“You have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago, Don’t commit murder, and all who commit murder will be in danger of judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go. First make things right with your brother or sister and then come back and offer your gift. Be sure to make friends quickly with your opponents while you are with them on the way to court. Otherwise, they will haul you before the judge, the judge will turn you over to the officer of the court, and you will be thrown into prison. I say to you in all seriousness that you won’t get out of there until you’ve paid the very last penny” (Matthew 5:21-26, Common English Bible).
A few years ago the thought occurred to me that there was a person who had been in my life many years ago whom I had done wrong. The specifics don’t matter for our purposes here I think it best to leave the details between me and this person. It is sufficient to say I had treated this person pretty badly many years before.
At first I had hoped to encounter this person at a couple of events we both had reason to attend. The other person did not attend. I had to work harder than that to make contact and it took a significant amount of time for me to track the other person down.
Eventually I did make contact. I apologize and asked for forgiveness. The person told me they had forgiven me a very long time ago.
Making amends is something important. In Twelve-Step programs making amends for past wrongs is pretty important too. It is key to being in recovery. It is so important that if you are unable to make contact with the person in question, you actually write them a letter. Even if the person you have wronged has passed away, you still write a letter that obviously can never be delivered. I think this shows how important making things right can be for we humans.
Our lesson starts out talking about not committing murder. I think it is safe to say most of us are doing OK here, at least as far as it goes. I know I have never killed another person and most people I know would be right there with me. Murder is not on our to-do list and we have successfully taken this particular instruction pretty seriously.
We are doing pretty well, or at least that’s what we would like to think. Here in today’s reading, however, Jesus goes further than, “Thou shalt not commit murder.” Here he talks about anger and some pretty serious name calling. But I think the spirit of what Jesus is saying goes even further. What are the things we do that destroy relationships with people around us? How is it that we are killing our relationships?
In reading this passage, it seems to me, this “murder” is about as important as literally taking a life and Jesus says to us, “Go make things right.” Such things need to be at the forefront of the things we seek to do. In the language of twelve step recovery programs, we have to make amends.
What I sought to do in making things right over that old wrong I had committed had nothing to do with a twelve step program but it did have something to do with that love of God and love of neighbor idea Jesus seems to think is pretty important. If I wanted to work in the light of God’s love, I had to go and make things right where I had committed a wrong.
To varying degrees we all wrong people around us from time to time. Don’t kill the relationship. Instead, go, make things right.
What can you do today to write a wrong from yesterday? Go, make things right.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Peace,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved