Matthew 5:21-26 Be Reconciled WC McCarter
Like many of you, I was raised in church. I cannot really remember a time that I was not attending church. Not only did I attend church, but I enjoyed attending. I wanted to be there when the doors were open and I wanted to participate. I soaked-up as much biblical knowledge as I could as a child; I began contributing to the Lord’s Supper by offering meditations before we began and by serving at age twelve; I did a lot of visiting with the minister and with my dad as a teenager; and I started preaching/teaching.
Like many of you who have been Christians for several years, it was easy to fall into a holier than thou type of attitude like the Pharisees. I could have been, and maybe was at times, a real-life little Pharisee. I knew the Bible well and its requirements. I had never sinned in any of the most blatant and vulgar ways. I still haven’t to this day, and most of you have not. Yet, is that all of the righteousness that God requires? We know that it is not. Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Today we will talk about our relationships with others. We have no need to talk about murder because most of us do not struggle with that issue, but what about something on the inside? What about something like anger toward others? Do you struggle with it? Christians are to be different than those of the world. We are to ministers of reconciliation.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
You have heard (21)
The sixth commandment of the ten given to the Israelites at Mount Sinai was, “Thou shalt not murder.” The Hebrew word for “murder” (or “kill”) does not include killing for self-defense, capital punishment, or war. It means that you are not to take the life of someone without just reason. Of course, I would say that most of the Pharisees would not even have to worry about that legal jargon because most of them had never killed anyone for any reason.
Yet, Jesus is not focused on what the word means in various situations. He makes the commandment much more difficult to obey. You see, the scribes and Pharisees had become people who wanted to do the bear minimum. They would do the bear minimum of the Law and think that they had fulfilled it. If you kept the bear minimum, external requirement, then you were good to go and could do whatever else you pleased. As long as you had not literally murdered anyone, you were safe from judgment. You could ridicule, persecute, and hate others without any consequence. Jesus is about to give them, and maybe even us, a rude awakening.
But I say to you (22)
Anger can bring judgment. Anger means unrighteous indignation; when you are easily irritated by others leaving you with negative thoughts and bad feelings toward someone else. We think that only murder brings on judgment, but Jesus says that anger toward others does as well.
Jesus teaches that calling your brother/sister “raca” can bring on the council and calling him “fool” can bring on hell fire. There is no progression here as if fool is more depraved than raca. This is mere Hebrew parallelism. “Raca” is from a Hebrew word meaning “empty-headed” and “fool” comes from the Greek language. These words are not always inappropriate, but they are when they are fueled by hate.
Be reconciled to your brother (23-24)
Relationships are more important than ritual. Worship is vital to the Christian life. We assemble together every week to sing praises to and of our God, to pray, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and we are attentive to the Word of God. These things mean the world. There are no more special times than these, but God is not seeking us to worship Him with a heart filled with indignation. Even in the Old Testament, God said, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” Jesus quoted that passage several times during His ministry. As one man observed, “. . . our relationship with God is better gauged by our human relationships than by religious ritual” (Moore).
Yes, it is appropriate to prioritize reconciliation with others over attending worship. Of course, Jesus is not teaching that we ought to take a month away from worship to attend to a relationship. He is teaching that when we realize that someone has something against us, we are to immediately try to make it right.
Agree with your adversary (25-26)
Verses 23-24 discuss our reconciliation efforts with a friend, and verses 25-26 discuss our efforts with an adversary. Can I say this simply? It is never good to make enemies. For example, if you find yourself in a court situation, it would be better to settle outside of the courtroom than to take it before the judge. Everyone knows that it is much easier and much less stressful to do so that way. If you go before the judge, you do not know what he may do. You may be thrown in jail and stay there until you pay the last penny. Therefore, agree with your adversary quickly.
First, completing the bear minimum requirements of the Law is not enough. You cannot boil the Law of God down to simple, external rules to keep. You must seek to do what is right, not merely what is easiest. Keep in step with the Spirit. He will empower you to obey the Law of Christ.
Second, sins of the mind and heart are just as sinful as those of the hands. The New Testament teaches that if you break one law, then you are a law breaker. Those who have hate in their hearts are in the same category as murderers. They are both sinners, guilty before a holy God. Of course, murder is a greater sin than hate, but both are of the same ilk. Both are sin.
Third, God requires mercy and not sacrifice. Notice the order of priorities in verse twenty-four. We are told to first be reconciled with our brother/sister and then worship. Do not think that you can approach God with no thought of your relationship with others.
Fourth, remember that you may not have something against someone, but if someone has something against you, then you must do something about it. As much as it depends of you, seek reconciliation with others.