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We all have conflict in our lives that we are dealing with in one way or another. We internalize, explode, or stew as conflict continues. Today, as Adam walks us through Matthew 5:21-26, he shows us God's definition of anger and His desire for us to experience reconciliation in the midst of conflict.
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All right. Hello, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Plano. How are we doing? Good! Good! My name is Adam Tarnow. I'm excited to be with you guys today. To set up our time today, I wanted to start and just tell you guys a little bit about some of my background and some things about me.
Up until about 15 years ago, I would describe myself as being one of the biggest conflict avoiders I had ever met. I did not like conflict. There are a whole bunch of stories as to why, but any time anybody was in a fight, I got in a fight with somebody, or there was disagreement, it just wreaked havoc inside me. It made me nervous. It made me anxious.
I had developed a really bad habit because my whole life was really just trying to avoid fights, trying to avoid conflict. One of the habits I had developed is this. If you hurt me, if you frustrated me, if you angered me, I wouldn't tell you. The reason I wouldn't tell you is if I told you, you might disagree, and we would then be in conflict.
Basically, what I did is for years and years and years, I had this habit of, if you frustrated me, it would be like this little rock here. Let's say we were engaged in a conversation. You said something that was hurtful to me, and I was wounded by that. I would just pick up this rock, and I would hold it. Then I'd have another conversation with somebody else, and I'd pick up another rock.
Then maybe I'd have another conversation with you, and you'd hurt me again. I'd pick up that rock. Then I would just go along. Just months, weeks, and sometimes years would go along, and I'd have all of these interactions with people. I would just end up picking up all of these rocks and just carrying them around.
I knew it was a little bit uncomfortable to carry these rocks around, but the thought of engaging in an awkward conversation, the thought of engaging in some sort of conflict and calling attention to this, felt worse than carrying them around. I was mentally willing to carry these rocks around with me because I felt like this was the better alternative.
Even though I was mentally willing to carry them around, what would happen often (not every day, but it would happen often) is sooner or later, even though I was mentally willing to continue carrying these rocks around, I became emotionally and physically unable to do it. There would be one conversation that either I would have with you or with somebody else where finally I did not want to carry these rocks around anymore.
This one conversation would happen. It could be big or it could be small, but it just became too much for me, and I would just drop them. For me, when I dropped them, it was usually always the exact same thing. My voice would get much louder. I would start talking with my hands a lot. I would start pointing at people. I would start bringing back hurts from months, weeks, maybe years ago. I would sometimes even pick up the rocks, and I would just start chucking them at people.
Like I said, this never really happened every day, but it happened pretty often. I kind of think about it. It was almost like a hurricane. Do you know how hurricanes don't come around every day? But when they do, they cause some damage. They're memorable, and we name them. When I would drop rocks, there would be damage. I would name them, and I can remember them. I remember them.
I mean, I was just thinking back over all the times I've dropped rocks and had this dramatic moment. I can think about one of the first ones my sophomore year of high school in my science class. My science teacher had been doing things over the semester that were frustrating me. Then I dropped rocks one day, and I decided to tell her in front of the entire class that I did not appreciate certain things she was doing. She did not appreciate that, and then I got to visit this other guy that day.
I can think about in college with some roommates just harboring bitterness, anger, and resentment. These roommates had done things that had angered me. I just held on to them, and I wouldn't engage. Then I'd drop the rocks. Still honestly to this day, there are two guys who really don't want to have anything to do with me.
I can think about my relationship with my younger brother. I have a brother who is six years younger than me. I harbored a bunch of thoughts, anger, and bitterness about him. I dropped those rocks. My brother went two years in those college years without speaking to me because of this.
I start with all this today because I don't think I'm alone. I don't think I'm alone in going through these situations where we harbor anger, bitterness, or resentment toward people, and we sometimes drop the rocks. I bet you guys are similar to me that when this happens… What would happen when I would drop the rocks is I would look at the moment, and I would try to go back and think about, "How can I avoid moments like that?"
Sometimes I would go back, and I would look at those moments. I would say, "Do you know what my problem is? My problem is I really don't understand Proverbs 29:20 that says, "Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them."
I would look at these moments and go, "I need to control my tongue better. I need to remember what James said in James 1 that I need to be quick to listen and slow to speak. I need to remember Proverbs 29:20 that I should not be speaking in haste. I need to remember and apply Proverbs 15:1 a lot more. I need to not have this harsh word that stirs up anger." I would (and you may do this too) look at these moments and go, "How can I avoid the moment?" Because I thought the problem was I couldn't control my tongue in the moment.
