Reading the Word
Matthew 5:21–26 (ESV)
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
Understanding and Applying the Word
Jesus comments that the people have heard that they should not murder. Of course, this is explicitly stated in the Mosaic Law in Exodus 20:13 in what is often referred to as the Ten Commandments. However, Jesus does not stop at the physical act of murder. He tells the people that anger, insults, and degrading speech are all violations of the will of God and brings one under judgment. Jesus gives three different pictures of judgment when he says the person would be liable to judgment, liable to the council, and liable to the hell of fire. It is not likely that these represent ascending degrees of judgment, but rather more vivid descriptions.
Jesus tells the people that if they are offering their gift on the altar and remember that a brother has an issue, they should immediately go to their brother and seek reconciliation. By brother, Jesus is not speaking of a biological family member, but one who is related through the family of faith. This is how Jesus uses the term throughout the Gospels. Notice that Jesus tells the people that it is more important to take care of their relationships than to fulfill religious ritual. He urges the people to seek reconciliation before they would reach judgment.
Our attitudes towards others matter, especially our attitudes towards other Christians. We are called to be a part of the family of God, the church. Unfortunately, there are often broken relationships in the church that are not addressed. Neither the offender nor the one offended seeks to bring reconciliation to the relationship. As a result, negative thoughts and opinions form and often these result in speaking poorly about fellow believers. While this is going on, we go through all of the religious routines and think that we are pleasing God. This is not true! Jesus tells us to seek reconciliation with our brother (or sister) in Christ and to seek it now. Whether you are the one who caused the offense or are the one who has been offended, both share in the responsibility to seek reconciliation. Who do you need to reach out to today?
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