Our thoughts, words and actions germinate and grow in the soil of our motivations watered and fed by intent. By intent I mean that which drives a person toward an object of desire or perceived need. Intent is the active agent between our motivations and what actually happens, what we actually do. Intent and motivation are so closely related one may easily be lost in the other. Motive is deeper, abiding, while intent can change direction dependent upon circumstances, maybe the appearance of something more desirable. Intent is fickle. Motive is revealing.
Discover that which motivates you and you will discover identity. Focus upon intent, the evidence of what you do, and you will show others who you are. Jesus hits hard the intent of the thinking of the heart. “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” [Matthew 5:22 ESV]. Here, anger means to provoke to rage or to become exasperated with the object of your wrath. It is unjustified anger toward someone who is not meeting your personal expectations in a timely manner. Your expectations are your standards arbitrarily placed upon another. No one will ever completely meet your expectations no matter how long or short a time you give them.
Jesus does not exclude all anger. God gave us the emotion of anger as part of His image. He knows anger. His anger is justifiable. Unless we conform to the likeness of His Son our anger is unreasonable, an excuse to gain control over what He has created and owns.
We do not determine our own motivation. We discover the motivations God has given to each unique person. He created us individually to serve him. His image in us powers our motivation to love and serve Him by loving and serving those around us, with whom we come in contact. Sin did not destroy the image of God in us but corrupted it, bending us and our motivations away from God. As we honestly see ourselves before Him and discover the corruption of our deepest self we come to recognize our motivations are opposite His, bent away from Him. That which motivates us is rebellion against Him.
We cannot determine our innate motivation. We can and do determine the intent of the thinking of our hearts. How we put action to our motivations, what we focus on and strive for, is something we do control. Our words and actions reveal the intent of the thinking of our hearts to God and others.
But God changes those who belong to Him, recreates them and gives them a new heart with new motivations. Anything we focus upon, which does not come from our new, recreated, eternal relationship with Him springs from, not God, but the sin which still seeks to own us. Relinquishing control of our self to the sinless God changes everything. Theoretically, we cease to foist our expectations upon others because we no longer have personal expectations. We have only God’s eternal standards against which we measure ourselves and others. When our anger arises it is because God’s standard and law has been violated not because our expectations have not been met. Our anger is a flag which tells us either we are doing something wrong, rebelling against Him, or someone around us is rebelling against Him. Those who are His are motivated to by truth, justice and righteousness, goodness and holiness, the intent of their hearts striving to know God both intellectually and intimately.
What self-righteous audacity we have when we are angry with others and with God based upon our own unrighteous and therefore unreasonable expectations. His statement in Matthew 5:22 is not hyperbole. Our unjustified anger brings His judgment. No one has the right to judge any action or word against any other standard than God’s. Such an action wrestles control away from Him. How can anyone who says they belong to Him then turn and impose their personal standard upon Him and those He has created.
Those who are His do have the responsibility, even the deep motivation, to expose sin. Our place in this world, why God has left us here, is a witness for Him and against the world. Our presence exposes sin and shines truth, justice and righteousness, goodness and holiness, the character of God to a godless world.
But that is not the way you learned Christ! – assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. [Ephesians 4:20-27 ESV]