Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:21-26, Genesis 4:1-16, Exodus 20:13, Psalm 14:1-3, Mark 11:23-25, James 2:8-13, 3:3-6
Growing up with two brothers meant a constant war of the wills. I wanted to watch Harriet the Spy and they wanted to watch Star Wars. I wanted to do crafts, and they wanted to play video games. It was the usual sibling conflict, but it provided our parents with many teachable moments.
I still remember the awkwardness of learning to apologize. We would mutter “sorry” under our breath, but that didn’t cut it. Our parents would prompt us to say why we were sorry and then ask us to hug one another, no matter how forced it seemed.
You’d think all that practice at reconciliation would make it easier, but the truth is my first instinct is still to avoid conflict. I would much rather ignore the tension in my relationships and hope it disappears. So when I read Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew, clearly stating we need to address and heal the grievances in our relationships if we are going to be in right relationship with God, I start to sweat a little.
In Matthew 5:21-26, we read the first of six discourses found in the Sermon on the Mount. Each begins with Jesus saying, “You have heard that it was said… But I tell you…” These six discourses are heavy hitters. Jesus greatly raised the bar of expectation on how His followers are meant to behave in regard to anger, purity, divorce, honesty, generosity, and love. Christ was showing that God requires righteousness that surpassed even that of the scribes and Pharisees. Who can possibly live up to this standard? No person other than Jesus Christ, of course. And so Jesus calls us to aim higher, but also to realize our need for His mercy and grace.
The new teaching Christ gave on murder said that even anger in the heart would be subject to judgment. While most of us can’t imagine committing murder, who hasn’t been angry or unkind toward another? In realizing that any hate in our heart is worthy of punishment, we can’t stand above the law and pretend we don’t need saving.
What seems especially important in this passage is Christ’s command to get right with our brothers and sisters before we make our offering to the Lord. So often we want to ask God for forgiveness and leave it at that. But the Lord cares deeply about our broken relationships here on earth. Just as parents teach their children to apologize to siblings, our heavenly Father teaches us, His children, to reconcile with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We are meant to be the family of God to one another, and being a healthy family means lovingly facing the pain, tension, and hurt encountered in true relationship.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to reveal to us if “[our] brother or sister has something against [us].” (Perhaps you are thinking of someone now?) We are called to listen to this prompting and “go and be reconciled” as much as we are able. Some relationships may seem impossible to repair, but the Lord calls us to do our best to reconcile. Whether or not our attempts are accepted is not in our control.
However difficult or broken our earthly relationships may be, we have the peace and presence of Jesus, just as He promised (John 14:26-27). He pursued us at our worst and gave His life so that we might experience the ultimate reconciliation—peace with God.
Kaitie Stoddard is a professional counselor who recently relocated from Chicago to Colorado with her husband. She has her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and is passionate about helping couples and families find healing in their relationships. On any given weekend you’re likely to find Katie snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains, checking out new restaurants with friends, or catching up on her favorite Netflix and podcast series.