One more reflection on settling our differences quickly from Matthew 5:25-26. Although these verses are about avoiding being thrown into debtor's prison, they follow along with what Jesus has been teaching. The previous verses (21-24) have been about having right relationships with others and therefore with God primarily by avoiding anger and hatred and not holding things against one another.
I think one interpretation of the difference in the scenarios between 21-24 and 25-26 is the difference between subjective and objective wrong. Many of our arguments and disagreements with people are subjective. By this I mean that an outsider might have trouble discerning who is at fault, either because there is fault on both sides or because the two sides disagree on exactly what happened. These arguments drag on and on because each one thinks the other should apologize first. In 21-24, Jesus is saying, "Get over it. Be the bigger person and go apologize."
In verses 25-26 there is a more objective wrong. One person borrowed a certain amount of money which is not in dispute. The borrower is objectively wrong for not repaying the money on time. Therefore the borrower should work things out before they come to a head or pay the consequences.
The conclusion from these verses is, I think, that no matter whether you are in the wrong or not take the first step in working things out. It is more important to be at peace than to be right. If you are not at peace with others, you are not at peace with God.
Returning to Matthew 5, looking at verses 23-24, Jesus puts a twist into what I would expect him to say. I expect him to say, "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that you have something against your brother, go and be reconciled first." That would follow naturally from his previous statement, "anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment." But that is not what he says.
What Jesus says is, "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:23-24). Did Jesus get confused about who was angry with whom? I don't think so. He was making his point from both sides. It doesn't matter if you are angry with your brother, or if your brother is angry with you; it must be dealt with quickly, now, immediately. Make all haste to deal with it. Don't let the sun go down another day.
We can't approach the altar when we are angry with someone because our relationship with others reflects our relationship with God. As John says, (1 John 4:20), "If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen."
For reflection: Before the sun goes down today, who can I set free from my teenage years? With whom am I angry? Who is angry with me?
Let us pray. Jesus, the body of Christ is hurt, bruised, broken and some of the fault is mine. I have stepped on toes, twisted arms, knocked the knees out from under. I have broken hearts. I have left people handcuffed and tongue-tied. I have berated and belittled. Show me how to do my part to build up the body rather than tear it down.
Paul picks up on the theme of anger in his letter to the Ephesians. He says, "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold" (Ephesians 4:26-27). Paul doesn't say that we should not get angry but that we should deal with it right away. And Paul had reason to be angry. How many people tried to kill him? I assume he practiced what he preached and forgave his persecutors the same day. No small feat.
The reason that Paul gives for letting go of our anger quickly and being forgiving is not the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" (as Jesus cited) but that we are all members of the same body. The longer we wait, the harder it is to be rid of the anger, and the more damage we do to the body. Damage to one part of the body affects the entire body, including us, and the head of the body which is Christ Jesus. Letting our anger linger and not dealing with it quickly is sin against both God and man.
For reflection: What anger and resentment is still lingering from my childhood?
Let us pray. Jesus, I am guilty of letting my anger linger and fester, sometimes for years. Help me to get rid of all the old anger, resentment and unforgiveness in my life. Please bring to mind all those I need to forgive and set free.
(After praying a prayer like this, pay attention to odd thoughts you have, people or incidents you haven't thought of in years, or dreams that you have about the past. God's speaks to us through these thoughts and dreams.)
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment." In this way Jesus began to teach about his take on the commands of God (Matthew 5:21-22).
Let us pray. Jesus, I have not killed anyone, but I have been angry for a long time with (name). S/he hurt me badly. I'm sorry for holding on to this so long, but without your grace I cannot forgive. Please give me your grace of forgivenes today
Occasionally I post just a video for reflection. This is a song from the 1980s that I heard on the radio the other day and it's still going around in my mind. What are your answers to the questions?
St. Patrick had a reputation for raising people from the dead. (This being St. Patrick's Day let's add him to the mix of our reflections on Matthew 5:14-16). He was known for his miracles. One of these was raising to life two children of the King of Dublin. The King and his subjects consequently became Christians.
