Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Except Opponents!"

In Matthew 5:21-24 there is a very telling interpolation—something someone added or changed to the original words:
"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.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister (*) will be subject to judgment... 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."
Some manuscripts add "without cause", so that it reads,
"Anyone who is angry with a brother or sister without cause will be subject to judgment..."
The interpolation changes the radical nature of what Jesus said and makes it worldly: "Don't be angry with your brother or sister, unless, of course, they deserve it! If I have a good reason, then it's okay to be angry and I'm excepted from having to go and be reconciled with them!"

That would be in a completely different vein than the rest of the chapter:
"If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also... You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? ...Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:38-48)
Why did someone add the "without cause"? Surely they thought they were clarifying something Jesus had said. Surely they thought that being angry with or hating a brother because they had caused it (or they had started it) were justifiable.

It's natural and human for us to try and justify our own "justice", our own "righteous indignation"—fancy words for saying that basically the last thing we want to give people who offend us is any kind of mercy. We have the right to withhold mercy from them and wish for their damnation. After all, they were the ones who were wrong.

We make excuses so as to not give agape, grace and mercy. And we call it "justice". We judge that they are unworthy of the grace of God from us, and we may even judge that because of what they have done to us they are also beyond God's mercy and grace.

The Lord sends this warning to Christians everywhere:
"The hour is late, the sun is setting on this world and the harvest is now. The ones who have offended you are the harvest, and they are white fields for reaping. When you deny them mercy, when you deny them grace, you hack away at the very Cross that saves you. Do not do this, My people. The Cross is your only hope. I overlooked your offenses to give you grace; so you too must overlook offenses and give grace. If you do not give the grace you have received, you have no part with Me, and you will be crushed by what you have tried to cut down. Do not try to keep the Cross from the harvest or demand that they first become worthy of it. You were not worthy, yet I died for you anyway."

See also: "Shedding Blood in My Name"

No comments:

Post a Comment

Be blessed in His heart today! His heart is for you!