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 council; and whoever says ‘you fool’ will be liable to the hell of fire. –Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV)
Jesus here is not saying anything essentially new. He is citing the Old Testament regulation on the sixth commandment. What Jesus is getting at is what the commandment has always been about: the condition of our heart that the commandment is to incite. One we learn here from Jesus is that in order to follow God’s commands, we must begin with our heart.
I find myself struggling daily to obey the two most essential commandments of Scripture, to love God and love others. One thing that I am learning is that these commandments begin with the conditioning of my heart and mind. Here are a few things that I have found help me condition my mind and heart to obey the commandment to love others:
Remember the gospel grace shown to me: In the parable of the unmerciful servant (Mat. 18:21-35), Jesus reminds us that, when he shows grace to us, he demands that we show it to others. Even more terrifying is his statement, “if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Mat. 6:15).
What I believe the point is of these two teachings is not a works-righteousness that negates our forgiveness if we fall short of repentance, but the reality that, if we do not show mercy to others, we have not understood the mercy shown to us. When I think of what I deserve and the grace God has given me, I am encouraged to be gracious and loving to others.
Meditate on the humanity of others: The 17th century writers, Henry Scougal, has influenced me on this,
We shall find our hearts enlarged in charity toward men by considering the relation wherein they stand unto God, and the impresses of his image which are stamped upon them. They are not only his creatures, the workmanship of his hands, but such of whom he taketh special care, and for whom he hath a very dear and tender regard, having laid the designs of their happiness before the foundations of the world, and being willing to live and converse with them to all the ages of eternity. The meanest and most contemptible person whom we behold is the offspring of heave, one of the children of the Most High; and however unworthy he might behave himself of that relation, so long as God hath not abdicated and disowned him by a final sentence, he will have us to embrace him with a sincere and cordial affection.
Pray for others: When you are praying that other with know Christ more, it is difficult to act in a way that is contrary to that purpose.
Train my speech: Something that I have become increasingly convicted about is training my speech to be edifying. Paul tells us to “let no corrupting talk come out of you mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” I have come to realize that, if I am truly going to love others, I must restrain my tongue from speaking ill of them (this is particularly difficult when I agree with someone “honest assessment” of another).
In regard, I recommend reading James 3:1-12 on the power and danger of the tongue. I probably need to memorize this.