Dealing with Anger between Family – Matthew 5:23-26

Rather than continue in a state of anger, Jesus tells his disciples to reconcile with their fellow disciple before going to worship (5: 23-24). “Brother” ought to be understood as referring to all disciples, certainly women are included in the command to reconcile. But did Jesus intend for reconciliation to be restricted to only fellow disciples? Likely not, but if there is some offense between followers of Jesus reconciliation ought to be the highest priority.

That Jesus uses familial language should not be a surprise since he conceived of his followers as a family unit. For example, he considered those who do the will of the Father to be his brothers and sisters (Matthew 12:46-50). Peter says the twelve have left everything to follow Jesus, including “brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands” (Matthew 19:27-30). Jesus’s disciples are a new family so though ought to deal with disruptions as a good family does, by seeking reconciliation.

Jesus says a fellow disciple “has something against you,” implying the disciple has indeed wronged a fellow disciple. Since the one who has done the wrong needs to reach out and begin the process of reconciliation, the person knows they are in the wrong and are causing a disruption within the family.

Reconciliation is to create a sense of harmony between two parties, to “restore normal relations” (BDAG). Matthew uses διαλλάσσομαι, only used here in the New Testament, but the word is related to καταλλάσσω a few more times. The word group is sometimes used in a political context where two parties have become estranged and need a third party to act as a go between and restore the relationship.

Jesus offers a simple process for seeking reconciliation between disciples.

First, reconciliation requires recognition of an offense. In verse 23 the worshiper remembers they have offended or hurt someone. The main reason people do not seek reconciliation is they think they were in the right and they are waiting for the other person to come to them and apologize!

Second, reconciliation should be the first priority. The worshiper sets aside their sacrifice and seeks reconciliation. McKnight points out the need for reconciliation between Jesus’s disciples trumps even offering a sacrifice at the Temple! (Sermon 79). It would be easy to put off an admission of guilt with a hundred “good excuses,” but Jesus says to set everything aside and seek reconciliation.

Third, reconciliation can happen when the offender reaches out to the one offend, “go to the person.” It seems obvious, but someone might admit guilt in their heart and pray for the other person and think they are now reconciled. Jesus says to go the person, face them and admit you are wrong. This is extremely humbling and difficult and it is important this happens face-to-face.

Fourth, reconciliation must come quickly (v. 25). The longer one waits to seek out the person they wronged, the more difficult reconciliation becomes. This is partially because both sides become entrenched in their belief they are in the right!

In Matthew 5:23-26 Jesus is describing personal reconciliation between disciples. If the disciple of Jesus is really dealing with anger in their heart, then they will deal with any anger they have toward another member of Jesus’s family or the anger they are causing among the disciples of Jesus.

Should we draw the implication that larger groups need to find some sort of reconciliation? I can easily think of examples of splits within a church which are in desperate need of reconciliation, often after many years of anger and resentment. This could be applied to denominational splits and the possibility of reconciliation between people of similar faiths.

Going even further, reconciliation may be needed between people who have been the victim of sexual harassment or racial prejudice. How can Jesus’s process for reconciliation be applied to these larger, systemic issues?

9 thoughts on “Dealing with Anger between Family – Matthew 5:23-26

  1. The idea of reconciliation to me has always seemed to be an idea of reconciling and making things right with God. I had not yet thought of it as needing to be done with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. This blog post brought up ideas about reconciliation that I had yet to think about. I already understood the importance of realizing that there is a problem and how reconciliation must be the first priority. However, when it comes to going to the person who I have wronged, I find that I have fallen into the idea that if I just admit my guilt to God and pray to Him then I will be reconciled. However, this is not what the rest of the blog is saying. It is saying that I must go and reconcile directly with that person. I know that I have also fallen into the trap of waiting too long for reconciling with someone and the longer I waited, the harder and harder it got and the more uncomfortable I felt. This blog brought up different aspects of my own life that I need to improve as a follower of Christ.

