Mutual Concession After Mutual Hostility

Mutual Concession After Mutual Hostility
Robert Wurtz II

But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, “Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. (Matthew 5:23-26)

I have chosen to quote this entire passage as I wish to take an unusual angle on these teachings. In the first verse we read, but I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. Some translations omit, ‘without a cause’, but I believe it belongs there. The truth is, there is never a cause to be angry with our brother or sister in a protracted sense as we see playing out in this passage. We ought to forgive and that is true enough. However, a careful reading of the text reveals an element in the process that is all too often perilously overlooked. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Notice how being angry in our first verse leads to name-calling in the next. They start out with the word raca (scoundrel) and end up calling the person a fool (dull and stupid). I submit that why this is happening is that the person offended needs to be reconciled with and to prolong that process only fuels the offended person’s anger and disqualifies the offender from being a worshipper. What says the passage? First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 

Both Parties in Distress

Here we have the offended and the offender. The offended is getting angrier to the point that they have become an adversary. Notice, Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. This is never more true than on our relationship with God. As a sinner, we are told not to neglect so great of salvation lest we have to pay for every transgression and disobedience we have ever committed. (Hebrews 2) Yet this plays out in all kinds of ways in life. An offender may run from the law, but this only heightens the offense. Once they are caught they typically have even more problems. The solution? Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. This means that we need to seek for mercy and not take mercy for granted. Because the truth is, not every one is going to show you mercy. Why? Because no one deserves mercy. Mercy is shown as an act of benovelence. A judge can give you what you deserve and so can people, even at the peril of their own soul. How? We have it here again, And whoever says to his brother, “Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. The person that is angry and acting out is in danger of God’s judgment. But when a person is severly offended they often don’t care about that at the moment. This is why we are told to be angry and sin not, not to allow the sun to go down on our wrath and give place to the Devil. But before Paul ever spoke those words, Jesus spoke these, Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. The offender always has first responsibility to be reconciled. 

Wrong Attitudes

Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness. (Proverbs 30:20)

One of the prerequisites for forgiveness is acknowledgement. 1 John 1:9 says that if we ‘acknowledge’ our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins. This is shown most clearly in the life of David when he wrote Psalm 51:4 saying, Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. This is also modeled in the confession of the Prodigal Son, And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. (Luke 15:21) Obviously these men thought about what they had done and what they deserved. And coming to repentance there was this understanding and acknowledgement of what had happened. This is what elders should look for when a person has fallen in the faith. Do they show signs of really acknowledging what they have done was before the Lord? Moreover, if the adulterous woman in Proverbs 30:20 had reacted as did the Prodigal Son she would repented before God and said to her husband, “I am no longer worthy to be called thy wife.” But instead she obstinately refuses to rightly acknowledge. It would be like the Prodigal Son coming home wiping his mouth as if he deserved to be back in the house because he had offended no one. This wrong attitude is what gives rise to a Matthew 5:23-26. The father longed for the son to come home and watched daily to see him. The only reason the story works is because the son humbled himself and acknowledged his sin. 

Meditational Thoughts

The first teachings of Jesus dealt with everyday issues in life. We have the beatitudes and then a series of teachings as we find in Matthew 5. We focus real good on the importance of not lusting at women, but what do we do in a scenerio when a person is offended and needs reconciliation? God is very concerned about our relationships to one another and expects us to be sensitive to them. No other time is quite like our quiet time before the Lord. When we come to bring our gift, if we remember that our brother or sister has ought against us we need to humble ourselves and acknowledge what we have done with a view to ending the bitterness and anger. It is the loving thing to do, besides. Sadly the attitude today is, “they just need to get over it.” But that’s not what the Book says. It is merely the mouth wiping of Proverbs 30:20. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.