Summary: Sermon on reconciliation and forgiveness.
Have you ever been offended by something another has said about you? Have you ever been guilty of offending another by word or deed? If you live long enough you will end up offending someone or being offended. This holds true for the times in which we live. It seems that people are just looking for an excuse to be offended! It has become difficult to know what to say to someone else for fear of being blasted by the person’s response.
More than likely we are all guilty of offending others from time to time. We may not have meant to or are not aware that we have offended another. Yet we have-- with the result being hard feelings and a gulf in our relationship.
In our scripture reading this morning from Matthew, Jesus instructs on how to deal with those times (whether intended or not) we have hurt someone and have need to set it right. This includes our need to forgive those who have hurt us deeply.
Jesus begins by saying, “You have heard it said…” (v. 21) In this context Jesus refers to murder. His listeners are thinking about the physical act of taking another’s life. In fact, some are probably reasoning to themselves, “that doesn’t apply to me…” As the audience listens further, Jesus adds a twist. “BUT I say to you…” There’s that word again. Watch out something is coming.
There is more than one way to “murder” someone. To be sure there is the physical act--where a life is taken. But careless words or deeds or rumor and innuendo can murder someone’s spirit or worse yet, murder their reputation. This is what Jesus is referring to--those times by thought, word, or deed we have intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone else. The sad thing is many Christians do this thinking they are doing God’s work.
Jesus goes through an explanation of careless words. He specifically uses the term “Raca” which means “empty-headed” or in today’s language, fool. Jesus is saying that if our anger ever reaches the point of using such language we are in danger of judgment. Why? The word fool refers to a person who is godless. Proverbs 14:1 says, “The fool in his heart says there is no God.” In the days Jesus walked and ministered, to call another a fool was a serious accusation. No one would consider saying such a thing unless anger had reached the point of hatred. This is ultimately where unforgiveness leads--hatred. In today’s world, it would be comparable to telling another to “go to hell” and truly meaning it!
Jesus is revealing where unresolved anger and unforgiveness can lead--to hatred. Hatred not dealt with leads to judgment. Jesus, then, adds another wrinkle to His teaching by saying, “if you come to the altar to leave an offering and remember that YOU have offended another, YOU go make it right and then come and give your offering.” In essence, make this a top priority to be reconciled.
Why? In this way God uses His people to be ministers of grace. God’s people are to be quick to attempt to set things right. In doing so we not only reconcile in relationship but give a witness that can lead to healing and restoration for the other.
There are limitless scenarios for offense but often can be classified in 2 categories.
1. Maybe the person we offended believes we were unjust in our treatment of him/her when in reality we did no harm.
That person may have inaccurate information that has led to an inaccurate conclusion. Maybe the person looks at a situation and thinks, “well there must be something wrong because….” By the time we tell it to one person and then it goes to another, what we said may have been grossly distorted as it was processed by the individual through the various channels of communication.
Our intent may have been not to harm but our words and actions gave a different appearance. Isn’t it interesting that we often judge ourselves by our intentions and everyone else by their actions? We want to see our motives as pure but when we filter our motives through the Word and prayer we see them differently.
2. Maybe we did sin against the person. For whatever reason, we wronged the person. We stand guilty.
How does this apply to your situation? While in addiction, were there others that you hurt or offended? Maybe you didn’t realize it at the time. Maybe you didn’t think about what your actions were doing to those who love you. Maybe, while in addiction, you didn’t care. For whatever reason, those persons were clearly wronged!
It is to those persons that Jesus sends us to be reconciled with. “Leave your offering and go…”