[Jesus said,] â€œYou know that our ancestors were told, “Do not murder” and “A murderer must be brought to trial.” But I promise you that if you are angry with someone, you will have to stand trial. If you call someone a fool, you will be taken to court. And if you say that someone is worthless, you will be in danger of the fires of hell. So if you are about to place your gift on the altar and remember that someone is angry with you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. Make peace with that person, then come back and offer your gift to God.
Before you are dragged into court, make friends with the person who has accused you of doing wrong. If you don’t, you will be handed over to the judge and then to the officer who will put you in jail. I promise you that you will not get out until you have paid the last cent you owe.â€Â Â Â Â Matthew 5:21-26 (CEV, my emphasis)
It is in passages like the ones we will be studying the rest of the week that I find myself smiling as I remember Thomas Jefferson. President Jefferson decided there were parts of the Bible that he found â€œirrelevantâ€ and (in modern language) too weird. So he did a cut and paste on the pages and passages until he had what he called The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.Â Matthew 5 did get thrown out, by the way. It is fortunate for me that God wanted to make sure that I did not try to ignore the teachings in these passages because He allowed me experiences that taught me despite my stubbornness.
Jesus tells me that destroying someone physically is not the only way to destroy them. He wants me to understand the power of my tongue; that my words can be used for good or for evil. Jesus says there will be judgment of not only my actions but my thoughts and feelings. This is such an important point that if I hold anger against or speak disdain toward or even dismiss someone, I should not try to seek forgiveness and reconcile myself to Him.
No one who was in that church with me that Sunday morning more than 10 years ago will ever forget that service. Our church had been in an internal battle for several years. There were two sides in the congregation just as the sanctuary was divided by a center aisle. Our pastor had taught and prayed about reconciliation and unity in Jesusâ€™ Body but, frankly, we werenâ€™t hearing it. â€œLet them get a clue that we were right and they were wrong!â€ It was the first Sunday of the month and that meant communion. Our pastor started to pray, to begin the blessing, and he stopped. He said that we couldnâ€™t come together in communion until we came together with forgiveness and were reconciled to each other. It would be hypocritical. No one moved. You could have heard a sin â€“ I mean, pin, drop. Our pride was too strong. Our pastor covered up the communion elements and prayed for us. The service ended.
I am an RN. I worked in my profession for over 30 years. Like many, too many, nurses I have been sued for malpractice. A member of my church was having surgery and I worked in the recovery room. When asked, I agreed to care for them that day. Two years almost to the day, I was served with papers saying I was being sued by this person for malpractice. I had done nothing wrong but I was part of the care team and so I was caught in the legal net. It took three years, tons of paperwork, depositions and meetings before it was over. It took me another year after that for me to receive the grace that God wanted to give me so I could walk up to the person and tell them that I forgave them. I donâ€™t think they felt they needed forgiveness but I needed to do it. I believe that is why I have peace today.
Jesus did not teach easy principles. He said, â€œFather, forgive themâ€ so that I would know how to do it. He loved even me so I would know the extravagance of His love for everyone.