Patrick did not hide his light. No, he let his light shine for all to see and he wasn't afraid to step up and put God to the test about raising people from the dead. He was an ordinary person who ended up doing great things for God.
For Reflection: Personally I don't know any Christians who have a reputation for raising people from the dead. Why not? Are people not still dying? Who are the people called to raise the dead? Where are they?
Let us pray. Father, help us to let the light you have given us shine before all people that they may see the good deeds you enable us to do. Let us hold up our light, the light of Christ, like a beacon. Let us be the lighthouse. May we be the ones to raise the dead, heal the sick and bring many more people to know and love you. Give us some of the courage, faith and tenacity that Patrick had.
"You are the light of the world," Jesus said (Matthew 5:14). As we continue with our reflection on this verse, what is another reason we don't let our light shine? What is another reason we don't speak to people about Jesus? Aside from the fear of rejection(which we looked at Wednesday), a second common fear is that we don't know enough to answer questions. We are afraid that someone will ask us a question about Jesus or Christianity or Scripture, and we won't be able to give an answer.
Does this happen? Just as with being rejected, of course it does. We don't know everything and the right answer doesn't always pop into our heads at just the right moment. However, our not knowing an answer gives us an opportunity to continue the conversation later. We can reply, "That's a good question. Let me think about that/look into that and get back to you." (Actually, my teachers in school would say, "That's a good question. Research the answer and get back to the class on that.")
No doubt some people would remind me of Luke 21:12-15 wherein Jesus promises to give us the words to defend ourselves. In that passage he is speaking about a time of intense persecution where we are called upon to uphold the gospel in defense of our life. That is not describing the ordinary situation where we are speaking to a neighbor or friend. It is describing an extraordinary situation where our life is on the line. Jesus will supply all the words we need at that time.
For reflection: Has my light been dimmed by fear? If I am afraid I don't know the answers, am I studying the Bible on a regular basis?
Let us pray. Jesus, I want my light to shine. I want my life to reflect your glory. I want people to know that my life is different because of you. I give you my fear of rejection and my fear of not knowing enough. Is there someone to whom I can speak about you today? I'm volunteering. Send me.
The image of light runs throughout the Scriptures - both Old and New Testaments. So let's stay with it for a little bit. Our text is Matthew 5:14-16. If we are the light of the world, and Jesus said we are, why do we hide our light?
One reason is we fear being rejected. We are afraid that we will say something to someone about Jesus, or even Christianity in general, and they will reject what we say and thereby reject us. Does this happen? Of course it does. As Christians we come from a long line of people who have been rejected. The Old Testament prophets were rejected in their day even though they were Jews speaking to Jews. Moving to the New Testament, John the Baptist was rejected. Jesus was rejected. Peter and the other disciples were rejected.
Rejection did not stop them from letting their light shine, from doing what God told them to do, and saying what God told them to say. Which takes us back to verse 11 of Matthew 5: "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." To this we can add these verses from 1 John 4: "God is love. . . . There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear."
So being rejected sometimes should not be unexpected for us. Knowing that we will be rejected sometimes helps to take the fear out of it. It will come in the normal course of events. But we won't be rejected every time, and people really need to hear the message of Jesus from us. Let's not hide our light.
For Reflection: What is greater in me - the love of God or the fear of rejection?
Let us pray. God, you are perfect love. I give you my fear of rejection. I trust that even when I am rejected you will take care of me. Help me to let my light shine today.
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16).
Let us pray. Jesus, I always considered you the light of the world. But you said that we are the light of the world.
I bought a ham recently that is salty, so right now I'm not feeling very positive toward anything salty. However, Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men" (Matthew 5:13).
"The salt of the earth" has come to be an expression describing a good person, one who would do anything for you. Although that is an admirable trait, that is not what Jesus is describing. Jesus is describing someone who affects the entire world around them on behalf of the good news. A Christian is someone who spreads their seasoning through everything around them - their family, their friends, their neighbors, their world. We should be the ones to affect the world positively and bring about the Kingdom of God on earth.
For reflection: Am I salty?
Let us pray. Jesus, I want to make a difference in my world for your world.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.