For a second illustration of what “fulfilling the law” means Jesus turns to the subject of murder. The law says “You shall not murder” and Jesus explains what’s really is behind the cold hard proposition. It would be clear in people’s minds that they should not kill another person, but there is something greater that they need to understand. The outward act is wrong but it is not enough to deal with the problem on that level. Behind murder lay some form of “anger” so Jesus adds that the one who is angry “will be subject to judgment.”
Traditionally we deal with problems on the same level as the offense. You do something that offends me and I will do the same or something like it to you. A is answered by B. But the problem isn’t A but Why A. You offended me in public so I will offend you in public repeats the problem, it doesn’t solve it. We both need to understand why you did A to me. The answer is not “Same to you, buddy!” but “Why, my friend.” The law as such belongs to the former category and the answer to the latter. In Jesus’ answer we see the road to recovery has to go through the valley of reconciliation before it can be designated solved.
It follows from this that our real problem is not the problem itself (killing) but the anger that promotes it (the why we did it). Until we see this we remain unproductive in a tit-for-tat world. Jesus wants us to understand the actual problem and that is in us rather than between us. If I’m not speaking to someone because I think that person has offended me the answer is for something to happen that will level the field. I need to ask myself Why? – as does the other as well. It is not until we look within and consider that our “murder” of the other was caused by our “anger” toward them. The answer normally is not out there but in here.
At that point Jesus gives us an example of the principle. In today’s world, if we are in church and about ready to sing “All to Jesus I surrender” and it comes to mind that we have a beef against the elder who later on will pass out the elements in a communion service, its best to put the hymn book down and go to the elder and work through the issue. Tell him you were mad and now realize that attitude was wrong and see what happens as a result. There will be a little revival moment when two believers forgive and embrace. Without confession there can be no renewal.
Honesty simplifies all relationships, removes the need to find cause to blame the other, makes it easier to forgive, and mirrors how Christ would have us live together as his children displaying to the world what he is like. As always, his way is right. Our resistance is evidence that we have a long way to go. Even the secular author W. Somerset Maugham sensed the real problem when he wrote, “The first thing needful to make the world a tolerable place to live in is to recognize the inevitable selfishness of humanity.” Right! The intent of the law is not merely outward conformity to a set of moral rules but an inner transformation that generates the desire to conform to the image of God as represented in those external rules.