In today’s Little Lesson, we’re going to continue thinking about the whole concept of what murder really is in God’s eyes. We looked in our previous little lesson at Matthew 5:21-22, where Jesus began to talk about murder.
Apparently the Pharisees were preaching against murder and warning people that they shouldn’t murder, but the example of the Scribes and Pharisees life was one of full of murder because there were all kinds of relationships that they were involved in that were broken down. People that they wouldn’t speak to, people that they were taking to court, people that they were speaking venomous words against. And that is all the stuff that is really part and parcel of murder.
When Murder Happens in the Heart
Sometimes we don’t think that we’re guilty of murder but we’re just like the Scribes and Pharisees. People are dead to us. For all intents and purposes we have murdered them because we have no relationship with them because of something that happened that caused a breach in the relationship.
The Lord has higher standards than the Pharisees and Scribes. In fact, He said in Matthew 5:20, “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
One of the standards is that we have got to do better than just be able to say, “I’ve never actually, physically murdered anybody.” That’s not righteous enough in God’s eyes.
You’re not beating out the Scribes and Pharisees at all or exceeding their standards.
Jesus warns us about anger and spewing words of venomous hatred towards a brother. That’s enough to qualify you for hell, so we ought to be taking this very seriously. And we ought to be looking at all of our relationships. And when we have broken relationships and people are dead to us because we effectively murdered them in our world—they don’t exist—then it’s time to take an account and take steps to do what we can do to live at peace with others with whom we are not living at peace with.
Practical Steps for Reconciliation
Jesus begins to offer some very practical things that we can do, and He continues where we left off yesterday in Matthew 5:23.
He said, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you…”
See a murder has taken place in a sense here. He’s dead to you, you’re dead to him, you don’t have a relationship. What you had has died and that person is not someone you’re relating to because of anger or because of hatred.
So Jesus said, “leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
Prioritizing the Second Greatest Commandment
Now this is very important. Although you and I are not going to the temple in Jerusalem and presenting offerings on the altar, it does help us to see what we ought to prioritize here. The second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves and do unto others as we would have them do unto us. That’s the golden rule. Do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
If you’re thinking, “Well, I’m going to show my love for God and I’m going to go to the temple and make a sacrifice there, but I’m transgressing the second greatest commandment to love my neighbor as myself, if really I’m a murderer at heart because someone’s dead to me,” then God says, “You’ve got your priorities all out of whack here.”
And you need to stop saying, “I’m going to show God how much I love Him by bringing the sacrifice and I need to start showing God how much I love Him by keeping what’s really important, the second greatest commandment. And I’m going to repent of this murder that I’ve committed and I’m going to try to resurrect a dead relationship. So I leave my offering there at the altar and I go to first be reconciled to my brother. Then I have it straight. Now I can come and worship God.”
The Modern Day Equivalent
The modern day equivalent would maybe be something like if you’re going to church to sing praises to the Lord and lift your hands and tell Him that you love Him, but there are some skeletons in the closet. There are some dead bodies lying around. People that as far as your relationship with them is concerned, they’re dead to you. You’ve murdered them in your minds. You want nothing to do with them. There’s a breach in your relationship.
And particularly, if it’s your brother, that’s really, really, really important. Don’t go to church! Oh my goodness, I can’t believe I just said that. Don’t go to church. It’s more important that you obey the second greatest commandment. It’s more important that you repent of a murder that’s been committed.
And again, I’m not saying that you’re totally to blame. The person could have murdered you too. You both murdered each other by what you’ve said and how you feel about each other now. Don’t go to church. Go pronto to that brother or that sister in Christ to say, “I’m sorry. And I’m not taking all the blame here necessarily, but we’ve got a breach in our relationship and Jesus looks at it in one sense as murder, because you’re dead to me, I’m dead to you. Can we work this out?”
Taking Care of Reconciliation Immediately
Remember, Jesus said we should be jumping on this really fast. When your brother sins against you, go to him privately. Try to work it out. Try to bring reconciliation. If he doesn’t receive you, don’t give up then. Take a couple people with you who can arbitrate and listen to both sides.
That’s why God gave us two ears, to hear both sides. Let them help bring reconciliation. Of course, if your brother’s to blame and he’s not repenting, you can go in front of the whole church. Now again, contextually, in the New Testament, you wouldn’t bring him in front of 300 people. You would bring him in front of your little house church where you’re meeting and everyone knows you both and everyone loves you both. And then there’s church discipline that’s in order.
If he doesn’t repent then, then then you can treat him as a Gentile or tax collector. But only then can that person be, in essence, dead to you and you can have a clear conscience because you’ve tried to reconcile. You’ve done all you can to bring this brother to repentance.
And again, of course in that process, if you’re to blame, obviously people that love you when you get one or two to help arbitrate, if they see blame on your side, they’re going to be speaking to you. If you can’t figure it out then, you go to the church. And if they see blame on you, they’re going to bring it up to you. And many times that is the case, right? It’s not always just cut and dry where one person has done something wrong.
A Call For Personal Reflection
Hopefully this prompts all of us to think about our relationships. To think about the people that we’re not speaking to, about the people that we don’t want to see. Those people whose side of the church we never sit on because we want to be as far away as we possibly can. And those people that we left at church because we didn’t want to be with them, so we went to a new church!
God is looking down on us seeing murder, in a sense. He wants us to do better than that. All right? Let’s see if we can do better.
Thanks for joining me on this Little Lesson! See you next time.