THE HARDEST WORD
Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:20-26
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. “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.’ 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,’ is answerable to the court. And 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 or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
Ok, here’s a question to get us started. When is the last time you said, “I am sorry” to somebody? We’re not talking about apologizing when we bump into someone or drop something by mistake, but about apologizing to somebody for a grievous hurt that we may have caused them. If you a “typical” person, the probability is high that it has been a very long time since you asked for forgiveness for something that you did to cause someone pain. Why? Why is sorry such a hard word to say?
We all make mistakes. And despite our best intentions to the contrary, we will continue to make them. We will say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. This will happen in the best of relationships. When we apologize, we take responsibility for our actions, admitting that we made a mistake. This brings healing to relationships, which will otherwise deteriorate and break, sometimes irreparably. Why would we want that to happen, especially after all the time and energy invested into relationships?
Pride is what stops us from admitting our mistakes and apologizing for them. We think it is a sign of weakness or a confirmation of guilt. We believe the other party will take advantage of what they perceive as weakness or hold our admissions against us for the rest of our life. Admittedly, while some people might do this, most will not. They will accept the apology with grace, and although saying “sorry” can’t do anything to change the past, it would have eased the heartache that the harsh words or actions caused.
In today’s passage, Jesus emphasizes the need for being at peace with the people we have hurt. “If you come to me with an offering,” he says, “and you remember that your brother or sister (our spouse or partner!) has something against you, leave your gift at the altar. Go make peace with them, then come and offer your gift. Otherwise, I don’t want it.” We are in the season of Lent. It is an opportunity to make things right with those we have offended or hurt. I know that sorry seems to be the hardest word, but God will give you the grace to make it easier to say. Say it.
I want to take this opportunity to say sorry to all the people that I have hurt out there. Please forgive me.