  2. In order to begin the process of reconciliation, like stated in the post, one must recognize an offense. I think most group disagreements in today’s society start with the same mindset of “what I am doing is not offending anyone”. Here is where pride plays a huge role. When putting one’s own interest first, perspective gets foggy, it gets biased. There is a very familiar case between two churches in my country. There is a real need of reconciliation between the two. They belong to the same doctrine, same beliefs, and serve the same purpose as well. However, they’ve managed to split and act as if they’re completely separate entities; zero communication, zero support, acting like strangers. The problem is that neither of them will acknowledge that they have done anything wrong. It has been very sad to see churches grow apart from each other when the real answer is clearly reconciliation.
    Jesus’ goal through this teaching is to bring out the importance of reconciliation to life, “Jesus is for reconciliation, even if it means interrupting sacred actions and legal judgements” (McKnight, 80). In conclusion, groups in society, even inside the church, will have disagreements. The main problem comes when they don’t think they have any problems by doing so, and their pride gets in the way of reconciliation. However, we should pay attention to the level of importance Jesus assigns to being reconciled with those around us, and make it a reality in our lives.

  3. Reconciliation should always be attempted, especially between two individuals. However I struggle with the idea that this method might work for large groups of people simply because it is almost impossible to get everyone on both sides to agree to reconciliation. There is always going to be bitter people who don’t agree and they would rather live in their hate than address the issue. It takes two to reconcile a broken or damaged relationship. It is hard to let go of anger especially if it is justified. Have you seen how long people hold on to unjustified anger? Just imagine justified anger. People in the church should be able to bring two groups together as we are all one body, but in practice it will always be far from perfect with this model as everyone will still leave feeling unsatisfied. I think it works great for individual people but in large groups (especially when the groups are not believers) it will yield less than desirable results.

  4. In our society and world today we have a tendency to get angry and become conflicted with one another over the smallest of things. especially lately on the topic of “being offended”. We love are families but at times they can drive us nuts, and cause to loose our temper rather quickly at times. Anger can turn into hatred and that hatred can lead to murder. This is what Jesus is warning about. That if you have anger in your heart towards another person you have murdered them. This is why Jesus emphasized reconciliation. if someone has done wrong to you then you must first patch things up between the both of you. And if that doesn’t work take another person with you. and if that doesn’t work then take it up with the church. and if that person doesn’t reconcile, then cut him off as a gentile (Matthew 18:15-17). The point of reconciliation is to learn how to forgive each other and restore that friendship between others.

  5. In today’s world seeking revenge seems like the thing to do when angry. It is easy to sit and dwell in our anger. When coming upon a situation that needs reconciliation we need to be open to what the other person has to say. Whether we are angry or not we need to be a listener. Our experiences shape who we are. If someone grow up hearing something from a trustworthy person they will likely think that as truth whether or not it is morally or Godly true. The amazing part about all of this is that God is a redeemer and no matter how someone grew up or the mistakes they have made they can be made new. This can be so hard for us to understand as humans but if we have patience and willingness to trust God they our hearts will reconcile too.

  6. I think as Americans we often miss the opportunity to learn how to reconcile. Thinking about what you stated about churches being split because of disagreements over often things that are not dependent upon salvation, it reminded me of something my dad said. He does not show the fruit of being a believer, and he commented on the number of different types of churches. His thought was, if everyone is reading from the same book, why are there so many different teachings? The affects of being okay with unreconciled relationships have the outward affect in so many situations such as this. I believe that Jesus’ approach to teaching reconciliation is a great way to learn the importance and is somewhat of an encouragement. I think the first step in realizing that we are wrong is so important. James 4:6 tells us that God favors the humble. McKnight concludes that Jesus is speaking about reconciling to those who have angered you, to the point of murder (McKnight 80). This may seem a bit extreme, but this may also elude to Jesus teaching that hatred is equal to murder. I also believe that if we cannot learn to reconcile with each other because of small differences and wrongdoings, we will never be prepared for the amount of humbleness it takes to discount ourselves before our enemies in very serious situations.

  7. There is always a need for reconciliation, but never a willingness to be the first one to drop your defense down and realize that you’ve done wrong. Even better yet, voice to the person whom you hurt that you have done wrong. You can justify anything according to human law and Moral code,(from a christian and non-Christian stand point), if you twist what you want to say and where you are coming from hard enough. Verse 25 talks about the fact that reconciliation must come quickly. I think that this is so because the longer that you have to hold onto that hurt, think about it, and let it sit, the easier it is to let all of that build up in your heart. Then the reconciliation is no longer sincere. McKnight points out the nub of the issue when it comes to reconciliation: “we must be intentional about reconciliation for it to become a pervasive lifestyle” (McKnight, pg.83). if we never put into practice what we know about reconciliation, we will never be willing to fully reconcile with someone. In larger groups like we discussed such as sexual harassment and racial prejudice, I think there needs to be a time for people to process those traumas, but I still think reconciliation needs to come quickly or forgiveness and reconciliation may never fully occur.

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