Matthew 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. 25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
Jesus is saying in these verses that we are to seek reconciliation with anyone with whom we have a broken relationship, and that we do it quickly so that it doesn’t become worse. Jesus is the great reconciler – man with God, and man with man. Broken relationships are the proving ground for our Christian faith. They are so serious in God’s eyes that we had better make things right with other people quickly. Restored relationships are even more important than our religious exercises.
Anger results whenever we are hurt. We can’t avoid or suppress the emotion of anger, we can only deal with it once it is there. Anger doesn’t always lead to broken relationships, there is such a thing as righteous anger, and we can’t always unilaterally resolve conflict. However, when the anger is on our part, we must never allow anger to fester, still less to grow. This particular case was when a brother has something against us. Ephesians 4:26 say, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Immeditately, as soon as we are conscious of a broken relationship (no matter who initiated the broken relationship), we must take the initiative to mend it, to apologize for any grievance we have caused, to pay the debt we have left unpaid, to make amends and to forgive.
Jesus offers two illustrations of the point that we are to seek reconciliation with our brothers. First, when we are taking our gift to the altar, we are to leave it before the altar and be reconciled to our brother. Second, when we are going to court, we are to settle with our adversary on the way. In both of the illustrations the principles are the same: someone has a grievance against us, and there is the necessity of immediate, urgent action.
Why are we to reconcile quickly? First, we tend to rationalize in our minds our own righteousness, and build up a stronger case against the other person. Second, it is easy to let a root of bitterness grow in our hearts. Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” If we don’t deal with anger quickly we begin to draw other people into our bitterness. Soon we have not just a broken relationship, but a faction. Peace with God and with others is more important than our principle, our pride, and our pocketbook.