Fixing Broken Relationships Matthew 5:21-26

By Henry Nelson | May 1, 2010

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca, ‘ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” {{more}}25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 I tell you the truth; you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. “Have you ever noticed that when people are angry, things tend to get broken? As a teenager, my brother once stormed out of the house in an angry huff, slamming a door so hard that a window broke. Someone throws a punch and a nose gets broken. In anger one nation lashes out against another and a pact or a treaty gets broken. Express too much anger when disciplining a child, and trust gets broken. Use angry words and perhaps a heart gets broken. Church unity gets broken, and relationships get broken. As a matter of fact, angry outbursts ruin many relationships. Amen!Jesus addresses this vital issue in His the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:20 the bible says, that our righteousness needs to surpass that of those who look perfect on the outside. Because far from being satisfied with good appearances, God is looking for hearts that have been changed. Now He is going to illustrate this kind of the heart in several ways. Amen!It is safe to say that the average American would consider himself/herself to have a good heart. You are known to be a basically good person. A rather common line of reasoning that exists today in determining if we are good sounds something like this; “Well, I know I am not perfect, but at least I’m not a murderer!” As if murder is the line between good and bad perhaps also assuming that murder is the point of no return. Once a person commits murder, they can never be considered a good person ever again.Jesus cannot assume everything his audience had heard concerning the content of the Old Testament Scriptures was really in the Old Testatement. This is because the Pharisees and teachers of the law regarded certain oral traditions as equal authority with Scripture itself.So he starts out by saying, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder.’” That is in the Old Testatement. That is commandment number 6 of the 10 Commandments. Do not murder to judgment.” That is what had been handed down for years. If you murder, you are subject to judgment in other words, you would be brought before the local courts.The crowd on the mountain with Jesus would have been as familiar with that statement as they were with the simple command “Do not murder.” So here is what Jesus says, “But I tell you, that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” His point? Anger is serious and dangerous. He describes anger here like a crescendo and it builds through three stages. The first stage is Anger directed against another person. Anyone who is angry with his brother is subject to judgment. That is worthy of the same consequence as murder because angry thoughts break the murder prohibition too.How can this be? Anger, in its simplest form is a spontaneous response that has a vital function in life. It alerts us to an obstruction of our wills and immediately raises alarm and resistance, even before we have time to think about it.Not all anger is bad even Jesus got angry when people were having obstacles put in the way of their coming to God at the Temple the Bible talks of the wrath of God. The problem is our anger quickly turns to something more evil. It includes thoughts of making a painful impression on others, whether physically, verbally, or emotionally.Jesus says, we should not even allow ourselves to become angry enough to consider harming someone in any way, because then we have already committed murder in our hearts. Anger is as serious as murder in the heart. It’s dangerous too!’The second stage of anger is Contempt. So in verse 22 Jesus says, “Again anyone who says to his brother ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin.” “Raca” is an expression of contempt. Raca means “empty head.” The word may have originated from the sound a person makes in clearing the throat in preparation to spit. Rrraaaacah! That is what I think of you! Jesus said this is a greater evil than just anger. In anger, we want to hurt someone. In contempt, we don’t care if that someone gets or not.Instead of Raca, today we might use dork, nerd, bonehead or something worse perhaps a sexual, racial or cultural term, but the intent is always the same. It is meant to cast someone aside like spitting on them and saying you do not belong. Sometimes these words hurt so bad that murder would almost be a mercy. Jesus said that people who express contempt are guilty enough to be judged by the Sanhedrin. The highest court in the land the Supreme Court.The third stage of anger is Malice. “But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” “Fool” was an expression of malice. In high school I would not dare call anyone a “fool” because Jesus said not to. However, I used all sorts of other R-rated words. Somehow I must have thought I was still acceptable to God because I did not say “fool.” Amen!So if someone at work misses a deadline or someone cuts us off in traffic and you shout, “You brainless idiot!” Even with those words, you have already gone way too far. You have gone beyond the intention of the commandment to not murder. To brand someone with words like that way is a violation of the soul so devastating it justifies a person who said it being severely punished.Jesus said that hateful words spoken in anger are treated like a crime specifically murder in God’s eyes. Jesus reminds us, it is not possible for people with such attitudes toward others to be thought of as truly good, or righteous. People who think this way are out of harmony with God’s kingdom. Amen!Some might think at this point, “So, I’m going to go to Hell for calling someone a nerd?” No. Jesus is not saying that. He is illustrating the fact that the Kingdom heart is a heart of love. A heart that values relationships, and does not just want to get by with the rules, and say, “Well, at least I have never killed anyone.” Jesus is operating at heart level where anger grows. Anger embraced and allowed to grow through these three stages is dangerous and serious. Do not go the route of anger. Do not embrace it. Do not harbor it. Do not nurse it. Do not befriend it. Do not play with it in your mind. Crush it while you still can. It is so serious it can cut you off from God. So dangerous it can crush you.So settle things before attempting to worship. Matthew 25-26 says, “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth; you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” Amen!What if the person refuses to be reconciled? You might wonder, Am I never to go to church again? Ask ourselves these questions: Does your heart long for reconciliation? Have you done all that you can? Honestly do you act lovingly toward the person? Do you mourn for the harm that the person’s anger is doing toward his own soul, to us, and to the others around us? If so, then you are showing the kind of heart that has no desire to live at odds with someone. The kind of heart Jesus wants us to have.Remember Jesus is not so much giving a law as he is giving an illustration. The law in question, is do not murder. Since anger is as serious as murder, and it is also what leads to most actual homicides, avoid it at all costs by fixing broken relationships as quickly as possible. Don’t let anything get in the way. Just do what you can to get it fixed. The truly good person does this. Amen!Since anger is serious and dangerous, you should take action immediately to avoid it. So what’s your action point? What do you need to do in response to Jesus’ words: Leave now and settle a dispute. Nobody’s going to think you are weird. If someone has something against you, it would actually be weirder if you stayed. Ask God to forgive you for your harsh words spoken against someone. Give your anger to Jesus instead of embracing it. Drop the “righteous” act and let Jesus change your heart. Now you know how to fix broken relationships. Now you know how to fix a broken relationship. Amen!