In April, the world observed the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 in which it is estimated that nearly one million lives were lost. The irony that this took place in a largely Christian country was not lost on anyone then or now. The church, as an institutional body, failed in its response then, as did secular peace keeping mechanisms like the United Nations. Reconciliation for all the hurt has taken all of two decades to come through, but one may remark – that at least came through.
How many of us know someone who has gone to their grave with a grudge? The sad news of such resolve to never give in, not to flinch, to be right and make others wrong, is that the impact of sleeping with anger can live on for generations. As hard as it is to believe, God created us to live harmonious lives. With all the examples in our current environment that indicate war and disagreement, strife in our homes and our families, it is hard to believe that God did not give us better people to work with, if God meant for us to live in harmony with each other. Instead, it seems that we are called to be in relationship with the most difficult, cantankerous, self-centred and hard-headed people on the planet. Why is that?
How do we expect to perfect this vertical relationship with God when we can’t get right with the horizontal relationships with people? The scripture says, if you have realised your brother or sister has something against you, go first and work it out with them and then, and only then, come back and work things out with God. And yet, why does God keep calling us to bear fruit among all these hard shelled nuts in our families, our workplaces and even our churches?
Implicit in worship is stewardship. It is assumed that every time we come to worship, we will be bringing an offering, and that offering/giving is implied in worship. For that reason, Jesus is saying in His sermon, when we come to church to worship, knowing that we have relationship(s) that are out of line, we need to fix it first. We cannot worship God and not be in right relationship with our brother or sister, neighbour or friend, co-worker or boss, wife or husband, mother, father or pastor. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God," not seek ye first a relationship with God and only with God. The kingdom of God – we are the kingdom of God.
The Spirit Of The Law
I believe that God brings people into our lives for a reason, for a season or for a lifetime; sometimes for all three purposes, so that our own self-understanding will be challenged and we will be sharpened, and shaped into the people God desires – to be God’s witnesses in His kingdom. In reality, we are not in true community, true relationship with God, if we are not accountable to each other. It is the same with the Law as Jesus refers to in the text. It would appear that Jesus is challenging those who live by the letter of the Law and proposing that His interpretation is the new law. But, in fact, Jesus is affirming and tightening the law by adding to the letter of the law, the Spirit of the law – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
To sleep with anger is to die a slow death. It is said by thanologists (people who study the psychology of death and dying) that people die how they live. We bring to our everyday life, all that we are, all that we have experienced, all those spiritual nuts who drive us crazy, who make us mad and who make us glad. We bring to our interactions and to our workplace and our place of worship all that we are and all that we have experienced.
Love In Action
Reconciliation is one of the highest forms of worship. Let us not assume that we have gotten anywhere on our own. But it was the love of Jesus Christ, "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Php.2:6-8).
Because God desires relationship with us so deeply, I pray that we will not let human conviction prevent us from the spiritual conviction that we need to love, be patient, be kind and gentle with ourselves and each other. Ah, Jesus loves us this we know. But we can’t just come to church to show each other how much Jesus just loves us! We come to worship, to solidify and to strengthen God’s love in us and through us – spiritual nuts and all. It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that produces Christian virtues in the believer’s life.