Matthew 5:23-37 (ESV)
23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. 31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
In this text, Jesus continues his Sermon on the Mount, addressing many issues. Concerning anger and broken relationships, Jesus explained how essential it is for those at odds with one another to get things right. If a worshipper about to make an offering to God realized that someone had a complaint against her, she should get her relationship back in order before making the sacrifice (vv. 23-24). The Lord cares about the inward attitude of the worshipper even more than the sacrifice itself. Jesus said the act of adultery is absolutely wrong, but so is an attitude of lust. He taught that God’s design for marriage is a lifelong commitment. Jesus also explained that people should be honest. The religious leaders manipulated oaths so they could later get out of statements or commitments they weren’t sure about. All of this was ridiculous. A “yes” should mean “yes,” and a “no” should mean “no.” Jesus says twice, in verses 29 and 30, it is “better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”
What did he mean? Was Jesus promoting self-mutilation? No! Jesus stressed that we may have to let God do some extreme surgery, even at the expense of one of our “body parts,” to get our hearts right before him. Do you have an angry or a lustful heart? What about a broken relationship? Are you at odds with a brother or sister in Christ? Maybe the tables are turned, and someone in your life has hurt you. If the Holy Spirit is prompting you to reconcile with her, don’t hesitate. Contact her and get things right. It can take some radical amputation of our pride to seek reconciliation with someone who has wronged us, or feels we have wronged her, but the more we Christians realize what we have been forgiven of—all our sins and transgressions before a holy God—and what we have been graced with—the righteousness of Christ—the easier it becomes to overlook petty offenses and get our relationships in order. Since Christians are forgiven people, we should be known as forgiving people. When it comes to anger, forgiveness, lust, divorce, or lying, are you holding onto anything contrary to God’s will for your life? If so, ask the Spirit to perform his surgery on your heart, and get things right on the inside today.