Now to be clear, I have a problem with controlling my tongue in moments sometimes, and those are certainly Scriptures that are applicable to my life. But the reason rocks would drop in my life (and I bet the reason rocks drop in your life) really doesn't have anything to do with Proverbs 29, Proverbs 15, or James 1. The reason I would drop rocks is I had a complete and total misunderstanding of the sixth commandment God gave to Moses. Exodus 20:13 says, "You shall not murder."
My problem was not the moment the rocks dropped. My problem was the process. My problem was this bad habit of when people frustrated me and I got angry, I would just hold on to those rocks. It was the process of avoiding the conflict. That was the problem. Today what I want to talk about is I want to talk about how we can avoid this. I don't know everybody's story in this room today, but I do know this is probably true. All of us want healthy relationships.
Nobody wants this. This isn't fun. This is embarrassing. This is shameful. This is inefficient. Nobody wants to have a life filled with relationships where there are all these rocks that have been dropped all the time. I bet every single one of us in here want healthy relationships. What we're going to see today are some words of Jesus Christ and how immensely helpful these words can be on how you and I can avoid this.
If you have your Bibles, let's open up to the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew, chapter 5, is where we're going to be. As we look at this one section in the Sermon on the Mount, we're going to see this. We're going to see Jesus… Really, this is a theme all throughout Scripture that God has this kind of ridiculous, if maybe crazy, idea.
This crazy idea is we as humans could actually get along. We can do this. We can do relationships. Our relationships don't have to be filled with unresolved conflict, anger, frustration, grudges, and not talking to each other for years. Our relationships actually can improve. We can get along, and they can be healthy.
In fact, Jesus will go so far as to say that these healthy relationships are going to be part of what tells the world that there's something different about us in this relationship we ultimately have with God. What we're going to see this morning in these words from the Sermon on the Mount is we can improve the quality and the health of our relationships if we apply one principle. One principle! That principle is to keep short accounts, if we can keep short accounts.
What we're going to look at in Matthew, chapter 5, verses 21 through 26, is we're going to see Jesus tell us three things we need to do. We need to first change our perspective on anger. He is then going to tell us we need to really prioritize reconciling with people when there is conflict. Then lastly, what we're going to see is we need to try to seek reconciliation with people who have frustrated us, or if there's conflict, we need to try to seek reconciliation promptly. We need to do it as quickly as we possibly can.
Let's open up Matthew, chapter 5, verses 21 through 26. Here's just a little background on the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount is basically this. It's in Matthew, chapters 5, 6, and 7, and it is essentially Jesus' answer to the question, "What is the good life?" Jesus, in these three chapters, is answering, "How do you get the good life while you're here on earth?"
It's an amazing sermon that was recorded. He covers so much material in such a short amount of time. I just wrote down a list of all the different topics Jesus talks about through the Sermon on the Mount. He talks about the character of somebody who follows after God. He talks about the mission of somebody who follows after God.
He talks about himself and his relationship with the Old Testament. He talks about anger. He talks about adultery. He talks about commitments. He talks about revenge. He talks about enemies. He talks about giving, about prayer, about fasting, about money, and about anxiety. He does all of that in about 15 minutes. It's the original TED talk.
The section we're going to look at today is really kind of the second act, if you will, in the Sermon on the Mount where there was some bad teaching that was out there. These guys (who you may have heard of) were the Pharisees. They were called the Pharisees. These guys were responsible for taking God's Word and teaching it to the people.
They were doing an okay job of teaching it. They were not teaching things that were entirely false. They were teaching things that were maybe a little more dangerous. They had some truth in it, but then they had added some things in it.
After Jesus had talked about the character of somebody who follows after God and the mission of somebody who follows after God, and after he talked about his relationship with the Old Testament, he then moves into this section where he is correcting the prevailing teaching that is out there that most of the people in the audience would have heard from the Pharisees. That's where we pick up. This is where he is going. Verse 21: "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago…"
This is him basically saying, "Hey, this is the teaching you've been hearing about." "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder…'" That's true. That's right there (what we just quoted, Exodus 20:13). "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder…'" But there's a comma here, and they keep going. This is what the Pharisees added to it. "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.'"
Basically, what the Pharisees had done is they had taken the sixth commandment God gave to Moses, and they had narrowly defined it down to just the physical act of murder. They said, "Hey, if you get angry with somebody, just make sure you don't murder them. If you murder them, you're going to be subject to judgment," basically meaning, "You're going to go to jail." The teaching that was out there at that moment was, "Hey, as long as you're angry with people, just don't go so far where you take their life. Because if you do, you're going to go to jail."
Imagine for a second if that was the prevailing teaching that was still out there today for us, if that's what we thought about the sixth commandment, if what we thought about the sixth commandment is that really all it ever had to do with was the physical act of murder and how this would impact the way we counsel one another and the way we disciple one another and the way we encourage one another.
