“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘traitor,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
The first sentence is the traditional religious prohibition of murder. Straightforward enough, but we do need to go deeper than just not killing each other. Holding a grudge and nursing anger are mechanisms that lead to bondage. Anger is poison to your soul. If you hold onto it, it will fester and your soul will rot. The transforming initiative here is to go and reconcile while there is still time, before your anger becomes hate.
Even taken legalistically this is a good way to live. When I was locked-up, I got into an argument with another guy over the television. A pretty common argument in prison since there are never enough TVs to go around. We had two on a pod of 56 men. One is always on sports. Period. At the time one of the channels started having a series that aired every single night. So every night it was on that channel. We wanted to watch something else for once, and I ended up getting into it with the leader of the other group who wanted to watch the stupid soap opera. Now both of us were Christians. The next morning I was up early to go to Mass, and he was up as well. I sat there stewing in my anger, but knowing that I was about to go to Mass, I kept thinking that I should go apologize. But I didn’t want to. Instead he got up and apologised to me, and he quoted this passage, and said he was about to go to his service. We were reconciled not so much because either of us wanted to, but because we knew we should. That isn’t what I think Jesus had in mind. I think He wanted us to reconcile and be brothers not out of duty, but because it is the right thing to do. However, it still worked. We forgave each other and let go of our anger.
That example is just a small example. We need to reconcile not only with people who we have minor incidents with, but also with those who have really hurt us. An ex-spouse or lover. A family member. An old friend who stole your boyfriend…whoever! Don’t hold onto that resentment! Go be reconciled and experience God’s love through the act of forgiving!