Saturday 30 July 2016

Bible Book:

"You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, … But I say to you …” (v. 21)

Matthew 5:21-26 Saturday 30 July 2016

Psalm: Psalm 123


Today's verses mark the beginning of a very important section inMatthew's Gospel. Six times before the end of the chapter Jesuswill use the words "You have heard that it was said … but I tellyou" (or a similar phrase) and then go on to apparently challengethe authority of what "was said" in the law. For Matthew's Gospel,committed to affirming Jesus as the promised Messiah, it isimportant to stress the authority with which it speaks. It is theauthority of the Son of God.

In the first of these "But I tell you…" accounts Jesus takes thecommandment "You shall not murder" (v. 21) and suggests that it isnot only the action that is punishable, but the attitude that mightlead to that action (verse 22).

Attitudes lead to actions. And as always, Jesus is concernedabout our motives as well as our actions. Murder is the mostextreme outworking of a rage within, and so Jesus is concerned thatthat inner conflict is resolved and that destructive attitudebrought under control.

There are two words for anger in common use in the NewTestament. One concerns that kind of anger that sparks and explodesin a moment; but the one used in this passage is the long-heldgrudge; the slow burning antagonism that festers and deepens withtime. Perhaps it is this kind of anger that Jesus had in mind whenhe recognised the reality of broken relationships within thefellowship. Jesus says that this kind of disagreement too must beresolved and harmony restored wherever possible. He illustratesthis with the image of someone coming to worship who, recalling thefractured relationship, will leave worship and seek immediatereconciliation (verses 23-24). The precise details might differ forus, but the principle is valid still; we must do all we can to"pursue peace with everyone" (Hebrews 9:14).

And the principles that hold within the fellowship of God'speople, should also shape our attitudes when dealing with thoserelationships beyond the people of God. Verse 25 onwards remindsbelievers that it is good practice to try to settle disputes asquickly as possible. In this account, the primary reason to seekresolution is to avoid prosecution, but surely even here, we arecommitted to resolving disagreements for their own sake and thegood name of the gospel.

To Ponder

  • How do you seek to resolve conflict in your relationships?
  • How have you recognised others seeking to resolveconflict?
  • To what extent does the encouragement to 'pursue peace witheveryone' mean that the avoidance and resolution of conflict shouldalways take precedence in our dealings with others?
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