The great Talmudic sage Hillel was born in Babylonia in the first century BCE. As a young man he came to the Holy Land to study Torah at the feet of the sages of Jerusalem. He was initially a very poor, but brilliant student, and became a famous Torah scholar and eventually the Nasi (president) of the Sanhedrin. He is often mentioned together with his colleague, Shammai, with whom he often disagreed on the interpretations of Torah law: Shammai often follows the stricter interpretation, whereas Hillel tended toward a more lenient understanding of the law. In the great majority of cases, his opinion prevailed. Hillel encouraged his disciples to follow the example of Aaron the High Priest to ‘love peace and pursue peace, love all G‑d’s creations and bring them close to the Torah’. Hillel was a very humble and patient man, and there are many stories that illustrate this.
One famous account in the Talmud (Shabbat 31a) tells about a gentile who wanted to convert to Judaism. This happened not infrequently, and this individual stated that he would accept Judaism only if a rabbi would teach him the entire Torah while he, the prospective convert, stood on one foot. First he went to Shammai, who, insulted by this ridiculous request, threw him out of the house. The man did not give up and went to Hillel. This gentle sage accepted the challenge, and said:
‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation of this―go and study it!’ ― https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/689306/jewish/On-One-Foot.htm
In the Sermon on Mount Jesus says,
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil.
How can Jesus say he is not abolishing the law, but fulfilling it, when he says ‘You have heard that it was said [in the law of Moses] … but I say to you…’
In looking at this, I want to spend most of my time this morning talking about sex and sexuality.
Got your attention?
Firstly though, a few words about anger. Jesus says,
You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’… But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement …
I have never murdered anybody. It’s true. Believe it or not!
But have I been angry? Why, yes I have. Is it wrong to have angry feelings? People often have angry feelings. We’re all subject to feelings of anger, some of us maybe more than others. Is Jesus condemning angry feelings?
Can’t we be angry about the climate crisis? About a lack of integrity in government? Can’t we get annoyed that the Brisbane Heat came seventh in the Big Bash League?
Yes, we can. And some of us may.
Jesus isn’t talking about feelings of anger here. He’s talking about what we do with our anger. It’s possible to be angry for a while, and then calm down.
Alternatively, we can nurse our anger. We can feed it and let it grow. We can justify it. We can say it’s all someone else’s fault.
We can decide to get even.
That’s where the real harm is. Not in getting mad sometimes, but in what we do with it. The Book of James helps here:
Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. [James 4.1–2a]
Anger often comes because we’re anxious or scared, or wanting something that isn’t ours. The Apostle Paul says,
Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, [Ephesians 4.26]
I just wanted to spend some time here on anger, because we all get angry sometimes. You know what else we feel? We all have feelings of attraction to other people. We are sexual beings.
We may be attracted to another person; who that is partly depends of course on our sexuality. People have varying degrees of attraction to people of their own or the ‘opposite’ sex.
Feeling angry is not a sin; what you do with the anger is the issue. Do I let it go, or do I let it build up so that I mistreat someone else?
It’s similar with sexualised feelings. Do I accept them as part of life? Or do I dwell on them, do I let them grow in my thoughts, until I want to possess another person? Until I want to use another person for my own gratification? That is the issue.