Monday, December 29, 2008

Matthew 5:23-26 Be Reconciled

Jesus, in Matthew 5:21-22, taught how sinful anger was the spiritual equivalent of murder. Certainly, that is a much higher standard than most people would care to have applied to them. Sin isn’t just something we do externally but it is a matter of the heart and our inner attitudes. However, anger is a two way street. Or more precisely, there are at least two parties involved-the person who is angry and the object of that anger. Ultimately, Christ teaches us in these verses that reconciliation is of paramount importance when a relationship is strained by angry feelings regardless if we are the angry party or the object of someone’s ire.

First of all, Jesus teaches us that unresolved anger affects our worship. Notice that He says “if you are presenting your offering at the altar”. The altar in the temple was at the heart of the temple and bringing an offering was required at times and at other times was freewill. However, both kinds of offerings were supposed to be brought with the right heart attitude. During any time of worship we should engage in some time of introspection. Are our motives pure? Do we have unconfessed sin in our lives? We should also ask “Are any of my relationships strained?” During this time of reflection, the Holy Spirit is able to bring to our mind things that might hinder our worship of the heavenly Father. One of those things is a broken or strained relationship.

We see that the Lord has in mind a broken or strained relationship in the word picture He paints. The scene He describes is of us preparing to worship when the Holy Spirit causes us to “remember that your brother has something against you”. See, here’s the thing that we must take notice of and this is something I don’t think I’ve ever thought about before I sat down to write this post. Jesus doesn’t say that we remember that we have done something to someone else but rather we remember that they have something against us. Does that mean that they have a legitimate claim? Not necessarily. I can remember when I served on staff at a particular church in Alabama that there was one member who only had two problems with me—just two little problems. They were “Everything that I did” and “Everything that I said”. Now were there times that I was wrong—I’m sure there were. But I feel quite comfortable saying that most of the stuff she got her knickers in a twist about were things that she assumed she could read my mind and know the motivation of my heart neither of which she could do. However, the point our Lord makes is not that we have actually done something but rather that we remember that someone has something against us. In this context, the term brother does not seem to indicate “fellow believer” but probably has more a sense “the brotherhood of mankind”. In any case, if we know someone has something against us we should not wait for them to come to us but we should take the initiative. Reconciliation is that important to God.

Christ then calls us to go and “be reconciled” to our brother. On the audit that I just finished, there were numerous financial schedules that I had to examine. Several times, the numbers that should have matched did not match, Total Additions to Buildings for example, should have agreed between two of the schedules but they did not. I had to find what the difference was between them so I could say they were reconciled. Was there still a difference when I finished? Yes. However, the disagreement between the two schedules was now resolved because it was explained. If someone is angry with you and you make the attempt to reconcile, they may not want to reconcile the difference. Also, you may have a difference where you simply have to “agree to disagree”. Observe that Christ here does not say that we are responsible for their reaction only that we are responsible for initiating the attempt to be reconciled. We should be willing to humble ourselves and do what we can do to bring peace back the relationship. When we do that, we can proceed with our worship.

In verse 25, Jesus moves from a religious arena to a civil one. He exhorts us to “Make friends quickly” with someone who has a legal claim against us. I have never been sued and I am grateful for that. However, I did have an occasion to sue someone once. A gentleman passed me illegally on a road and hit my vehicle. He promised to pay for the repairs but he never did. I went to the courthouse and took out the paper to have a suit brought against him. When he got the paperwork, he came to my house to attempt to make things right. I worked with him and we settled the matter out of court. It was less expensive for him and less time consuming for me.

Here, Jesus is saying that if someone has a legal claim on us for something, we need to get that settled as quickly as we can because there are going to be consequences if we don’t. He continues in verses 25 and 26 to describe what would have been the legal penalties in that day. The point of the matter is this—we need to live at peace with people to the extent that we are able and we need to be willing to sacrifice to achieve that peace if necessary. Failure to do so can bring consequences not only from man (legally) but from God (spiritually).


Anonymous said...

I ticked off my brother's 'live-in significant other mother of his two children' a few months ago. I was so angry and I flipped out on her. I tend to do this from time to time and it doesn't make me feel good. Anyway, I later apologized and humbly admitted my fault. Nothing. Nada. I sent their kids Christmas gifts. Nothing. Nada.

At this point I figure it's between them and God. After all my husband and I have done for them over the years I didn't think a little argument would cause them to act this way, but alas it has. So now what? I don't know. But truthfully I am still upset over what she said/did/still says/does. They are not believers and very selfish people. I don't know though. Do more? Just wait? Sometimes I really really really do love living far far far away from family.

Heidi Reed

Joe Blackmon said...

Well, I'm like the last person to ask about this because I suck at it. I have a similar situation to yours in that there is a person who-shall-not-be-named that I can't stand but have to see every once in a while. They did something that realy ticked me off several years ago. I have forgiven them but I still don't talk to them anymore than absolutely necessary. I'm not sure that's exactly what Jesus had in mind when he talked about forgivenmess but I can see the situation potentially escallating to the point that I shove my size 11 foot up his butt and break it off. I therefore chose the lesser of the two evils and have as little to do with him as I can.

As to your situation, from what you've described I think you've tried to do what's right. The problem is in their court, I think. I wouldn't worry about it, bud.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Joe (and thank you Patricia too). I wanted so badly to link you up on this one too. I can't though. The little wench (there I go again) reads my blog. Hmph!! She'd come here and read my comment and WW3 would start all over again. Blah!


Joe Blackmon said...

I understand. If you want to quote me as an anonymous blogger feel free.


Have a good one.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I loathe and detest being critical or argumentative online. Too often things are taken more harshly than they are intended. (You hear it coming, don't you?) BUT--I have heard so many Christians say "Oh, I've tried to apologize to them. They just won't accept it. THE BALL IS IN THEIR COURT NOW." That's fine. Actually, that's wonderful. IF you've done all you need to do. Apologizing to the offended is only part of the equation. Time after time in scripture we hear men and women who have sinned say to God "Against you only have I sinned" It's great that we as Christians seek to make ammends by apologizing. Do we repent before God? Now I'm talking about either side, the offender AND the offended. If you remain angry (to quote your blog "anger was the spiritual equivalent of murder") you are NOT, absolutely NOT reconciled to God. Say what you want to you're not. No excuses, rationalization, or reasoning is going to change that. If we as Christians can't read that in this passage, we're blind as bats!

Joe Blackmon said...

In Matthew 18:35, Jesus says ""My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart." The word translated "heart" is the Greek word "kardia" (2588). This word was not used for the seat of a persons emotions as we use it today but rather for the seat of a persons intellect and reasoning. To me, that means forgiveness is a decision. In my case, when I feel anger come up because something reminded me of the situation with He-who-shall-remain-nameless-on-a-public-blog I choose to forgive again. At one point, I nursed the anger and kept it warm and well fed. I was like "By golly, I'll get you if it takes me a lifetime. Keep looking over your shoulder, buddy. Cause one day, Imma be there and you won't be seeing much after that". I don't feel like that anymore. Everytime I get angry about it again I ask God to take it from me. I choose to forgive. And you know what, I now feel more like forgiving--it's not so much of a choice that I have to force myself to do. My thinking is beginning to change my feeling.

Now, I'm not saying I have handled or am handling this situation perfectly. However, I considered the potential outcomes of other ways I could have handled it and I think I chose the best way to handle this specific situation. If it was less than God's best I can only try to do better in the future.