I've Killed More People Than You

Murder is more than taking a person's life; it's taking their value.

"You scare me," my wife said.

Usually, this is what follows some flamboyant or otherwise innocuous silliness I'm known for. This time she was serious.

Like most days, I had come home from work ready to unload all of the idiocy I had encountered during the day. But unlike most days, I didn't feel calmer when I was done venting. I felt angrier. In fact, I couldn't stop venting. My wife picked up on this and in her gentle yet firm way, she warned me about letting my frustrations turn into hatred. I paused. And that's when I said it.

"Sometimes I get so angry with people I wish they weren't alive anymore."

You'll never feel like more of a failure as a husband than making your wife afraid of you. But even in the midst of her fear, she told me exactly what I needed to hear: "You have an anger problem. And you need help."

Hatred is one of the easiest evils to overlook. We dress it up like a wicked witch or an Austrian man with a funny mustache and promptly dismiss it as too extreme to include any of us. It's one of those allegorical sins that the Bible uses as an example but no one actually commits. The truth is we fear the severity of Jesus' words because his description of hatred is much less extreme:
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 the council; and whoever says, "You fool!" will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5)
It's funny how we're better at finding things in the Bible that aren't there than seeing the things that are. We're more likely to devise biblical support for age restrictions in marriage than notice that Jesus equated my calling someone an idiot with murder.

Perhaps it's because we've heard it said, "be angry, and do not sin," so we comfort ourselves with the knowledge that not all anger is sinful. But the rest of that verse from Ephesians ("do not let the sun go down on your anger") is a direct allusion to Jesus' previous words which go on to say that anger between two people must be reconciled before approaching God in worship.

In other words, Paul is saying that Jesus' words were a warning that anger is quick to turn sinful if not dealt with. That's why James recommended that we should be slow to anger because it leads us away from what God desires. That doesn't mean that anger is an emotion we should suppress. Rather, Paul is recognizing that it's a natural human response that we shouldn't ignore. 

Yet we all do. We don't even realize we're angry because our culture has adopted angry exclamations as accepted vernacular. From dimwit to dumbass, TV especially has popularized the casual usage of insults. And between friends, they can be as harmless as the sitcom intends them. However, these crude devices soon become the medicine with which we manage our "frustration" (the word we use to hide our anger). We tell ourselves that they vent our anger, but they only feed it--the more we call someone a dimwit, the more we believe it. And when anger leads to insult, hatred is born and murder is committed.

Don't feel too bad. If we were keeping score, I've killed way more people than you. Obviously, that doesn't mean there's a trail of dead bodies behind me. What it means is that I've reduced the lives of others, people made in God's image, to the level of worthlessness. It may not sound as serious an offense as spilling blood, but robbing another of their value is the same as taking their life. You are, in effect, saying that they do not deserve life. Maybe that wouldn't grieve you too much from someone you didn't know, but imagine your best friend or parent or spouse felt that way. Living with that knowledge is no life at all.

There's only one antidote to hatred: love. John says that while hatred makes us murders, love is sacrificing ourselves for another. You might say that hatred takes life but love gives it. Of course, loving people who make you angry isn't easy. But if love is putting others first, we might realize how self-serving anger really is. And controlling our anger would simply be a matter of thinking of ourselves less. Because without love, anger will only lead to hatred.

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