21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. — Matthew 5.21-26
I used to hear this word as a warning against calling someone a “fool”. I remember watching the A-Team growing up and I’d mimic Mr. T, who would go around saying stuff like, “I pity the fool who messes with me.” It always bothered my mother and when she told me why, I stopped saying it. Partially out of respect for her; mostly out of fear of hell. Clearly there’s a message here about the words we say to one another.
But I think this passage speaks a much deeper word. The gospel life that Jesus announces and inaugurates is brimming with reconciliation. The kingdom of God is properly understood as the sphere where reconciliation occurs most comprehensively. The mission of Jesus is to bring reconciliation (Romans 5.11; 2 Cor 5.19; Col 1.22). Disciples of Christ participate in this same mission (2 Cor 5.19-20). Our very lives bear witness to gospel truth: we vanquish estrangement in our relationships with the same voracity God demonstrates in His great reconciliation project — the Incarnation of Christ. Reconciliation must be more than what we “do”; it defines our very existence. We, the reconciled, agents of God’s grand mission.
And so Jesus calls us to first practice that which we later preach: Be reconciled! For this obedience is far greater than sacrifice.