Sunday March 21, 2021 | Tara Beth Leach
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
In this sermon, Tara Beth Leach provides insight into Jesus’ practical teaching regarding what it means to live in righteousness and reconciliation with others.
In this sermon, Tara Beth Leach continues our movement through the Sermon on the Mount. She first establishes the context of the call to have a righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees, found in verse 20. One might read this as a new form of legalism, but to do so is to misunderstand what Jesus was talking about when He spoke of righteousness. This is a covenantal term that is synonymous with “steadfast love” or faithfulness. To be righteous before God is to be faithful to God. To be a righteous community is then to be a faithful community with God and with one another, as we live out God’s love together. Therefore, this call to righteousness that is beyond that of the Pharisees is not a new form of legalism but a call to live in love with God and others.
Secondly, Tara Beth identifies the reality of the already/not yet paradigm of God’s Kingdom, where God’s redemption has already come in Jesus but it is not yet fully realized in the midst of creation. In this not yet world, we experience anger, where hurt people hurt people. God’s complete freedom has not fully come upon us and therefore discord and conflict is part of our lives. In this passage, Jesus is providing a fuller vision of what it means to deal with the anger that we experience in this already/not yet world.
This specific teaching by Jesus is an explication about what it means to live in righteousness with one another. It’s not merely about our direct relationship with God. It’s also about our relationship with each other. We are called to be right with those with whom we live. Reconciliation is hard, inconvenient work, just as Jesus’ practical instructions in this passage are. Scot McKnight writes,
“In the future Kingdom of God, when all is consummated and when heaven comes to earth, anger will vanish because loving fellowship with flourish. The prohibition of anger here is not so much hyperbolic as it is a foretaste of Kingdom realities.”
When we work for reconciliation, we give the world a taste of God’s fullness that is to come. Dealing with our hurt, our pain, and our anger is hard work and takes a community of people who will walk with us through the ups and downs over time. It is not something that we just magically fix. We much continually pursue it so that we can live out the counter-cultural righteousness of reconciliation.