Have you ever been tempted to tackle matters of sin and brokenness by “ranking” transgressions? In weighing your own moral and ethical life—and the lives of those around you—have you ever measured your mistakes, missteps, and misdeeds by telling yourself “THIS is a big, unforgivable thing” or “THAT is nothing, forget about it?” It's a real temptation, when we are confronted daily by the evidence of sin in the world, to give ourselves a pass, to create some moral breathing space from which to tell ourselves “well, yeah, I messed up, but at least I didn't do something really bad like commit murder.”
Jesus wanted his followers to understand that there is a pathway to sin that begins in the heart; that deliverance from sin and our souls' redemption depend on being healed from the inside out. Before “really bad things” like murder are committed, there are first really hard words exchanged. And before the hard words, there is the hardness of heart we call “hatred.” Hatred, lust, seeing others as less than human...these are interior conditions, matters of the heart. Though unseen by even our our closest family and neighbors, they are nonetheless present to us, and Jesus says there is no room in the Kingdom of God for such things. Hatred, lust, indeed all matters of the heart, are the very things Jesus came to heal in us, that we might be made clean and show his love to the world.