I think it has something to do with how we may normally categorize ourselves and each other.
The average person tends to think of how their positive and negative attributes stack up against each other when determining their personal worth. Of course, there are extremists on both sides - some people consider themselves worth nothing while others take on an overinflated sense of self. Then there's a recent movie I saw with my wife, where one character said it's less about how you measure your life and more about how many others measure their lives to yours.
All of this often rubs against the grain of how others perceive us... sometimes appropriately, and sometimes inappropriately. We understand the depths of our positive motives, whereas they may only see the shallow surface of our actions. We wonder why they've written us off, and they believe they had no other choice "after what you did." We were "clearly in the right," while they know we were "clearly in the wrong."
Every wonder why we error on the positives? Maybe this is because somewhere within us we know we were made to be more than the sum of our mistakes. This is what Jesus sees in us, after all, even on the days we don't.
Did you know that? That Jesus loves you right we're you're at, and also loves you too much to let you stay that way?
Of course you did. But do you really, really know that today? And which side of that sentence are you most unfamiliar with? The grace or the growth?
This is why Jesus speaks the same principles thousands of years later that the Father spoke to the Israelites through Moses.
You shall not murder. (Exodus 20:13)So Jesus tells us two things. First, He essentially says “Do not buy into the broken system of the day. Do not murder – by your hands or tongue or heart. Do not let the poison of hate make you do things that spill blood or take life away from another. Because if you do, you will begin a journey of hate that will consume you and create a wedge between you and me, which will lead you to hell.”
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But 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 has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
"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." (Matthew 5:21-26)
The other thing Jesus says is that we are to go have a face to face with people we have tensions with.
A face to face.
No breaking up through text messages. No using email to create distance. No anonymous blog comments. No flaming poop left on someones doorstep... or flaming poop in conversations with other people as you talk about why you're not talking with them.
When you sit down for a face to face, it's amazing how much perspective is gained on both sides of the table.
Maybe that's why the other thing that passage says is where two or three are gathered in God's Name, there He is in their midst. I find it odd how clearly that passage is next to instructions on conflict resolution, and yet we demote its use to making us feel better when only a few people show up to a church event. God is honored when people gather together in His name for reconciliation - plain and simple.
Speaking of which, did you know that there's a passage in the Bible where Jesus prays for us. You know what it's about?
- That God would keep us safe?
- That we would all get to heaven?
- That we might all become healthy?
- That we could all become wealthy?
- That we'd memorize more verses?
Nah. Check this out - this is what Jesus believes is the sum of all prayers for us:
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. (John 17:20-21)
So may you know what it means to see yourself beyond your intentions and beyond others criticisms.
May you realize that God Himself sees your dirtiest junk and is reaching out to you right now, whispering words of Truth about who you really are.
And may you come together with those whom you've found distance increasing.
Because when you do... God is revealed.
That is one sum worth adding up.