1st week in Lent, Friday – 6th March 2020 – Matthew 5,20-26
Reconciliation as means for righteousness
Matthew’s first example, to become righteous, goes to the fundamental commandment that demands that we respect the life of another (Ex 20,13; Deu 5,17). Jesus with his authority demands an avoidance of all behaviour that expresses anger and disrespect, and that treats others as having no value and as having nothing to offer. Three short statements (5,22) reinforce each other and offer a climax in the traditional symbol of ‘fire’. On the contrary, Jesus offers two sayings of reconciliation to avoid this punishment. In the law of Moses, the commandments that speak of our relationships to one another are placed after the commandments that speak of our relationship to God (Deu 5,6-15; 5,12-15). This is because it is our relationship to God which provides the context to relate to others. And it is our relationship to others that is the test of the reality of our relationship to God. So here, Matthew links the demand for fraternal reconciliation with worship of God, and presents Jesus as having the same attitude to the cultic worship as is frequently demonstrated by the prophets. What Jesus requires of us is that we must be first to seek reconciliation so that there is no barrier to it from our own side. He also encourages his disciples not to put off reconciliation, but to do it ‘quickly’, while still on the path of this life.