This Tuesday night we will be discussing Matthew 5:21-37. In the first half of this week’s readings, Jesus reinterprets the commandment “Thou Shalt not Murder” (Ex. 20:13). Jesus says: You have heard it said that whoever murders shall be liable for judgment, but I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother, insults his brother, or says “You Fool!” shall be liable for the fires of hell. (vv.21-22). Jesus’s teaching is fairly straightforward – we are not only to do the right thing, but we must right on the inside as well. As Jesus says in the Beatitudes, it is the pure in heart, not the pure in action, that are blessed and shall see God. (Matt. 5:8). For Tuesday, think about what Jesus’ reinterpretation of this commandment means in your life.
Jesus, however, doesn’t simply stop with equating murder with anger or insults. Rather he goes further and demands that if you remember someone has something against you, you are to go and be reconciled to him. (vv.23-24). Jesus is not saying “if you are upset with someone, go to them,” rather Jesus is saying “if someone is upset with you, go to them.” In commenting on this verse, Soren Kierkegaard says: “In the perfect sense, forgiveness is not reconciliation when forgiveness is asked for; but it is reconciliation to need to forgive beforehand long before the other is person is perhaps thinking of seeking forgiveness.” (Works of Love, p.310). In other words, not only should we not insult our neighbor, but we should actively seek out reconciliation with those who are angry with us or insult us. To be Christ-like is not to demand perfection in others, but to bring out the image of God within them.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another.Galatians 5:22-26