“Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out, until you have paid the last penny.” (New International Version)
Relational problems and conflicts are endemic to the human condition. And, along with it, comes our anger.
Sometimes, I wonder if some church buildings have an aisle down the middle, is so that one group of people can avoid associating with the other group, like some childhood bedroom squabble where a line is drawn that the other is not to cross.
I also wonder if all schoolteachers’ lounges are a hot mess of anger. I’ve certainly been in plenty that are. And I don’t really have to wonder if most families have relatives they are estranged from – sometimes for years, even decades. Lord knows I’ve counseled plenty of them.
It’s inevitable that any group of people, complete with individual sinful natures, whether a church, a neighborhood, a family, or a workplace, will experience relational difficulties. After all, we live in a fallen world with a bunch of fallen people.
Relationships are important to God. And we need them. We cannot live without them because we’ve been created in the image and likeness of a relational God. So, God is concerned that we have good relations with one another.
Jesus is in the business of stripping away the layers of self-righteousness and peeling back the built up human rationalizations toward our sour relations with one another. At the heart of it all is our contempt for others and our misplaced anger. The only real solution to it is reconciliation.
Anger in and of itself is neither bad nor good; it just is. It’s a normal human emotional response to injustice. Yet, how we express our anger is very much an ethical affair.
Bitterness, nursing a grudge, bearing resentment, saying speeches to somebody in our heads we will never give, and flipping the finger at someone behind their back is the sort of angry response that completely sours relationships and drives wedges between folks.
Those inner attitudes are the factory where the anger will eventually come out sideways in verbal or even physical violence toward another.
Harboring resentment that comes out in name-calling kills people. And when we verbally decapitate people, there is a mess to clean up. Judgement is the lot for people-bashing. (Matthew 5:21-26)
“The holiness of God is at war with all bitterness and hatred and hurting. And where this holiness collides with our hostility the crash is called the wrath of God. God’s wrath is God’s war of love against everything that unnecessarily hurts others. God’s love would not be love if it did not work to remove all that ungraciously hurts. The wrath of God is the proof of the love of God; God’s love is a love that is not merely sentimental, for it grapples with inhumane forces.”Frederick Dale Bruner
If you think to yourself that you have a right to nurse a grudge because that other person deserves it, you need to know that your hatred will not go unnoticed by God.
If you have ever wished anyone was dead, hated anyone, treated anyone with contempt and belittled them; then, you have assassinated that person in your heart and come under the judgment of God.
And that’s the reason why we are to work hard at making things right with others.
There is no need for you to live with regret for the rest of your life because of stubbornly refusing to reconcile, and to have to stand before your Creator someday with nothing but hatred and contempt for another person.
Whenever personal relations go wrong, nine cases out of ten, immediate action will usually mend the problem. But the longer it goes, the harder it is to reconcile. The problem grows and festers. Eventually, if reconciliation is not sought, it eventually spirals out of control. Then, there is full blown bitterness in which more people will be hurt.
Bitterness becomes gangrene of the soul. It poisons us within and ends up making trouble for others. Its better to reconcile than to have God amputate a part of you. So, seek amends.
If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do not stay angry all day. Don’t give the Devil a chance…. Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. (Ephesians 4:26-27, 31, GNT)
We always have a choice when relationships are strained: Deal with it immediately, or let it fester. Maybe the reason why so many folks live without peace is that they have chosen unwisely.
Choose wisely, my friend.
Lord God, bring us together as one people, reconciled with you and reconciled with each other – healed, forgiven, and spreading peace rather than enmity, as you called us to do, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.