“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
Matthew 5:21-26 (NIV)
Jesus isn’t as concerned with our actions as He is concerned with our heart. In this passage, Jesus is telling those listening that the law takes care of the actions, but He judges by a different law. It’s a heart law. Murder is wrong, but Jesus says if we follow Him, we will see anger as the worse evil because anger comes from our heart.
Jesus goes on to teach that anger isn’t the sole responsibility of the party who is angry. To follow Jesus and have someone angry with you requires a response on your end. You don’t sing. You don’t pray. You don’t teach that small group lesson. You don’t have that Bible study until you first go and be reconciled to that person.
To reconcile means to restore the relationship. Maybe you wronged someone and they are mad at you but your pride is keeping you from talking to them. After all, it is their issue. Well, according to Jesus, it’s your issue too. We have a responsibility as sinners who were in the wrong and had the other party, Jesus, come and restore our relationship with Him. Jesus did nothing to us. We wronged Him, yet He made the first move toward you and me.
Reconciliation is a trait of a Christian. It should be something that marks us because we are people who have been reconciled to God by Him making the first move toward us. This is the story of Jesus—coming to reconcile us to God by giving His life so we can have life. Since reconciliation is Jesus’ story, His followers should have the same passion and drive to be reconciled with one another. After all, unity is the one thing Jesus prays for before He goes to the cross (see John 17).
Anger is a two-party solution. If someone is angry against us, it is our responsibility to make things right in our relationship. I believe this is regardless if you believe you are innocent in the matter. That will make you think, won’t it.
So, here is my application today:
Do I know of anyone angry with me? I shouldn’t work on a teaching, have a quiet time, read my Bible, pray, or go to church until I have made things right between us.
When we realize the extent that God went to restore His relationship with us and didn’t make us make up for our wrong, then we will be people who can follow Jesus and be the first to make the step toward reconciliation with those around us.