21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing. Mat. 5:21-26
God wants us to grow and mature to the point where we can look scripture in the eye. The words that Jesus spoke here are not to be trifled with. But, many years ago, I read these same words and concluded that God did not really mean what He said. I had so much bitterness in my heart! In the early years of our marriage, I cannot count the number of times when I did something in church while in my heart I was at war with my wife. Anything close to me was susceptible to my violent temper, and she just happened to be the closest thing to me.
Our fiercest brawls always occurred on Sunday mornings. I remember one Sunday morning the pastor had appointed me to lead the morning service. On that morning my wife and I had a row which would certainly have found a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, if only they recorded such things. After the epic row I rushed off to church, leaving wife behind.
I went to church and ambushed my wife there. I stood behind the pulpit and pretended to be leading the service, but in actual fact, I was waiting for her. From where I was I could see all the way to the gate of the church, so when she rounded the corner at the gate, I prepared myself. The minute she stepped into the church, I let go one single salvo that I knew would cripple her completely. I cannot remember now the exact words that I spoke (indirectly, of course), but I do remember it was a perfect hit. As everyone else was cheering at my words, she sat down like a rock.
That was mission accomplished for me.
But God wants us to grow. When we grow, we find we can carry a heart of mercy, we can forgive, and, probably most important of all, we find we can repent. Repentance is not simply saying, “I am sorry.” In those early days, I would say “I am sorry”, but I never really meant it. There was no work in my heart. At that time I was hearing the gospel of prosperity, and there was nothing going on in my heart.
Years later, I came to hear “the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ”. The change in my life began right there.
I believe that when we carry bitterness and unforgiveness, somewhere we will miss a blessing (v. 26). That is what scripture is telling us here. It could be in our personal lives, or in our relationships; but definitely in our spirits we will miss God’s blessing.
But when we are hearing the right gospel, we allow the work of the cross in our hearts, and we can grow up to the stature of Christ. This pleases the Lord exceedingly, for it is His will for us.
Today, the biggest accomplishment I can boast of in my life is where I have arrived at in my relationship with my wife. If I can go to church on Sunday morning and feel the peace of God emanating from me to my wife and vice versa, that gives me greater joy than anything else.
I believe that it is only by surrendering to the work of the cross that we can rise to the level of looking scripture in the eye, which is God’s will for us.
Need we wonder anymore why, when the Apostle Paul went to the Corinthians, he “determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2)?
[Below: True joy is found where there is true repentance and forgiveness]