Chip Stapleton Highland Presbyterian Church May 7th , 2020 Hunkered Down Devotions
Matthew 5:21-24 (VOICE) 21 As you know, long ago God instructed Moses to tell His people, “Do not murder; [a] those who murder will be judged and punished.” 22 But here is the even harder truth: anyone who is angry with his brother will be judged for his anger. Anyone who taunts his friend, speaks contemptuously toward him, or calls him “Loser” or “Fool” or “Scum,” will have to answer to the high court. And anyone who calls his brother a fool may find himself in the fires of hell.
23 Therefore, if you are bringing an offering to God and you remember that your brother is angry at you or holds a grudge against you, 24 then leave your gift before the altar, go to your brother, repent and forgive one another, be reconciled, and then return to the altar to offer your gift to God. Those of you who are parents will be familiar with this scenario: One brother (who will remain nameless to protect the guilty) does something annoying/mean/inappropriate to another brother (also nameless, because honestly he’s probably guilty too). At that point I step in, try to figure out who the guilty party or parties are and then have them apologize.
One or both of them then glare at the other and curtly snap ‘sorry!’ in a tone that makes it clear to everyone that there is no real remorse (at least not yet). As a parent, then the dilemma really begins, do we leave well enough alone? Do we extend the conversation by saying something like, ‘no say it like you mean it!’ or do we try to get into the intricacies of why remorse and reconciliation are important? Parenting, and life, is hard.
We have all, I would wager, been involved in a situation like the one (common at my house) that I described above and it is this kind of situation that comes to mind when we read today’s gospel passage from Matthew.
The question that the scripture and the situation getting at can be boiled down to this: what really matters – the words that come out of our mouth or the condition of our hearts? Jesus makes his opinion clear on this in these verses: while he certainly doesn’t let us off the hook for saying things we shouldn’t, he makes it clear that it is the content of our hearts and the intent within them that matters. Jesus is making it clear that there is no real victory or value in ‘holding our tongue’ when we get frustrated by a neighbor, if we are cursing that neighbor in our hearts. The damage – to our hearts and to the relationship – is already done.
The point, Jesus says, is that it’s what is in our hearts that matters. This isn’t Jesus giving us an ‘out’ for the things we do, but reminding us that just going through the motions – like a child shouting ‘Sorry!’ – isn’t enough. We are called to a higher standard.
We can’t truly worship our God with our lips when there is poison in our hearts. It is what’s on the inside that matters most and that is where God asks us to make room for him – in our hearts, at the center of our lives and all that we are. When we make room for Jesus in his rightful place in our hearts, then it is his love and grace that can flow out from us. Sharing God’s Love, Chip
Prayer: Lord, help us to love, worship, and serve you not just with our words but with our hearts and our lives. Amen.