By Lee Jones
When last we left this section, we were learning the connection between anger and murder as Jesus taught. Now, he gives us some practical applications for this teaching that end up pointing straight back to his work in our behalf.
He delivers a hypothetical scenario to begin. One of the most important things a Jew could do was to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year to attend the appointed feasts and offer the prescribed sacrifices. Jesus radically flips the script on this practice, as he does so often.
If you have a brother who has something against you (and Jesus doesn’t give any qualifiers), you should leave your sacrifice there in the temple, travel home to be reconciled with him, then come all the way back and present the offering. Jesus puts a high premium on being at peace with each other.
Jesus takes this teaching on reconciliation and ramps it up even further, from family or friends to actual adversaries. Verse 25 even goes into the murky world of court proceedings. Come to terms with your accuser even as he’s dragging you to court, otherwise he’s going to throw the book at you and get you put in lockup.
You could boil this down to a “don’t be a jerk” Oprah-like lesson, and many people have done that, but to do so would miss the ultimate point. Jesus teaching goes to something deep about reconciliation: it’s costly and there are high consequences to let interpersonal issues hang out there unresolved.
What the self-help crowd won’t tell you is that all of us are born into a state of irreconciliation, not merely with each other, but with God himself because of Adam’s sin. We are separated from our Creator because we are guilty of “cosmic treason,” to quote R.C. Sproul, and we have no ability to atone for those sins on our own.
Praise God that he sent Christ to redeem us from the curse of sin and make us to be righteous by crediting his own righteousness to us (2 Cor 5:21)
So while we accused him, perhaps like the scoffers at his crucifixion, he made reconciliation for us (Romans 5:11). His intercession renders a not guilty verdict for every believer. The Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration in our hearts leads us to repent and believe in him he came to terms with us, even though we are the guilty party.
Jesus, the final sacrifice for sins, guarantees our reconciliation with God and also grants us reconciliation with our fellow humans. Faith in Christ brings down every artificial barrier that defines us. In the church there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, Scythian or barbarian (Colossians 3:11). The Gospel not only gives good things to believers, but it removes harmful things such as this obstacle.
Jesus as the mediator of a new covenant (Hebrews 9:15) fulfills his own teaching and, by doing so, commends it to us. Just as Jesus reconciled his enemies to himself and to His Father, we as adopted children can reconcile with other people who have sinned far less against us than we sinned against God. And the same is true for us when we’ve sinned against our brothers and sisters.
This is why the reactive sin in v. 21, 22 is so terrible. Christ has given us the tools to not act or react according to the flesh. Let us set our eyes on Christ, to whom and by whom we are reconciled, and not allow ourselves to be yoked to anger.
Glory to God alone.