How to Reconcile Relationships

Wow, we have now come to the third command in this Adult Stage or Equip Level of disciplemaking, on how to reconcile relationships in Matthew 5:21-26. The commands (each present imperative) are found in Matthew 5:23, 25 – LEAVE, GO first BE RECONCILED, MAKE friends quickly. We find this also outside of the gospels (Acts 9:36, 26:18, 1 Corinthians 7:11, 2 Timothy 3:3).

Questions to Consider:

1. Do you tend to internalize or ventilate anger?

2. What do you do when you become aware that someone is angry at you?

3. When is it better to just let a matter lie? (Proverbs 10:12, 17:9, 19:11, Colossians 3:13, 1 Peter 4:8)

4. What Type of anger are we justified in having? What type is Jesus condemning? (Ephesians 4:26)

5. Why is it important to deal with anger as soon as possible? (Ephesians 4:27)

6. Have you ever broken the the sixth commandment (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17, Matthew 5:21)

7. With whom was Jesus contrasting his teaching? (Matthew 5:22)

8. Is verbal homicide as serious before God as physically killing someone? (Matthew 5:21-22)

9. Is Jesus condemning all uses of the word, “fool?” (Matthew 12:34, 15:19, Mark 7:21, Matthew 23:17)

10. Where did the expression “the fiery hell” (literally, Gehenna of fire) come from? (Matthew 5:22)

11. Who is liable for the same punishment as an actual murderer? (Matthew 5:22, 1 John 3:15)

12. What two illustrations does Jesus use to expose the seriousness of anger? (Matthew 5:23-26)

13. Why is it important to be reconciled based on these two illustrations?

14. What commands does Jesus give to us whether we are the innocent or guilty party? (Matthew 5:24-25)

15. Are some people irreconcilable? What are we to do then? (1 Corinthians 7:11, 2 Timothy 3:3, Proverbs 18:19, Romans 12:18)


Matthew 5:21, You have heard the ancients were told – These were rabbis and scribes who came up with the many traditions that became burdensome, which had virtually replaced the authority of Scripture. Jesus refers to the traditional interpretations of scriptural commands.

Matthew 5:21, you shall not commit murder – This is straight from the Ten Commandments, and Jesus had already affirmed his support for the Law (Matthew 5:17). His problem was how the ancients interpreted the law, as merely taking a human life. Genesis 9:6 affirms this principle long before there was any Law of Moses. “Murder” in the NASB and “kill” in the KJV do not refer to capital punishment (apparently a divine allowance against those who take an innocent life, essentially to commit murder). Killing is permitted in a just war, according to divine plan, and is permitted in the case of self-defense, because we all have the right to protect the image of God in our lives and the lives of others when they are assaulted or attacked by those who would kill them. Nor does this refer to accidental deaths, according to Deuteronomy 19).

Matthew 5:22, but I say to you – The law goes much deeper than just our actions, it addresses the attitude of the heart. The attitude behind murder is hate or anger (Matthew 5:22, 15:19, 1 John 3:15). Anger is a God given emotion that when misused will tear us up or tear up others.

  1. Tearing up Others: Vented Anger (Proverbs 12:16, 14:29, 15:18, 16:32, 29:11, 29:22, Galatians 5:19-20)
  2. Tear up Ourselves: Internalized Anger (Ephesians 4:31, Proverbs 30:33)

The command in Ephesians 4:26 is to be angry, yet do not sin, and don’t let the sun go down on your anger. When we don’t express our anger it becomes a toxic waste of bitterness, resentment, and holding grudges. We can bury it, but it will eventually leak. In Ephesians 4:27, such anger gives the devil an opportunity or beachhead, the word actually means “place” or “foothold.”

Matthew 5:22, Saying raca (or good for nothing) shall be guilty before the court – basically unable to escape the punishment of the court. “Fool” literally means “Empty-headed” or “brainless idiot.” It was a word of arrogant contempt. Jesus suggested here that the verbal abuse stems from the same sinful motives (anger and hatred) that ultimately lead to murder. The internal attitude is what the law actually prohibits, and therefore an abusive insult carries the same kind of moral guilt as an act of murder.

Although there is a progression in the evil attitudes cited, Jesus intends to show that behind the overt act of murder is the disposition of anger, hostility, or contempt. Although attitudes may not be tried in court, they are as dangerous as the overt acts of wrong for which one is tried in court or for which one stands in danger of hell fire, unless one experiences God’s forgiveness in Christ.

