We are picking up where we left off yesterday. Jesus had explained the importance of the law and that we are not to make the mistake of thinking he was removing the law or replacing it. He said that he had come to fulfill it, allowing the Holy Spirit then to write it on our hearts and to enable us to also fulfill the law through the grace of the Father. But Jesus also came to give us a greater revelation of it, a deeper understanding, to move it from mere performance to heart attitude.
The first topic he touched on was murder. You can't get much further away from "love your neighbour as yourself". Murder is probably the greatest crime that can be perpetrated against someone. To take away a person's life with no authority to do so is terrible but it is also only an outward action, a performance. If we only address outward actions we will never see real change in ourselves. We can change the outward actions but inside we are as rotten as a beautiful looking apple can be rotten. Jesus taught that we need to deal with the heart condition:
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. 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. (Matthew 5:21-22)
That's not putting too fine a point on it, "will be subject to judgment", "will be in danger of the fire of hell". Obviously this needs to be taken seriously but we seldom do. The Word of God is filled with instruction on how we treat others so we should take a clue that this stuff is important. But do we take our treatment and attitude toward others as a serious thing or are we more concerned about how we are treated? Do we give any consideration to our words, to needing to be right, to wanting to remain in a position of strength with people?
Consider this for a minute: which businesses or stores do you appreciate the most? Which are the ones that you tell your friends about? Which are the ones you really enjoy dealing with? Are they not the ones who are friendly to you, the ones who smile when you walk in, the ones who make you feel important and give you special deals just because its you? I have stayed with business who do not have the best products simply because of their attitude toward me. To my friends I talk about and promote businesses because of their customer care. I appreciate being treated with kindness and understanding. Now translate that to our treatment of other people. Would we be able to fit into a company like that; kind, friendly, caring, respectful? If a business can understand these principles taught to us by God, why can't we?
Now consider what Jesus teaches next about our attitude toward others. He tells us that this matter is so important to God that it needs to be taken care of before we do anything for God. Messed up relationships must be dealt with before God will accept any service from us:
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)
This amazes me that Jesus puts this kind of emphasis on the matter. I used to be a great relationship guy but things happened in my life that made me withdraw into myself. Now I offend people easily, often putting myself first, not communicating my intention which complicates and magnifies hurts even more. Jesus has said this affects my service to God. How can I concentrate on loving God while ignoring loving others? I can't. And if we are sensitive to others then it would be our desire never to leave matters "up in the air". We cannot claim to be passionate about God while leaving bodies wherever we go.
Then Jesus presents it from another perspective:
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. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. (Matthew 5:25-26)
It is for our benefit to take care of matters quickly. If we allow things to stay on people's hearts for too long it begins to grow and escalate beyond what it should have. By not dealing with people and perhaps the hurt or perceived hurt that you caused, it will balloon into something that will be deep and long lasting. An apology does not cost anything except for pride and what has pride ever benefited anyone? Make restitution. Give some peace offering but make sure you are sincere. Our motivation should be the fact that this other person is an object of God's love. It does not matter if they are Christian or not, God loves them. You have hurt someone God loves deeply so you had better do something about it. By doing this you will avoid a great deal of trouble.
If the person refuses to forgive you and you have honestly done everything you can with a sincere heart to reconcile, then there is nothing more to do than to pray for God to intervene and help change their heart. The important thing is that you understand and honour the importance God puts on the relationship we have with other people. Do not make the mistake of thinking that all that matters is you and God. If you think this then you do not know the Word and you do not know the Father's heart. Listen to Jesus' words, allow them to wash over your heart and see that it is more than your actions, it is what motivates your actions that is important to God. It is the deeper law that Jesus has revealed to us.