For me, reading the above verses a few years ago would have caused me to just scratch my head. Our Pastor read and explained these verses sometime last year and they really stuck in my head. I say this partially because I have never really had a great relationship with my brother, we’re not at odds or estranged, we’re just not “close”. Why am I saying this here . . . .”they say” the first step in fixing a problem is admitting to it . . .
This is exactly what Jesus is telling the disciples in the Sermon on the Mount. God wants to have a relationship with each of his children, that would be you and I. There are multiple references in the Bible where we are told to put God first. However, here we have the Son of God telling us that before we come to worship he wants us to resolve our petty differences with our fellow man. When you think about it, most of our disagreements with others are petty, yet we let them fester until we can’t even remember why we were initially mad, we just know we were mad. Can you think of an old friend, co-worker or family member that you have a disagreement with. Maybe it’s that very issue that is keeping you from having a better relationship with God, not to mention the person involved. I think Luke put it very concisely in Luk 6:37 – “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” God wants to be close to you, but he knows if your heart is weighted it can not be fully open to him. Settle your differences and you’ll be in a much better place to receive God’s word.
Mat 5:22 – 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,’ (aka, you vain fellow) is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.