Healing and Reconciliation
Matthew 5:21-37: Jesus invites us to be the salt that brings purity and passion to our world, preserving all that is life-giving through right relationship. But there is another quality of salt that is helpful in understanding discipleship: salt cleanses and stings when put into an open wound. It calls attention to brokenness and the need for healing. There is plenty of salt to go around, and some of it may be needed for the spiritual, psychological and emotional wounds that need radical cleansing and deep healing. Jesus is never content with surfaces, and never content with legalism. He doesn’t waste time parsing theory or nuance. So, when he says, “You have heard it said . . .” we can be absolutely certain that we’ll get a straightforward clarification of something we have likely been ignoring, denying, or conveniently misunderstanding. So, we shouldn’t be surprised when he brings three of God’s commandments right into our own lives and suggests that we may need to pay attention to them.
Jesus invites us to a life of freedom through simplicity, to a holy life. Jesus says, “You shall not murder.” Though most of us exist a lifetime without giving in to a desire to kill someone, Jesus says we may still be liable. “If you are angry,” he says, “you are liable.” He is talking about the anger, bitterness, and contempt we may harbor and actively nurture. This may be the grudge we hold, the little spat fanned into a full-fledged feud, Internet bullying or the insincere “sorrow” we express at someone else’s “bad behavior.” Jesus says these kill as surely as a gun or knife. Have we ever nursed a grudge, ever insulted a spouse or child or friend, ever helped inflame someone else’s rage? I confess to every one of those actions; I am guilty over and over. Yet, as long as my focus is on the hurt I sustained or the revenge I will take for that hurt, my heart and mind are chained to sin, death and destruction, and I am not free to revel in the abundance of joy that is my birthright as God’s child. Jesus offers a healing solution: If you remember that a person has something against you: go, apologize, make reparation, be reconciled; and then return to your worship in peace. He continues with the commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.” Jesus teaches that adultery is not limited to marriage. He says that it is not only the physical act that has the power to destroy. Hidden desires endanger relationships by turning people into objects, and breaking trust. When we use God’s name as a cover for our own lack of integrity, we expend energy that could be devoted to abundant living and instead exchange it for an existence marked by suspicion, distrust, and obsessive-compulsive self-justification. Yet, we don’t need to carry this burden any more than the burdens of anger, negative passions or broken relationships. Jesus offers us the healing solution of reaching out and seeking honest reconciliation with God and neighbor. God is greater than all our theologies, and disciples are those who commit themselves to practicing the inner holiness of God’s divine imprint. Jesus says that it is not possible to be reconciled to God until you are at-one with your neighbor. Discipleship is not about bondage to superficial regulations. It’s about liberation into the simplicity of abundant life, a life unburdened from grudges, suspicion, lust and hidden dishonesties. When we create an unhealthy internal dream world that tempts us to transfer emotional commitment to someone besides our partner, we are no longer free, and that forces us into a psychological closet that we can’t escape from, even though we created it. Thus, we create barriers between God, ourselves, and others: barriers built on a foundation of guilt, secrecy and fear. Again, to paraphrase Jesus and the healing solution to such impasses: If you realize that your relationship with your spouse or anyone else has been damaged by your thoughts and actions, return your emotional commitment to where it belongs, be reconciled; and then return to your worship in peace.
Finally, Jesus addresses the commandment, “You shall not take the name of God in vain.” Casual profanity is not the sole issue here. Instead it’s the perception of our proper spiritual place in life. Jesus calls us to recognize that God is present as witness in every pronouncement we make. Our life should stand as bond for our word. Meaningless oaths alienate others and no one should ever need to question our integrity, our honesty or our intent as followers of Jesus.