Do you ever read a Scripture and think, “I could have stated that better.” If I am reading in the closet where I keep my pride the thought crosses my mind and today’s section of the Sermon on the Mount is one of those places. I’m looking at Matthew 5:21-26, some of Jesus’ teaching on murder, anger and reconciliation. What strikes me as needing a re-write is verses 23&24. I would have put it like this:
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that you have something against your brother or sister, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
But Jesus reverses it and tells us to seek out those who have been offended by us. “Are you sure about that Jesus? ‘Cuz haters gonna hate. I don’t think I’ve got the time for them.”
I guess what strikes me is that this comes in the middle of Jesus telling us to deal with all kinds of internal turmoil. He says what we mutter under our breath, what grudges we secretly hold, and the immoral sexual fantasies we cradle in our imaginations, all of these things, shape our soul and our ability to relate to God. So how can I know how any of that is going on inside someone else? Seems like I’ve got enough problems just trying to get myself sorted.
It is easy to read this sermon in a very individualistic way. It was not intended for that. Jesus is at once affirming both the interior nature of righteousness (it had better surpass the level of the Pharisees) and a collective pilgrim pathway (you are your brother’s keeper).
I am not to be passive in my relationships with other people anymore than I am to be passive in my relationship with God. I am to seek reconciliation and take the lead in that process, even where I think I have been wronged. Not in a clinging, sycophantic way, but in a way that seeks to be at peace with all, so much as it is up to me.
Lord, take my heart and change it, from pompous into something that is yours and perfect.