“Sara’s mad at me,” Inez told her mother as they drove down a country road toward town. “When she got an A on our spelling test and I got a C, I—well, I said she must have cheated. I know I shouldn’t have said that.”
“Why don’t you call and apologize?” suggested Mom. “I know it’s not easy, but it’s what Jesus wants you to do.”
“Okay, I will, but not right now,” Inez said. “I’ll wait until she’s in a better mood.” As Mom turned down a side road, Inez looked at her in surprise. “Why are we turning here?”
“This is a shorter way to town,” said Mom.” I don’t know how good the road will be after the rain we’ve had, but let’s give it a try.”
For a short distance the road was good, but then the pavement ended and the road became very muddy. “I think we should go back,” said Inez.
“I think you’re right,” said Mom. “We’ll have to find a place to turn around.”
“How about there?” Inez pointed to a narrow path leading into a field.
Mom slowed down, but then shook her head. “Those ditches at the side of that path are awfully deep. We need to find a better spot.”
A little later, Inez motioned toward a wider spot in the road. “How about here?”
But Mom passed by that one too. “That’s not exactly the perfect spot either,” she said.
“Mom!” Inez threw her head back against the seat. “If you ask me, the first possible spot is always the perfect spot!”
“I’m beginning to think you’re right,” Mom said as she slowed down and turned off the road and onto a narrow path.
As they turned around, Mom spoke. “Waiting for a perfect spot was pretty silly, huh? We made a mistake in coming this way, and the first chance to correct that mistake was the best chance. That’s also true when we make other mistakes and need to apologize for something. It’s silly to wait for a better time to do.”
Inez raised her eyebrows. “Okay, Mom, I think I get what you’re saying. Can I use your phone? I want to give Sara a call.”
Do you have a hard time saying you’re sorry when you’ve done something wrong? Putting it off usually makes things worse, and it’s not how God wants His children to treat others. So don’t wait for a better time—apologize and ask for forgiveness right away. You’ll feel much better, and you’ll make the person you wronged feel much better too.
This section of Matthew’s Gospel begins a series of six issues from the Law which Jesus interpreted. He gives the full word of God on these matters. The first is the prohibition against killing. The Law said in Leviticus 24:17 that if you take another person’s life, yours is to be taken in return. Jesus says that anything that leads to killing is wrong, including anger.
While someone may say that he/she has never killed, Jesus asks about the inner attitude of anger, hate, destructive words and hostility. Anger hurts other people and damages the spirit of the one who has feelings of anger. We must resolve anger in other ways instead of focusing on personalities. Jesus answers these problems by asking us to take the initiative in reconciliation.
The word “raca” actually means “empty head, worthless, or foolish.” It is a word of contempt. Those who used that word were demonstrating a spirit of anger that could cause them to be called before the Sanhedrin, the highest court in the land. Such anger is dangerous and destructive and has no place in the life of a believer.
Jesus shows the full moral significance of the Law. He shows that the righteousness of the Law involves conforming to the spirit of the Law instead of mere compliance to the letter of the Law. For example, the term, “you good-for-nothing so-and-so” stems from the same sinful motives- anger and hatred-that can lead to murder.
Anger is a God-given emotion. Sometimes it moves us to proper action, but if it is left unchecked, it is a dangerous emotion. The Bible advises settling disputes quickly, before the enemy can gain a foothold in one’s heart and influence subsequent behaviour. Anyone who comes to God without being reconciled to someone they have offended stands judged by doing so. Such a person is a murderer in God’s sight. That’s why we must first be reconciled to the brother or sister we have offended.
Anger eats away at our souls and turns us into bitter, unhappy people. No one likes to be around an angry person-and that often makes them even angrier. How can we control our anger? Here are four steps:
- Pray for the Spirit to control our anger.
- Address our anger daily. Ask God every day to deal with our emotions.
- Stay away from angry people. They will drag us down.
- Confront and forgive
Our gifts, offerings and service to Jesus are meaningless when we refuse to resolve issues or build and preserve relationships with fellow believers. One Sunday a minister preached on 1 Corinthians 11-the passage in which the apostle Paul admonishes certain wealthy Corinthians for celebrating the Lord’s Supper unworthily by shutting out their poorer brothers and sisters in the faith. The pastor wanted to make sure his congregation went through a moral inventory before taking the bread and the cup. He concluded his sermon by quoting Matthew 5:23-34 and then said, “Some of you have destroyed a relationship by something you did or said. Even if it might mean missing Communion, God would rather that you get it right now and go into the lobby to call that person and apologize.”
In the silence that followed, a large number of people went to the lobby, pulling out their cell phones as they went. The shining looks on their faces as they came back made it clear that they had been through a spiritual bath and were ready to commune with God.
To be authentic in our relationships, we must deal with our failures by confession, repentance and seeking forgiveness from others. In doing so, we prepare ourselves for deep and loving relationships.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp.1289-1290)
- Corrine Canavan-Fifield, “The Perfect Time.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Augsberger, M.S. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 24: Matthew (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; p. 18)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Day 35.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ron Moore, “Anger.” Retrieved from www.ronmoore.org
- The Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, “Is It as Wrong to Get Angry at Someone as It Is to Murder Them?” Retrieved from https://www.arcamax.com/healthandspirit/religion/billygraham/
- Gary Chapman, “Authentic Relationships.” Retrieved from Oneplace@crosswalkmail.com