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.
Before the coronavirus gave us all a common enemy, our nation was torn asunder by political and cultural divisions, characterized by outrage mixed with a strong dose of actual rage. Even now, we see this anger simmering under the surface of our public discourse. Some people, especially those who earn their living talking on television and posting on social media, love to hate, and they don’t seem the least bit ashamed of their rage-filled words. It might be tempting for us to pass judgment on those talking heads, but we should be careful, because Jesus’ words are also about our words. I would never commit murder, but I have called someone a fool, and I have cursed people under my breath and in the dark corners of my mind.
Remember, Jesus had just said that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees, those religious do-gooders who painstakingly obeyed every tiny legal statute but whose hearts were cold in the presence of God. Jesus wants us to know that what happens in our hearts, the words we speak and the thoughts that linger in our minds each say as much about our state of righteousness as do actual acts of violence or sexual sin. Same goes for grudges we hold and disputes we choose not to settle. God sees and hears it all.
Jesus cares about how you treat other people, especially people who think, act, look, speak and live differently than you do. That’s the real test, isn’t it? How will I treat someone with whom I disagree? What will I say to the person who offends me? Will I be a peacemaker or a quarreler? We hear “Raca” everywhere in our culture. To calm the rage and quiet the conflicts, I hope we will speak “peace,” “love,” “hope” and “good news.”
Father of Peace, help me to share Your love with others and to bring peace into Your world, in place of anger and strife. Use me to speak words of hope in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian