Summary: Jesus goes beyond the legal matters again. The CASE you have against someone is not as important as the RELATIONSHIP you have with them. Jesus emphasizes that the RELATIONSHIP IS ALWAYS MORE IMPORTANT. Sometimes we don’t want it to be more important.


I remember years ago that a man wrote a nasty letter to me and included in it a curse and all kinds of false accusations. To this day, I don’t know why he wrote it. It was so vicious and untrue, but he had built up a case against me and it all bubbled out in this letter. It included distorted views of what I had said in messages, and I had no idea he felt this way against me. I went to see him but when he saw me coming he slammed the door in my face and refused to speak with me. When eventually I got some of his friends to speak with him, he agreed to see me and I did all I could to get the relationship right again. It was hard work, and my first desire was to defend myself against the curse and false accusations. But Jesus suggests in Matthew 5 that the relationship is even more important than the case.

Matthew 5:23-26 gets to me every time. It’s one of those passages you just can’t escape.

"So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. "When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison. And if that happens, you surely won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny."

Jesus teaches the Disciples on the mountain some leadership principles. He even get’s into the law and how it’s important it is for a Disciple of Christ to settle legal matters quickly and out of court. He says it’s not so much about the legal matters as it is about the relationship you have with the person. The principle of settling disputes quickly has to do with being reconciled with your brother (I think "a brother" here is not referring to just anyone and everyone, but specifically to the people with whom we have some kind of relationship, even if it’s just a legal one as in this case).

Jesus goes beyond the legal matters again. The CASE you have against someone is not as important as the RELATIONSHIP you have with them. Jesus emphasizes that the RELATIONSHIP IS ALWAYS MORE IMPORTANT. Sometimes we don’t want it to be more important. We would rather just avoid a person who has something against us, especially if it’s legal, but God says that reconciliation is important. We are to do our part in keeping the peace with others where possible. It may not always work out, like with Jesus Himself, but we are to do our part in seeking reconciliation. That’s the way of the Cross.

This passage says settling disputes out of court is more desirable than taking it through court and having to pay all kinds of costs and destroying the relationship with the person altogether.

Most of the time I don’t have a lot of trouble doing this. I have had people threatening to take legal action against me because of some of the decisions I have made in the past, but so far I have been able to talk things through and find a resolution and maintain the relationship without taking it through the courts. Lord, help me to do this, especially when I can find a thousand and one reasons not to.

God’s answer to anger is always reconciliation. If someone has something against you, act quickly. If there’s a problem with a brother, especially a Christian brother or sister, and you find that they are building up an emotional bad attitude towards you, do something about it. Notice that it is them that has something against you and yet it is YOU who are to take the initiative in getting things right with them.

Sometimes I think it is so petty, it is not worth dealing with, but Jesus says it is important you help someone who has a bad attitude towards you. It may affect their ability to worship God and no-one would want to do that.

1 John 4:20-21 (NLT) really outlines the principle.

"If someone says, "I love God," but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And He has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters."

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Jennifer Alphonso

commented on Oct 15, 2012

So what was the outcome against that person who wrote you that letter. Are you both friends now?

Ross Cochrane

commented on Oct 22, 2012

It was a long time ago and I did my best to restore the friendship. I was a young pastor and he had been quite active in his day in the Church. I guess the biggest compliment was that his wife joined a 2 year Bible course that I ran in the Church and graduated at the top of the class. Although he never really spoke openly about things to me, he still attended Church and nothing further was written against me. From my point of view I had done all I could to mend the relationship. He never apologised or took things back but I matured greatly from the experience.

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