Jesus has rocked the boat on angry relationships. First he tells us that anyone who is angry with his brother is in danger of judgment, and calling someone “Raca!” endangers their salvation. Then he says that if we know someone has something against us, the ball is in our court to go to them, not vice versa. And that about goes against everything we think and desire to do. And then here’s a few verses that at first glance seem innocuous compared to the others:
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny” (Mt 5:26-26).
The text seems simple enough. If someone is suing you it is best to settle out of court. After it has gone before a judge, a judgment may be rendered not in your favor. A judgment that can last years until things are settled up.
Seems fair and easy enough. That is until we read the parallel passage in Luke. When Luke repeats the same teaching of Jesus (Luke 12:57-59), it’s pretty much the same text, albeit worded mildly different. But the context is what scares the bejeebies out of a person. Luke surrounds the teaching in eschatological terms. Or rather, he puts this in a section where the layers have eternal ramifications. It’s not just about relationships here on this earth. For Luke somehow it has echoes in eternity.
Some think that the echoes mean that we need to get right with the Lord first. And fast. And definitely this holds true. Others say that our unreconciled relationships on this earth will matter when we appear before the Judge of the earth. And it’s also true. Our relationship with the Lord is deeply connected into our relationships with one another.
It’s a mystery what exactly Jesus is alluding to. And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe there is no “exact” to his teaching but a holy sobriety that there is an urgency to working towards reconciling our relationships.
In some ways it is “easy” to go to another and try to attempt reconciliation. We must try after all “as far as it depends on us” (Rom 12:18). What isn’t so easy is making sure our hearts do not go hard. Hardened against trust, hardened in our thoughts towards a person, or just becoming a hardened person overall. The first instinct of woundedness is shieldedness. But if those shields never come down it affects every relationship. Fences are Ok. Walls are not.
Get reconciled, Jesus says. Fast.