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Trinity 6 – Matthew 5:20-26

by pastorjuhl ~ July 29th, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            Saint Paul writes in Second Corinthians chapter five: all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is the Gospel in a nutshell as much as John 3:16 is also the Gospel in a nutshell. When you take Saint Paul’s words to heart, you would think that no one would ever again be angry with anyone else again. Sad to say that this is not true. Listen again the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: BE RECONCILED WITH YOUR BROTHER.

Jesus’ words are spoken not merely to Christians, but also to all men. The Fifth Commandment, You shall not murder is for all people. The Fifth Commandment prohibits not only the act of murder, but also the act of refusing to be reconciled with someone. When you hold a grudge over someone and purposely refuse to be reconciled to them, you break the Fifth Commandment. Refusing reconciliation is hurting or harming your neighbor in his body. You might like the slow burn you give someone when you do not acknowledge them, refuse to talk to them, or give them the cold shoulder. What you are doing is committing murder.

Listen again to Jesus in Matthew chapter five: whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother “Raca!” shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, “You fool” shall be in danger of hell fire. Jesus uses a series of steps to show how serious the punishment is for those who refused to be reconciled with their brother. Anger in the heart that is not righteous anger, as King David sometimes shows in the Psalms, brings judgment. Anger in the heart is carnal anger, fleshly anger, anger that stems from and flows back to hatred.

It’s hard to know what “Raca” means in 2011. Perhaps the closest word is an epithet, a filthy word not fit for speaking in public, let alone in private. Usually this word is followed with some sort of gesture. Consider Cain, who rose up against his brother and killed him in cold blood. Consider also those who stoned Saint Stephen. They closed their ears, clenched their teeth, and began to stone him. Perhaps you have let a filthy word or a filthy gesture be aimed at someone whom you refused to be reconciled. Maybe it’s an eye roll, a deep sigh of disgust, or closing your fist as if you’re ready to hit someone. Those who speak and do “Raca” out of pure hatred and raw anger are meant for judgment of a serious crime like murder.

Then there’s “You fool”. When you say something like “You fool”, “Moron”, or “Dummy”, you are actually telling someone they are an unbeliever. You are telling them God has forsaken them. You are calling them a reprobate. The old saying goes, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words don’t bother me.” Wait for the next time you are called a name, or wait for the next time you call someone else a name. See how you feel when you are on the receiving end. Maybe you might want to put yourself in the shoes of the person you called a name. How do you think they feel? Those who murder their brother with words like “You fool!” pronounce themselves unfit for eternal life with God. They prefer hell, for they have judged themselves guilty of murder.

The act of murder, whether by hand or by mouth, without repentance and reconciliation, shows God to be a liar when Paul writes that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Reconciliation preserves you from self-righteousness like that of the Pharisees. The Pharisees thought keeping the Law meant keeping the Law by deed alone. They also believed that God’s favor was upon them merely by the action of offering gifts and sacrifices without fulfilling the Law. When you walk the way of the Pharisee, you also prove God to be a liar when Paul writes about God reconciling the world through Christ. You believe you can reconcile yourself to God with no help.

The terror of keeping the Law perfectly and the terror of refusing to be reconciled with your brother bring the terror of murdering the kingdom of heaven. No Christian would dare wish to be guilty of reckless homicide of the promises of God won for us by Jesus Christ. The fear of everlasting condemnation is enough to work repentance in your heart. The desire not to be separated from God forever is enough to bring about a change of mind toward reconciliation.

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. What pure comfort these words bring to your soul! God was once your enemy. Instead of desiring you to be separated from Him forever, He sent His Son Jesus into the world as a man in order to suffer and die for your sin. In Christ, your sin is no more. In Christ, your guilt is removed. In Christ, you are pure, holy, righteous, redeemed, and reconciled before Almighty God.

Because Christ has reconciled you to the Father in His innocent suffering and death, so you should be reconciled to your neighbor. Christians strive not only for reconciliation among individuals, Christians also strive for reconciliation in the congregation, in families, and among neighbors. Wouldn’t it bring joy to you and the community if those outside this congregation would say about this congregation that they are endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? Wouldn’t it bring joy if these words of the Psalmist were said about every member of this congregation: behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity?

These words should be said about every Christian in every Christian congregation. It is given to you as a forgiven child of God to walk in brotherly unity with one another. It’s too easy to say, “It’s too difficult to be reconciled to someone!” Recall what Jesus has done for you. His was not the easy part. God’s dearest treasure died for your sins and was raised for your justification. Some of you have been members of this congregation long enough to see what discord and strife does to a congregation. Discord and strife brings decline and downfall. A congregation can truly be edified only when harmony reigns.

Harmony reigns when together, pastor and people, we fall before God’s Word in trembling awe. Our heavenly Father reconciled the world in Jesus Christ. The Word of reconciliation is in our ears in Preaching, poured over our heads in Baptism, and put in our mouths in the Supper. When harmony among brethren in Christ reigns in a congregation, it will be apparent to you and to the community that Jesus Christ has formed us to be like Him in word and deed. Walking together, united in love and doctrine, covered in the blood of Jesus, it is good and pleasant to be to dwell in harmony, for we are reconciled to God and to one another because of Jesus.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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