“Go, Be Reconciled!”
Matthew 5:21-26 (5:24) – February 12, 2023
Fred Rogers is one of my heroes. Truly! Mister Rogers and his television neighborhood was on my television regularly for each of my small (and not-so-small) children. I believe I watched the majority of his television shows, over the years of my children’s toddlerhood, preschool and primary school years.
What makes Fred Rogers truly special to me is not only his acceptance of people – each individual – exactly the way that they are, but also his knowledge and understanding of the full range of emotions felt by those people. All of the emotions, even the difficult and hurtful ones.
One of the songs he wrote for his television show was “What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel?” What a fitting question, especially considering the Scripture reading we have in front of us this morning! Jesus brings up that very question, and goes into more detail concerning how people felt, spoke and acted when they were angry.
This way of feeling, speaking and acting was just as true two thousand years ago as it is today. And, Mister Rogers’ sincere words to that song are just as striking and heartfelt for all humans, whenever and wherever they might be living on this earth.
Jesus’s words are striking, too: “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.’ 22 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, ‘Raca’ [or, stupid idiot!], is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
We all get angry, from time to time. And, some of us get angry more often. But, just like Mister Rogers asks in his song, what DO we do with the mad that we feel? Yes, if people commit murder, that action is really reprehensible! Jesus quotes or refers to one of the big laws from the Ten Commandments, from the Law of Moses. Do you hear that Jesus goes even further than that? Jesus says bad language and name-calling are just as bad as actual murder.
Commentator Carolyn Brown, retired director of Children’s Ministry, has the following thoughts for the emotions and repercussions that can happen in these verses. “Everyone gets angry. It just happens. Good people get angry as often as bad people do. Adults, teenagers, and children all get angry. So, the question is, “what do you do when you get angry?”  This is so similar to Fred Rogers and his song “What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel?”
Let’s take a biblical example of bottled-up or unaddressed anger. Remember Joseph, from the Hebrew Scripture book of Genesis? Joseph’s big brothers were angry: Joseph was their father’s favorite, he got a special coat of many colors, plus he told his whole family his dreams in which they all bowed down to him. “When they got the chance they threw Joseph in a pit and were going to leave him there (murder), except they sold him to traders (definitely a sin).” 
I suspect this biblical example, plus many more, were what was in Jesus’s thoughts as He delivered this important early sermon at the beginning of His ministry. How much of the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus giving the crowd hard and strict rules? Hard rules for relationships, and strict rules for living life? Or…do you think that Jesus is more concerned about personal spiritual growth? How each individual – how you and I and our friend or relative or stranger, for that matter – how each one goes about doing the job of personal spiritual growth?
Don’t you think that Jesus would be far more concerned about each person’s spiritual growth with God than about mindlessly following strict rules for the sake of rule-following? But, wait – there’s more! Much more.
Jesus goes on to say, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
It’s not only me, personally. Or rather, yes, I do need to be aware of what is going on inside of me! I can’t sweep these personal mad, angry feelings under the rug, and forget about them. What’s more, I need to be emotionally aware of what is going on with those around me! We all do! If we see that our relative, our friend, our acquaintance has something against us, we are not supposed to just turn our backs and forget about it. No! We need to name the problem that makes us – or makes them – angry, and figure out something to do about it!
You and I – we need to stop our worship, stop in the middle of the worship service, or communion, even! And, go. “The Bible says, “be reconciled” with the person who made you angry. That means work it out with them. Figure out how to solve the problem between you. That is not easy. Frequently it helps to get advice or help from other people.”  Do what it takes to be reconciled, to make sure that relationship is repaired, renewed, and close once again.
When it comes to anger and relationships, Fred Rogers had a lot of wisdom in this particular area. He said, “Finding constructive ways to express our anger, whether we’re parents or children, is one of life’s important jobs.” What would help us grow closer to God, especially when we think of our problem relationships? What would Jesus suggest to us?
Some suggestions? Don’t stay angry: fix things as best you can. Mean what you say and do it! And, relationships are well worth working on!
Jesus will be delighted that we are taking Him at His word. And, that’s the Gospel truth.
(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!
(Thanks to Carolyn Brown and her blog post on Year A – Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 16, 2014) – commentary on Matthew 5:20-37,