Let me share an example from my life a couple of weeks ago on a Monday night. On Monday night here, there's a great group of people who meet in this room. There's a ministry called re:generation, which is a biblically based 12-step recovery program. They have some teachers who come in every once in a while and teach.
I was invited by the leaders to come and teach that Monday night. I had a great time in here serving and had a great time just worshiping with them. We talked about humility. That ended, and as we were leaving, I had arranged to meet my wife out there in the Town Center. We have two boys. I had arranged to meet her and the boys in the Town Center because my wife had a meeting she needed to go to. It was kind of a, "Tag! You're it." I took the boys.
We, "Tag! You're it!" She goes off to her meeting. I have the boys. It's getting kind of late as we're starting to move home. It's maybe 7:30 or 8:00. We try to get the boys in bed between 8:00 and 8:30 over the summer. We get home, and now I have a lot to do. I'm pretty tired. It's been a long day. I had just gotten up there and taught, had a big adrenaline rush. Now the adrenaline is starting to wane.
It's getting past their bedtime, and now I still have to do the whole routine. I have to get them showered. I have to get their teeth brushed. I have to get them changed. We have to read stories. I have to pray. I just could tell about 10 minutes into being home my patience was really starting to wear pretty thin.
We go through. I don't know about your kids, but when I go through that routine with my kids, it's like their ears turn off. They suddenly just realize they want to pick up the playroom or something like that. They want to do anything to avoid doing what they're supposed to be doing in that moment. This was one of those nights.
I just noticed myself getting shorter and shorter and shorter. I'm getting harsher with my tone. Finally, we get through the whole process. We put them in bed. I look at my watch. It's about 10 minutes past their bedtime, and I… Again, I don't know if you guys deal with that, but I feel like they are now 10 minutes into invading my time. I never feel more entitled to my time than when it gets to be one minute past when they should be in bed.
I close the door, and I go into my bedroom to start changing. My oldest starts yelling, "Dad! Dad!" I go in there, and I open up the door really quickly. I'm like, "What?" Basically, he is telling me he is not tired, and he can't go to sleep. I'm just sitting there going, "No, you need to go to sleep. You're about 10 minutes into my time. I just taught the Bible, and I deserve to watch the Rangers' game." That's kind of what I'm thinking at that moment.
I shut the door, go back to the bedroom. He calls in again, and now my patience is over. "Dad, I'm not tired! I'm not tired! I don't want to go to sleep." I go, "Okay, you don't want to go to sleep? Fine." I grab his pillow. We go into the living room. I throw his pillow on the couch. I turn on the lights. I go, "There. Sit there until you're tired."
Then I start walking back to my bedroom, and I hear his younger brother in the bedroom crying. I go in. I'm like, "Joshua, what's wrong with you?"
"I'm scared being in here alone."
"Oh, you're scared right now?"
"Yeah, I'm scared."
"Great." I turn on the lights. "Now you're not scared." I shut the door, go into the room.
By the grace of God in the midst of all that, my wife comes home from her meeting. She just sees the situation. She comes in to chaos, and she comes into the bedroom. She is just like, "I'll take care of this." I'm like, "Bless you. Thank you." I'll share the end of that story here in a moment, but let's just pretend it ended there.
Let's just pretend the prevailing ethic or what was being taught was what the Pharisees had been teaching: when you get angry, it just matters if you murder somebody. Imagine that whole night went down that way, and I meet with my Community Group the next morning. I just go, "Guys, I want to tell you about something that happened last night. I lost my cool. I lost my patience. I was harsh with the boys. I did some things that were just immature. I didn't love them well. I was not gentle."
If my Community Group believed what the Pharisees had been teaching, then the only question they would ask me that morning is they would say, "Well, did you murder them?" I'd say, "No, they're at home right now. They're eating cereal." They would go, "Great self-control. Good job! I wish I could be more like you" (or something like that).
It's foolish. What Jesus is doing is saying, "Hey, listen." This is where he is about to go on. He is telling us if we want to start to handle these relationships and these conflicts better, the first thing we need to do is we need to…
1._ Completely change our perspective on anger. We need to understand and remember the intent of the sixth commandment. It wasn't just about the physical act of murder. Look at where he goes on here in verse 22. He says, "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother…" So he moved from murder, and he let us know what the intent is right there using the word _anger.
He goes, "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment." So it's not just if you murder somebody you're going to be subject to judgment. There's something else that will cause you to be subject to judgment, and that something else is when you get angry with someone, when you start to pick up the rocks.
