The last week’s reading has been haunting me provoking me to pay attention to my interactions with people around me. I suppose it’s due to the political and social climate at the moment since name calling is becoming a second nature language to us all these days. You almost can’t put a finger on a friends list or church directory without touching someone’s name who is mad at someone else, be it the priest, government official, fellow parishioner, or……insert person here. It’s super easy these days to find outrage (some justified others indicative of a lack of communication or understanding). I don’t think this is a new condition. Living in the age of technology it may seem new, but really all technology has allowed us to do is instantly express our every thought in a very public way. In Jesus time if we were outraged we had to get out of the house and travel down to the public forums, wait our turn to speak, and then let it fly. That or we could announce it to the hand full of people around us, which then could spread through rumors and gossip. Now, we only need update one of our social media statuses and we have the instant gratification of a semi-captive audience. In other words, computers help us do stupid things faster.
With all this in mind, it prompted me to consider our Christ’s words in the reading. What is he saying, what is he not saying, what am I supposed to do if I am attempting to be His saint in training? I have some thoughts I’ll share.
In the Matt 5 reading Jesus acknowledges that even amongst the faithful there would be disagreements. We are imperfect after all, but if we consider that Jesus himself was PERFECT and people disagreed and hated him (I mean duh they killed him for his perfection and humility), then it shouldn’t shock us that in our interactions we will-at times-find ourselves in contention with one another. He says as much in the passage “if you find yourself angry”. So he is telling us he knows it’s going to happen. The interesting thing here is that he isn’t picking sides. He doesn’t say, if you are right or they are right or they are wrong. It doesn’t seem to matter to him. What does matter is the way we handle the situation and he tells us as much. In fact, as we read on, we see it matters so much how we handle our anger that to act wrongly puts us in jeopardy of judgement. Think about that for a moment. Consider the anger you have now or in the past and ask yourself if the anger (cost) is worth the price of eternal separation from the kingdom of God! And what He also seems to be saying here is that it isn’t HIM that puts us there, but we ourselves who have chosen to embrace the judgement rather than taking the steps that keep us on the path of Holiness.
Is Jesus serious about this? Well, when he teaches us to pray in the Our Father he pretty specifically says, “Forgive us our trespasses AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US.” Yes, I did yell that too, because it is important. We are asking the Almighty every time we pray that to forgive us, but only to the level we are willing to forgive others.
I sense a theme! Jesus knows we aren’t perfect and that we are going to struggle-bus through personal relationships. So, he builds in this lovely grace, he gives us the instant roadmap out of the enslavement of sin, if we are obedient. He tells us to do the right thing by our brothers and sisters, go to them and work it out. It’s so important that He even seems to be instructing us to do it BEFORE we approach the alter. (Matt 5: 23-24) To me, that is telling me that barriers in my relationship can create barriers between me and my Heavenly Father.
In this light, suddenly the 20 bucks my uncle borrowed and never paid back doesn’t seem worth being angry over at all, let alone allowing it to stand as a wall between me and eternity. In fact-nothing in the temporary kingdom of earth seems worth sacrificing the eternal kingdom of heaven for! Thinking about it like this, I want to run around making sure I’ve done the right thing. Hey, Brandy, I’m sorry I kicked you in the shin when we were in second grade…I don’t know what I was thinking, obviously I wasn’t.
As long as we are breathing, it’s not too late. Let’s make it right together!
Just some food for thought and prayer!
Here I am, Lord, send me!