You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. Matthew 5:21-26
How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. James 3:6
Don't believe the tired old line that Jesus lays impossible teachings on us so that we would turn to God. God is God and is always there to help us, but that does not free or excuse us from Jesus' wisdom and direction on the matter before us.
Apparently Jesus called his disciples to exhibit a high level of self-examination. Much of Jesus' teaching (and above is the perfect example) requires that I be at least reflective enough to know how my angry words and actions affect others. How does anyone claim the faith and yet, become less thoughtful. Self-examination is parent to integrity and peace.
Following Jesus also requires honesty and courage. When wrong, promptly admit it. For Jesus, once it dawns on us that what we said or did was injurious, making things right between us and another person could cause us to exit worship- in the middle of the offering!
Top priority is righting the wrong. And let's be clear, there's nothing here about telling someone their fault or waiting for an apology. No no and no. It's about going to the other party and making our apology- asking for forgiveness- for something we did or said- or perhaps something we neglected.
Here are some ideas:
1. Take Jesus at his word. It is in our power to make things right, to be reconciled. Realize that the process Jesus lays out will lead you to greater harmony in your relationships and movement to personal integrity and a less angry world.
2. In our attempt to right the wrong, we are not responsible for the responses of others. They are not required to forgive us, etc.
3. Do not use your apology as an excuse to manipulate or minimize or judge the other person.
4. In reflection and prayer:
- Ask God for the wisdom to recognize one person you have wronged. What was done, what was said?
- This may be for another time: ask God for the wisdom to know the best way to simply and honestly, admit your fault.