“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 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. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.” Matthew 5:21-26
Note that anger and conflict in life are expected. We are sinners all, and will certainly be confronted with ugly behavior and hurt feelings, and even inflict them ourselves. Our Lord knows this, and gives practical advice for our good, that we might further and exemplify His gifts of uprightness and reconciliation.
We often construct fences, attempting to separate ourselves from those whose actions we deplore, barricading ourselves from those who chafe, and holding boundaries against those who do us offense or harm. It is easy to see the other as the culprit and ourselves as victim. But storm clouds of dissension still hover, and weeds of bitterness still pop their ugly heads when we refuse to uncover the roots of harmful interaction. The Lord commands that we get to the cause of conflict, hatred, and sinful responses, and promptly do what we can to correct them.
Procrastination only exacerbates the issues, and risks greater, more destructive fallout. Putting off breeds the ugly spread of wrong thinking: hurt feelings bruise deeply, suspicions grow, judgments harden, and darkness of response and behavior spreads.
We must never put up with sin, but acknowledge and confess it. We must keep short accounts with those with whom we have friction. We must make it a priority to go to our offended or offending brother or sister, and deal truthfully with kindness and compassion. When we make right of our many wrongs, we honor the One who made right for all of our wrongs on the cross. He did not shuffle them underfoot, but bore every one to its full penalty, that we might be freed from the constant eating away of sin and irritation of its tentacles. (Isaiah 53:4-6; Luke 17:3-4; Ephesians 4:32; 1 John 1:9)
What will we do to deconstruct the fences we have built? When one is removed, will we tackle the next? Not until they are gone will we be able to see clearly to enjoy a free flow of love and fellowship. Our goal is that communion be restored, but agreeing to disagree may be the viable and upright solution. There are times that ongoing sin separates as an unavoidable or necessary consequence, but that settlement can still be wrought peaceably and honorably. (Acts 15:36-41)
Lord, guard me from stewing in any sin that perpetuates its growth. Help me settle quickly with You and others to the glory of Your gospel.