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Matthew 5:20-26 (NIV)
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister, will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ [Raca is an Aramaic term of contempt, similar to ‘stupid idiot’] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
There is a line in the Holy Rule of Benedict, in the Chapter headed ‘The Tools for Good Works’ that says ‘If you have a dispute with someone, make peace with him before the sun goes down.’ It is so easy for these things to fester, isn’t it? If you have a strong stomach, you can see it on BBC Parliament. One politician makes a gesture of contempt towards the opposition. Someone on the other side responds and the next thing there are dozen on their feet letting fly with insults. Crowds gather outside, rival supporters jeer at each other, then threaten each other. Bricks and stones start to fly through the air and maybe knives are drawn. Lives are at threat. Families of victims swear revenge. Is this how human life is supposed to be lived?
Jesus knew the same world – Romans, Jews, Samaritans all at each other’s throats. Occupiers and the occupied. And if we have a hard time at work, or at school, or in the shops, then the tendency is to bring it home and take it out on the ones we love.
Jesus shows us how we can be genuinely and gloriously human. The commandment to not murder was not to say that in your dispute with someone you should stop short of killing them, but that you should never even get near the thought of wishing them dead.
Of course, this is all easier said than done – some people can be truly annoying – but no-one said that this Christian life was easy, just better. So think about all the people that you have got angry with today or in the past week. Pray for them, think how you might make peace with them and as you go about your business tomorrow, resolve to be understanding of those who annoy you.
The Collect (Alternative)
God of truth,
help us to keep your law of love
and to walk in ways of wisdom,
that we may find true life in Jesus Christ your Son. Amen