Jesus said that his way to live is a very narrow way (Mt 7:13,14). In the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7), Jesus gives practical examples of how we are to be different. He gives a much narrower definition of behaviour acceptable in his kingdom in the areas of anger (5:21-26) and lust (5:27-30).

Jesus narrows down our options here. We have less room to manoeuvre in than the Pharisees, and everybody thought they were pretty strict (5:20). They assumed they were on the right side of the law so long as they didn’t kill anybody. But Jesus’ narrow way leaves no room for anger either; not just violent actions, but aggressive and angry thoughts and words are out of bounds too. They thought they were saints because they avoided adultery; Jesus said that’s way too broad because there are deadly implications to lust and pornography even if you are never unfaithful to your spouse.

Jesus expectations of his disciples were radical. He told them that things that were acceptable in their culture (a Pharisaic religious culture) are unacceptable in the culture of his new kingdom. He would say the same to us. The fact that our culture says that anger is no big deal (or even healthy) may be fine for others; but it is not for us. We are called to live in a narrower way.

That will require us to think like Jesus. Narrow minded like him. He does not have a short fuse. God watched the sin of the Canaanites for centuries before stepping in, and he has allowed each of us a long rope too, leaving lots of time for us to repent. Jesus got angry – as with the money-changers in the temple. But Mark’s gospel makes it clear: Jesus did not fly off the handle at what he saw, but calmly left the Temple to sleep on it before acting. Then he could be sure that his response was righteous anger, acting to defend His Father’s honour rather than venting his personal frustration.

There is a way to be angry. The narrow Jesus way. To be angry with sin, to be angry with the exploitation of the innocent that sin generates. And when His Spirit lives in us, we think differently – thinking the way Jesus thinks – and we walk on a path that leads to life. Any other way is deadly.

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