Matthew 5:22, the fiery hell – This is a reference to the Hinnom Valley, southwest of Jerusalem. Ahaz and Manasseh permitted human sacrifices there during their reigns (2 Chronicles 28:3; 33:6, Jeremiah 7:31, Ezekiel 16:20, 23:37), and therefore it was called “The Valley of Slaughter” (Jeremiah 19:6). In Jesus’ day, it was a garbage dump where fires burned continually and was thus an apt symbol of eternal fire. Josiah abolished these practices and defiled the area by making it a dumping ground for executed criminals (2 Kings 23:10). Later, this valley has eschatological references (Matthew 10:28, 23:15, 33, 18:9) dealing with punishment.

Matthew 5:23, presenting your offering at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you – The point is “suddenly” remember (aorist, passive subjunctive) where subjunctive affirms the possibility; it assumes the idea is NOT a fact but may become one. The passive indicate the subject is being acted upon, receiving the action. So, the subject is you and God is causing you to remember something. We often don’t take such initiatives in relationships, but God will bring to mind what we are to do, because unresolved anger in the heart hinders worship. We are preoccupied with hatred or anger of the other person who has offended us, but this passage tells us to be equally concerned for when we provoke anger in others intentionally or unintentionally.

Reconciliation is important because it can become intensive and explosive. Anger distorts facts. The longer we wait to resolve a situation the more distorted and exaggerated the situation becomes in the eyes of the offended one and minimized in the eyes of the offender.

  1. In Matthew 5:23-24, the one with the gift may be innocent, the fault may be on the one who holds the anger against him (so his anger stands in the way of him worshiping).
  2. In Matthew 5:25-26, the one who is about to deliver someone to the judge is becoming angrier over time and will demand satisfactory restitution.

It is interesting to note that Jesus is not give steps to dealing with OUR anger, but with OUR offense that has provoked anger in someone else.

We are to make friends or agree quickly. Jesus calls for reconciliation to be sought eagerly, aggressively, quickly, even if it involves self-sacrifice. It is better to be wronged than to allow a dispute between brethren to be a cause for dishonoring Christ (1 Corinthians 6:7). Our adversary is the opponent in a law case. Prison would mean debtor’s prison, where the person could work to earn back what he had defrauded.

Therefore, we get to the commands…

LEAVE (aorist imperative) your offering – Leaving immediately, aorist stresses urgency.

GO (present imperative) – When communicating to an angry person it is important to speak softly (Proverbs 15:1).

First BE RECONCILED (aorist passive imperative) to your brother – “First” stresses that reconciliation takes priority over worship, but leaving the gift anticipates the worshiper returning after obeying the command. This is not an isolated teaching on reconciliation (Acts 7:26, 1 Corinthians 7:11).

Reconciliation among people refers to mutual concession after mutual hostility. The Bible teaches that God does not need to be reconciled to us, but we must be reconciled to God (Romans 5:10, 2 Corinthians 5:18, 20, Ephesians 2:16, Colossians 1:20, 22). God is not hostile toward us, we are hostile toward God.
Some people are irreconcilable (2 Timothy 3:1-3, Romans 12:18).

And then COME and PRESENT (present active imperative) your offering – Once he returns to the temple, resume presenting the offering.

MAKE friends quickly (present imperative) with your opponent… – The Message reads Matthew 5:25-26 “Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won’t get out without a stiff fine.” To make friends means to settle the account quickly before he faces judgment.

The Age of Rage:

Defining Anger

  • It is a God given emotion
  • We are commanded to be angry at some things (Ephesians 4:26)
  • The anger of Jesus (Mark 3:5, Hebrews 4:15)
  • The anger of men (James 1:20)

Mismanagement of Anger (Ephesians 4:27) It all starts when the enemy gets a foothold, stronghold, beachhead, opportunity.

Sources of Anger

  • Immature love (1 Corinthians 13:5) Agape does not get angry.
  • Psychological abuse (Proverbs 15:1)
  • Learned behavior (Proverbs 22:24-25)
  • Unwilling to deal with first emotions (anger is the second emotion, jealousy is the first emotion)
    • Cain’s anger with Able (Genesis 4:5)
    • Jacob’s anger with Rachel (Genesis 30:1-2)
    • Simon and Levi’s anger with Dinah’s rape (Genesis 34:7-25)
    • Jacob’s anger over Joseph’s favoritism (Genesis 37:4, 18)
    • Predisposition or sinful nature (John 8:44, 2 Peter 1:4)

Assessment of Anger

  • Acknowledge your angry feeling.
  • Backtrack to the first emotion
  • Confess sinful anger (1 John 1:9)
    • Sinful anger nurses a grudge (Ephesians 4:31) It is connected to rights.
    • Sinful anger has outbursts (Proverbs 29:11, 22b) Good anger is in control.
    • Sinful anger goes to bed upset (Ephesians 4:26) This anger is unused, or did not attack the problem.
      • We either bottle it up or we blow up.
      • Deal with the problem while it is fresh, hot, don’t delay or avoid.
      • The person is not the problem, the problem is the problem.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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