“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot (in an emotional outburst), you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone (wish they were dead), you are in danger of the fires of hell. “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. Matthew 5:21-24 (NLT) (emphases mine)
We like to judge ourselves mostly by what we do in comparison to others. It isn’t hard to find someone better at doing wrong than we are - just open any social media feed. But Jesus' standard for what is good and holy is more than just our actions in comparison to other's actions. It is our heart condition, evidenced by what we think in comparison to who Jesus is. The things we choose to believe, dwell on, or even nurture.
I’m sure most reading this have not committed the physical act of murder. What all of us have done, is to be so angry at someone as to wish harm on them and maybe even death. Maybe we fantasized how we might do it, or how some unfortunate incident would happen to them. We all have been tempted by these thoughts. Jesus is teaching that if we dwell on them and accept them as to wish they were true, or make them happen, then we have moved into the realm of “heart” sin.
Jesus said “heart” sin is punishable, unlike a wrong thought that we dismiss and reject on the basis of our love for Jesus and desire to follow Him. “Heart sin” wishes our thoughts would become a reality. And Scripture teaches in James 1:13-15 (check it out - https://goo.gl/QtY9XN), if these go unchecked, it will only be a matter of time before we create some plan to act out those sinful desires.
In the area of anger and unforgiveness, Jesus is teaching us that in order to cut hatred off at the root, we need to forgive anyone we might be experiencing tension with. And here is the important part, it doesn’t matter who is at fault. Unified and loving relationships are so important to Jesus that He says, “If you are bringing your gift to the altar…” (if you are trying to go deeper with Him through devotion and service) don’t even bother until you have gone to that person (especially a brother or sister in the Lord) and apologized to make things right. God desires our hearts to be right with Him and with others.
In light of Jesus’s words, who do you need to forgive and who do you need to ask forgiveness from? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you and then step out in obedience. Seek to have your heart right with God and others. Don’t worry about how they may respond to you, just do your part and let God take care of the outcome.