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b) Matt 5:23–24: Jesus narrowed his focus from a general principle in Matt 5:21–22 to specific application in these verses. He taught that a believer’s relationship with God correlates with how we treat others.
Rabbis of that era asserted something similar.
According to the Mishnah, “From all your sins before the Lord shall ye be clean. Those transgressions of which man has been guilty towards his God, [the Day of Atonement] atones for; but for those transgressions of which man has been guilty towards his neighbor, [the Day of Atonement] cannot atone, until he has appeased his neighbor” (m. Yoma 8.9).
In this instance, Christ addressed occasions when one aggrieves someone else, not been the recipient of the offense.
Yet, elsewhere he said, “If you are standing [and] praying, forgive if you have anything against someone, in order that also your Father in heaven may forgive your sins” (Mark 11:25).
Thus, this applies to resentment in both directions. Reconciliation is paramount, for fostering bitterness has the same effect as drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
“When, therefore, you bring your gift on the altar” implies a sacrifice in Jerusalem’s temple (Josh 22:29; Ezra 6:3).
However, Christ delivered the Sermon on the Mount in Galilee (Matt 4:25–5:1).
Following Jesus’s command to “leave your gift there in front of the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother [or sister] and then come offer your gift” required a journey of approximately eighty miles each way.
Imagine arriving in Jerusalem after traveling for days. Due to the distance, you bought a lamb for an offering when you arrived.
While standing in a long line at the temple, you remember how you offended your neighbor. Following Christ’s command would necessitate going back to Galilee, making amends, and repeating the process.
Note that Eph 4:26 and Ps 4:4 apply to people with differing temperaments.
While one person immediately erupts in anger and needs to take time to reflect and pray before responding to a situation, another grows enraged by allowing time to pass. We must understand how we operate and act accordingly.
By making such a difficult demand, Christ stressed the importance of maintaining right relationships with our neighbors, especially within the church (Matt 18:21–35; Eph 4:21–32).
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Read Matt 5:23–24. Why is living in harmony with all people—and particularly with other believers—so critical to our spiritual well-being? Are you the type of person who needs to deal with infuriating issues immediately or do you need time to process your anger? How is Christ’s admonition like what the Lord said to Cain in Gen 4:3‒8?
Go to Misappropriated Blood (Gen 4:9‒10)
[Related posts are Transcending the Law (Matt 5:21‒22); Sin Lies Stretched Out (Gen 4:6‒7); Cain Arose against His Brother (Gen 4:8); and Ancient Literature]
[Click here to go to Chapter 1: A Tale of Two Brothers (Genesis 4:1‒16)]
 France, The Gospel of Matthew, 202.
 Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 185.
 Wilkins, Matthew, 243.
 Hagner, Matthew 1–13, 117.
 This concept is attributed to Alcoholics Anonymous.
 Wilkins, Matthew, 243.
Grant R. Osborne, Matthew (ZECNT; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 191.
 France, The Gospel of Matthew, 203.