Thursday, April 21, 2016
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“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. Matthew 5:21-24(NLT)
To forgive is to forego the right of revenge or restitution for some damage done to you.
This kind of destructive behavior isn’t particular to humans. Deerhave been found dead of starvation because they stubbornly, angrily locked horns and couldn’t disengage. Anger kills!
Jesus said much in His teaching about heaven and how to be right with God; He said much more about being right with each other.
Jesus taught that living reconciled to God and people was so vitally-important to life that he even put forgiving others and receiving others’ forgiveness above worship. He warned his disciples (and us) to reconcile with others before going to church to praise God.
Contained in these few verses of our text are two very important principles Jesus taught about forgiving that can change our lives in every possible way:
It’s a “no-brainer” to hear in church that we need to be forgiven by God; we have all sinned! It also doesn’t take much to remind us there are some unkind people out there that need our forgiveness for the awful things they’ve done to us.
But the rub usually comes when someone tries to get us to see that we need their forgiveness. The real brawl comes when they have the hubris to imply we need to apologize or ask for their forgiveness! The truth be told, each one of us has “blind spots” about the ways that we have offended others.
And don’t forget that part concerning someone having something against you…it works the other way too; when you have something against someone else you’d better run from the altar to make it right.
Offender or offendee, everybody needs forgiveness.
Decades ago I had a staff member whose spouse passed-along a false rumor she’d heard about our family. It deeply offended me. I wasn’t angry; I was furious. Our lives were turned upside down. I lit into my staff member, my friend; families parted, estranged.
I thought I had worked through all the anger. But several years ago as I was reading an old book on this passage to prepare a sermon, an old picture of that staff member fell out of the book. All the feelings suddenly returned, and I knew immediately that I’d never really asked him for forgiveness for taking out my anger on him. I made the call and two old men once again are friends.
We all need to be forgiven, and we also need to extend forgiveness; Jesus said so! We will look at extending forgiveness tomorrow.
Have you got “locked horns” with someone?
 Title Image: Russell Brownworth (own work)
 Romans 3:23, et al