Thoughts on Matthew 5:20-26
Hearing these words must have been discouraging for the crowd. How could they, ordinary folk who were busy living their lives be more righteous than the people whose whole existence was dedicated to religiosity? What? OK, I can manage not killing someone, but to never be angry? to never use my words to describe another’s flaws? to never label someone a fool? Such things are natural, normal, my right, not reasons for judgment and hell. (seriously, hell?)
But you state clearly your standard of righteousness. To be right before God, I must be right with my neighbor, even if they are wrong. I must do what I can to be at peace with the one who has a problem with me. This places unity and relationship above correctness. In this political climate of finger pointing and accusations how do we manage this?
Jesus doesn’t dismiss the differences between people, he doesn’t tell us to abandon our principles or our understanding of justice, he acknowledges there will be reasons to go to court, but he emphasizes the value of maintaining the relationship. “Make friends with your accuser,” he teaches. In Greek, the phrase translated make friends, means to “wish one well, to be be well disposed, of a peaceable spirit.” I am to desire my accusers well being; I am to approach him with my soul grounded in peace. This is possible because I know the only one who has a legitimate charge against me has made a way for us to be reconciled. God has made me, the one who has violated his law of love over and over again, to be at peace with him. How could I not offer the same peace to the one who I accuse or who accuses me?
Lord, whether we think Donald Trump is your gift or Satan’s tool, have mercy and teach your people the way of peace. Thank you and amen.