Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday March 21, 2014 Matthew 5:21-26

21 “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.’ 22 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,’ is answerable to the court. And 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 or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.25 “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. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.


Murder is the most violent crime against a person.  How can you be reconciled before you can go to God with your offering?Matthew 5 is some very tough teaching!  Throughout the Bible it is clear that there is only one penalty for murder: death!

Deuteronomy 5:17 “You shall not murder.”

Exodus 21:12 “Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death.”

Romans 13:9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

But society today is not as draconian as most of the Bible instructs.  Society is actually moving a little bit closer to the beatitudes!

How many murderers do you know?  I know dozens of murderers!Obviously, they were not put to death!  Sometimes, in New York State, murderers are even released from prison.  Why some, and not others?  Believe it or not, it frequently has to do with a matter of luck.  Some District Attorneys are vengeful.  They do all in their power to see that a killer is never released from prison, no matter how many times the prisoner comes before the parole board. Sometimes the DA is encouraged to “lock them up and throw away the key,” because the victim’s family is still vengeful. Some other inmates can find forgiveness from the parole board.  There is no easy rhyme or reason that can predict the outcome. In my four years that I taught college-level courses at Mid-Orange Correctional Facility, in Warwick, I met some men who managed to work the system to their benefit, getting released when many of the other inmates felt that they were at a high risk of repeating.  They “Conned” the board, and were released.  Lest violent murderers felt betrayed by the system that awarded showmanship. Even in the time of Matthew, justice was not necessarily meted out fairly and honestly.

No matter what your crime, you need to try to settle matters with your adversary taking you to court.  Is it possible to forgive murder? It sounds impossible, but the school massacre of four children (before committing suicide) in an Amish school in Pennsylvania in 2006 resulted in healing with the attacker, rather than vengeance.  This is exactly the performance called for in Matthew. First, we need to be reconciled. This is a hard teaching.  It goes against our human instincts of vengeance! But I do think it is what following Christ means.  Settle things.  The Amish met with the attacker’s family, brought food, and prayed with them.  Some Amish even attended the attacker’s funeral!  What a testimony to Christ’s hard teaching for us.

I pray that we will find ways to reconcile when we have been harmed, even to the point of murder.   It goes against much of our teaching.  But Christ is truly radical!  He not only calls us to reconciliation, but he will help us to achieve it.  The only way we could ever approach that ideal is to call on Christ. We cannot do it alone!
--Henry McCarter

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