March 17, 2012: The Twenty-Second Day of Lent

March 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.  Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. ~ Matthew 5.25, 26 ~

The realities of the Kingdom of Heaven even extend into legal matters. After speaking on the importance of seeking reconciliation within relationships, he applies it to matters of litigation. He tells his disciples to do everything in their power to avoid the court of law. Of course, the surest means of this is to avoid doing wrong against others. This falls right in line with what Christ has been telling us in this section.

But, if you have done wrong, don’t waste a minute! Do what it takes to make it right. Do not be so stubborn and prideful so as to force another to resort to the legal process in order to properly resolve the situation. Even then, do fines and imprisonment truly restore the state of harmony that the Kingdom of Heaven embraces? No. They cannot. Christ tells us that the peace of true reconciliation should be pursued every time instead the resolution of a court of law.

In 1 Corinthians 6, the Apostle Paul vents his frustration with the Corinthian church. Their offense? Taking fellow believers to court. Part of Paul’s issue with their situation lies in the simple fact that Christians resorting to a secular legal system to resolve their conflicts speaks very poorly of Christians on a number of levels! Compared with the damage done to Christ’s witness through his church, Paul says it is the better option to be cheated and just leave it at that.

This is not to say that, even for Christians, that we never make use of the legal system. It is there to provide justice, and if justice can be had in no other way, then we do right to make use of due process.

However, a court of law does not exist in the Kingdom of Heaven. People in the Kingdom do not wrong each other, intentionally or unintentionally, and reject opportunities to be reconciled. God is the ultimate judge, and we expectantly await the day when Christ returns in power to eliminate injustice and abuse. In the meantime, God’s Holy Spirit lives in us and challenges us to live in peace. His Spirit also empowers us with grace to do what is necessary.

In this passage and the last one we looked at, Christ speaks to the offenders; the ones who have committed wrongs. But, remember, he spoke first to the offended, the ones who have been wronged – the ones who feel anger and lash out with their words against others in those moments. He says that whether you have done wrong or have been wronged, the Kingdom of Heaven puts peacemaking first. May the law that Christ writes on our hearts enable us to do so.

Lord Christ, I confess that peacemaking is not my first response. However, I know that it is yours. Please help me to hear your Spirit speak to me about both reconciliation and justice; help me respond properly in turn. Amen.

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