“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. Matthew 5:23-24
This past Sunday, my friend, Andy, made a really great point in his sermon at Water’s Edge Frisco: Jesus is the God of looking forward, not looking back. He said this in the context of explaining some of the raucous things going on in Jerusalem on that original Palm Sunday (when Jesus entered Jerusalem ahead of His death). Everything Jesus did during Holy Week pointed people forward, to the cross and, more importantly, to the empty garden tomb. He fulfilled ancient prophecies but kept His focus on people, directing them ahead, to God, to eternity that would begin then and there.
Just like He did in these two verses. Remember that these verses, this short discourse on managing anger, is from the Sermon on the Mount. It’s some of what Jesus said after He stated the Beatitudes. If you’ll recall from last message, Jesus counseled that any kind of anger could consume an person, rendering them subject to judgment. Immediately on the heels of that, Jesus now points them forward, to reconciliation, to how He restores His peace into our lives after anger has threatened to tear things apart.
Jesus tells us to love those who hate us, and that includes people with whom we’re angry (or who are angry at us). In all we do as human beings, this may be the toughest task of all. He tells us that the best way to deal with our anger is to reach out in love to the one who is the focus of our anger. In doing this, He constructively de-fuses our anger and re-focuses it in a way that builds up instead of tearing down (which anger always does).
Notice He doesn’t say “forget the gift, fool.” In this, Jesus says, “before you come to me, let go of the sin by forgiving.” In other words, He doesn’t discourage us from coming to Him in love, but encourages us in love to share it with others first.
And notice that He doesn’t burden the statement with a bunch of “do’s.” There isn’t a checklist. Jesus simply says, “forgive and accept forgiveness, then come worship.”
Finally, notice that Jesus doesn’t hold our anger against us. In earlier verses. He cautions us to recognize and repent of our anger, not trying to justify it or ourselves. But, here, Jesus puts that behind us, redirecting us to positive steps we can take to reacquire the peace He always offers.
All of this makes sense when you remember that Jesus is the God of moving forward, not holding on to sin.
For more reading: Luke 6:27, Matthew 5:25
Lord Jesus, You taught us how to deal with our anger. Thank You once again!