Reframing the Idea
21“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’
22But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
23So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,
24leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
25Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.
26Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
The Law equals Love. There’s the whole point for the day. Usually we think that rules and laws have a tendency to fence us in and limit our lives. And you know – we’re right about that. They do. And we are to thank God for that! In reality, God’s laws lead to love – every time.
In our reading for today, Jesus takes on the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. It is safe to say that none of us have probably killed anyone today; at least not literally. But – do you harbor some ill feelings toward someone? Do you have any enemies? Are there people who cause your heart to race or have you ever rehearsed a conversation in your mind where you got to really tell someone what you really think about them? And we’re not talking about a secret crush here. I’m talking about those people who make your blood boil – even just a little bit. When you think back over your past, are there any people who you would be happy to never have to see or speak to again? If you can’t then I suspect you aren’t thinking very hard.
For the Pharisees, if they kept the letter of the law, they were righteous. It never even occurred to them that hatred for a neighbor might mean the breaking of one of God’s Laws. Jesus comes along with the goal of reshaping their (our) understanding of those laws. Whenever we live inside of what God has chosen for us, life is better. If I want to keep the 10 Commandments (and my love for God moves me to want that) then I will have to keep them in action and in thought. Harboring secret hatred makes me a law breaker.
We are all law breakers. If we weren’t Jesus could have remained up in heaven with the Father and never have had to suffer torture and death. We always have to keep that in mind. Even as I write this, I can come up with people for whom I harbor less than loving thoughts. I am a law breaker. I am in need of a Savior. Since Jesus came and took care of that sin, should I just go ahead and keep on with it. Of course not. The Spirit encourages me, admonishes me, and enables me to confess that and move past it. Every day I fail and every day I am forgiven.