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Daily Devotion for Saturday 21st January 2023

‘You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire.  So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you,  leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.  Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.  Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. 

‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.”  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

‘It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” 32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Reflection

I wonder if Jesus ever heard of Socrates’ dictum ‘the unexamined life is not worth living.’ I think he would have agreed for it seems that he saw failure to examine the causes of anger or lust as sin. 

Jeffrey Krehbiel, a late American Presbyterian minister, held that the word anger derives from Old Norse words meaning “memory” or “grief.  For Krebhiel, healthy anger was deeply related to loss.  Taking our anger seriously, and being curious about its source – such as what we lost, could lead to opportunities for reconciliation and building up the common good.  Being honest with ourselves helps us avoid either the sins of violent rage or soul-crushing apathy that unexamined anger could otherwise lead us into. 

Instead of dancing inside the lines of adultery, Jesus wants us to ask, ‘why does my eye wander?’  When we become so emotionally wrapped up in another person or thing, we lose sight of what we value. For Jesus, that’s as bad as losing an eye or a hand, because it undercuts our humanity and keeps us from being disciples. 

The poet Mary Oliver asked the question, ‘what will you do with your one wild and precious life?’ I have seen people be curious and examine their anger over subpar living conditions, and in seeking to reconcile it, organise others and win millions in repairs making their homes suitable for habitation. I have seen people reconnect with themselves, and the people they love, when they ended emotional affairs with other people, work, or hobbies. They didn’t commit adultery, but the relationships that were at the core of their very being was under threat.  If we don’t examine our lives and be deeply curious about the sources of our anger and lust, I fear that we risk living a not just lacklustre life, but one that doesn’t participate in the ‘wild and precious’ life around us. That would be a sin. 

Prayer

God, let us be curious and respect anger so much that we address its root causes. 
Give us curiosity about why we lust after people and things. 
Give us the courage and patience to explore the sources of anger and lust.  
Keep us from the sins of violence or apathy. 
Keep us true to your values planted in our hearts that we may fully live this one wild and precious life as your disciples. Amen. 

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