23 “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. 25 “Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 “Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.
Now that we have come to understand the difference between righteous anger and sinful anger, Jesus tells us how we respond to our sinful anger. Jesus is teaching what has become known as “the law of reconciliation.” This terminology would have sounded strange to His audience because it wasn’t really a law in the Jewish culture or of the Ten Commandments, but in today’s Christian world, we might sarcastically call it that since Jesus is redefining the concept of the Judaic Law. He is still in the topic of anger, but now that He has commanded us to not sin in anger, He is giving us a clue as to how we can rectify anger we have caused in ourselves and others.
In recovery groups and studies, forgiveness and making amends are key components to cleansing ourselves of a painful past and taking the steps forward into the rest of our lives. Until this point in recovery, we work to uncover our past and look at it with a scrupulous process to uncover the things we have been hiding and that cause us to live in darkness. In reconciliation, we turn the corner to fix the problems we have caused in our lives and the lives of other while simultaneously learning an important lesson for our future. Jesus explains here in a very plain manner that if we do not work ASAP on the damage we have caused, we will find ourselves in greater trouble later on. Here Jesus is telling His audience that once we recognize that we are not living in peace with everyone or that we have stolen the peace from another, that our reconciliation with them is more important to our Heavenly Father than any offering we may be giving to Him. Our offerings are worthless if we are not living in peace with others. This is why Jesus talked about the blessing of peace in one of the beatitudes and subsequently a foundational principle for living in the Kingdom of God. Do you recall any beatitude regarding our offerings to God?
We will be held accountable for the times we are not peacemakers with others. Let us not confuse His analogy of being thrown into jail to pay our debt. The Apostle Paul was a “slave to all” but spent most of his time in prison. In fact, while in prison, he penned the words of Romans 12:
17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. 20 “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
So then, our concern shouldn’t be about not getting punished physically in regards to this world for the anger we have caused others, but the spiritual and emotional ramifications of causing others to sin in their anger. In Ephesians 4, we read Paul’s exhortation to be truthful and not sinfully angry:
25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. 26 BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.
We should read this through the lens of what he also wrote in 1 Corinthians 8:
11 For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. 12 And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.
We can see that in provoking others to anger, we are sinning and causing them to sin also! We have become a stumbling block to others in their relationship with God and others. Jesus says it would be better to have a millstone tied around your neck and be thrown to the bottom of the sea than be THAT person (Luke 17). Are you THAT person? Do you religiously offer to God while causing others to sin? We will pay the price up to the last cent for doing so. The Kingdom principle is that our relationship with others is more important than our offerings to God because if we do not work to be at peace with others, then our offerings are meaningless. Our offerings and sacrifices should be in the form of being at peace with others. Sometimes it feels like it is a big sacrifice to remain at peace or make peace with others, but it is what we are called to do. But how do we do that?
The Apostle Paul wrote the key in Philippians 4:
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Rejoice in God. Pray about your issues. Dwell on God’s wonder, beauty, righteousness, and love. Put to practice what God tells us to through His word. His peace will dwell in you and you can then be at peace with others.