Summary: Jesus has provided us with a blueprint—with a new way of being fully, genuinely, and gloriously human. It’s a way that goes down deep into the roots of our personalities and produces a different kind of behavior altogether.
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor Of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN
I hate it when I make a mistake.
I just hate it when I do something that makes someone angry at me.
It’s like a heavy load on my back.
And I’m not at peace until the situation is reconciled.
Of course, sometimes that does not happen.
Sometimes people hold grudges and they will not let go.
Some folks will just not accept an apology.
And some folks will not apologize themselves.
What to do?
Part of the tragedy of anger is that it spreads.
People take their public anger back home with them.
We can all relate to this.
The executive whose boss has shouted at her goes back to her own office and shouts at her secretary.
The secretary goes home and shouts at the children.
The children shout at the cat.
If part of human maturity is learning how to recognize our anger, and deal with it before it gets out of control, we must come to the conclusion that many of us are not very mature.
We are called to be the light of the world.
This is our true vocation.
So, how can all this misguided and very damaging anger be dealt with?
How can anger be defused, and prevented from spilling out all over the place?
Jesus has provided us with a blueprint—with a new way of being fully, genuinely, and gloriously human.
It’s a way that goes down deep into the roots of our personalities and produces a different kind of behavior altogether.
You know, it’s a shame.
Every time we let our anger smolder inside of us, we are becoming a little less than fully human.
We are belittling ourselves, really.
So, what’s the alternative?
Jesus offers two remarkably specific and practical commands.
Be reconciled; make friends.
How simple that sounds—and yet how hugely difficult and costly it is!
It will almost certainly involve climbing down from the high pedestal on which we sometimes place ourselves, and giving up our position of superiority over the person we are angry with.
But genuine humans don’t live on pedestals; we have our feet on the ground, on a level with everyone else.
It takes great humility and courage to admit to someone we were wrong, and come to them asking for forgiveness.
And it takes a lot of grace for someone to make the decision to forgive us and set us free from the bondage of hostility.
A couple of years ago I made a church member very angry at me.
I can’t exactly remember what it was about, but I do remember the pain it caused me.
When I called that person on the phone and asked for forgiveness…
…by the grace of God, that person said, “It’s no problem. Don’t worry about it. I forgive you.”
I immediately wrote in my journal the word: “Grace.”
“It is GRACE when someone forgives you!
They set you free from the bondage of guilt and remorse.
Thank you Lord for Grace!”
In our Gospel lesson Jesus says, “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.”
This is striking!
Reconciliation takes precedence—even--over worship!
Now, if we keep in mind what this kind of reconciliation would have meant in Jesus’ day, we see the importance of His point.
Imagine someone getting all the way to the Temple courtyard, buying a sacrificial animal on the way, and suddenly remembering, when approaching the presence of the Loving and Holy God, some relationship that has gone wrong.
It takes about three days to get back to Galilee where most of Jesus’ hearers lived.
He cannot seriously have imagined a worshipper leaving a live animal sitting there in the Temple courts for a week while they scurry back home, apologize to the offended person, and then return to Jerusalem.
But reconciliation is that big of deal!!!
We are to live, day by day…minute by minute and second by second…
…in such a way that when we come to worship there is no anger between us and our neighbor, sister, brother, spouse…whoever!!!
That is, it’s impossible until we look at Jesus!
Jesus Himself refused to go the way of anger.
Instead, He took the anger of His enemies on to Himself, and died under its load—even forgiving those who were killing Him!
From that point on, reconciliation is not simply an ideal we might strive for.
It’s an achievement, an accomplishment, which we can embody.
For when we are saved; we die to self and live for and in Christ.