Anger Without a Cause: A Misplaced Phrase

“But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…” – Matthew 5:22, KJV

Biblical scholarship has determined that the phrase “without a cause” is an incorrect translation and should not be there. Some scholars, like Jerome, caught it very early on in terms of New Testament history. Nevertheless, the phrase persisted in some translations, such as the King James Version. Someone involved in compiling and composing the New Testament must have felt strongly that there has to be some kind of anger that could be justified.

But, if there is a cause to be angry, who serves as the gatekeeper to those causes? The victim of a crime or fraud? A judge or watchman? A committee that meets biweekly? All of these things I’ve mentioned are human sources, and I don’t trust any of them to not make mistakes. And if “without a cause” was placed there – and kept there – by someone who felt that all causes to be angry were justifiable, then I have to ask, who is actually angry without *any* cause, justified or not?

If the argument goes that only God can express anger, then we see a God who has told us to forgive others, completely and without exception. We see a God who told us to love our neighbors and to bless those who persecute us. We see a God who teaches compassion, generosity, and unconditional love in his parable of the Good Samaritan. This is a God who asks us to not be angry with our brother.

Yes, the flashes and flares of anger will arise. And then, God asks of us that we still our minds, to slow down our thinking, and find the healing calm within.

I found that being conscious about my anger has led to a rather rapid transformation in how I interpret bad driving. I used to say hard words about drivers that impeded my forward progress in one way or another. Then, I started saying “I forgive you for cutting me off” or whatever the offense was. In doing that, I noticed the offense was all in my mind. I didn’t have to be offended by what the other driver did. It may still have been a reckless maneuver, but I began to shift to think more on the lines of “I hope that driver is all right” and wonder what stress would push a person to drive like that. Was it an emergency? Deep emotional pain? Foolishness that hopefully does not result in an accident? I find that in forgetting my anger, my heart draws out to a stranger.

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