to save us from sin itself.
The gospel purifies, transforms, and sanctifies the soul that has been corrupted and deformed. It is to be clothed in “the beauty of the Lord our God.” Psalm 90:17. It is “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” Romans 8:29. The Bible says that “ ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ ” 1 Corinthians 2:9. In fact, eternity alone can reveal the glorious destiny to which every man and woman may be restored.
If we are going to reach this high ideal, whatever causes our souls to stumble must be sacrificed. It is through the will that sin retains its hold upon us. Often it seems to us that if we surrender everything to the Lord, we will be maimed, or crippled, or unable to do the things we have been planning to do. But it is through the surrender of the will to God, represented by Jesus as the plucking out of the eye or the cutting off of the hand, that we are freed from sin’s grip.
Jesus says it is better to enter into life, even if we are maimed or crippled, than to continue in sin and lose our souls. You see, God is the fountain of life and we can only have life as we are in communion with Him. Sin separates us from God and if we are separated from God, we may exist for a little time, but it is inevitable that we will die. The only way that we can truly live is when we surrender to the Lord as our Master and Saviour, and through that surrender we will receive what the Lord wants to give to us.
If we refuse to yield our will to God, if we cling to self and sin, then we are choosing death because sin is going to be destroyed (1 John 3:8), and we will be destroyed along with it.
Friend, what will be your destiny? You have a choice to make. Will you forsake your sin and live, or will you hang on to it and be destroyed?
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.