He goes on. "Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court." It's just a derogatory term you would say if you were frustrated with somebody. "And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell." Jesus is telling us here, "Listen. If you want to change your relationships, if you want to start to live in a different way with your relationships, if you want to keep short accounts, it's going to start by changing your perspective on anger."
Here's what we need to do. We've all seen this drawing. We probably saw it in elementary school, middle school, or high school. We've all seen this drawing. You can look at it. You look at it one way, and you see a young lady. You look at it another way. You see an old lady. What Jesus is telling us here is, "Hey, you've been looking at this same drawing this way, and you've been seeing the young lady. I need you to look at it now a different way and see the old lady in there."
Or if you've been seeing the old lady, "I need you to look at it a new way and see the young lady. You've been looking at anger this way, and you've only been wondering whether or not you murdered somebody. You need to look at it a completely different way. You need to change your perspective on anger."
Here's what he is saying. It is never, ever, ever acceptable for us to go around and start picking up rocks and carrying them around. That's never acceptable for us to do that, to just harbor this anger, this bitterness, and resentment. What we need to do when we start to pick those up is we have to deal with those.
Let me just remind you of a few things. We know when we start picking up those rocks. We know it! Every single one of us knows. You know you're carrying a rock with somebody when you're at a social situation… Say maybe you're at a party. You're at a party, and you're having a good time. You're talking with people. Everything is great. Pharrell Williams' "Happy" is playing. Then that person walks in. Record scratch. Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" is on.
Emotional change. Awkwardness. You just start looking at your phone. You're trying to figure out how you can get out of there. That's when you know you've been carrying some rocks with somebody. You know you've been carrying rocks with somebody when you start to hear things about this person. You start to hear their life isn't going very well. Maybe their relationships aren't going well. Maybe they broke up with somebody. Maybe their kids aren't doing well. Maybe their marriage is struggling.
Maybe they've been making some mistakes at work, and you hear things are not going well with them. On the surface, you're like, "Oh, really?" but inside you walk away, and you're like, "Yes!" That's when you know you're carrying a rock. You know you're carrying a rock when you are talking about this person and what they've done to hurt you, and you're telling it to everybody except that person. That's when you know you're carrying a rock.
For me, one of the ones I'm guilty of that lets me know I'm carrying a rock (maybe this is the same for you too) is I can do all those three things. One of the other things I do that always lets me know I'm carrying a rock is pretend conversations. You're in the shower, and you're thinking about that conversation. You have forgotten whether or not you washed your hair, so you washed it three times that morning because you never can remember, because you're so engaged in that conversation.
You're driving around, and you don't even know if you've made the right or left… You don't even know if you've stopped at stop signs because you are so engaged in this pretend conversation. The pretend conversation is always the same. It's always in public like at a food court, and you have this amazing moment of clarity. You say everything you want to say in such a way. It comes out perfectly, and the person who hurt you is devastated. They're crying. It always ends with them crying.
The families around you at the food court look over, and they're like, "You are right! You are right!" We know exactly when we're carrying the rocks around. What Jesus is telling us is that is anger, and it's unacceptable. If we want to start to live, reconcile relationships, and resolve our conflict, then we need to start by changing our perspective on anger. Then he moves on here, and he gives us two really helpful things we can do on how we can now start to resolve these. Look at where he keeps going here. Verse 23.
If you notice you get angry about somebody, if you want to say, "Raca!" to somebody, you want to call somebody a fool, here's what you do. "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." What Jesus is telling us right here is if we want to keep short accounts, not only do we have to change our perspective on anger but also we need to…
2._ Make reconciliation a priority_. We need to make reconciliation priority. What's really interesting to me here is what Jesus is saying. He is saying if you are about ready to come and worship God… That's what he is getting at here. If you're offering your gift at the altar, if you're getting ready to come and worship God and there at that moment before you're about ready to spend time worshiping God, at that moment if you realize somebody has something against you, he wants you to prioritize something over worshiping him.
He wants you to prioritize reconciliation. The second point we're going to make out of this is we need to treat reconciliation as a priority. Here's what this means. Some of you should probably not be here today. You came into this room today, and you know somebody has something against you. You wake up every day, and you think about it. You know somebody has something against you, or you know you're carrying rocks. You came into this room today trying to worship God. What Jesus would say is you shouldn't be here.
You need to prioritize seeking reconciliation. That's more important than coming in here and singing. Tomorrow some of you are going to wake up, and you're going to read God's Word. You're going to try to commune with God by getting into his Word and letting his Word pour into your life. What you need to do is you need to close your Bible. You need to make a phone call.
Tomorrow you're going to wake up, and you're going to try to commune with God through prayer. You're going to be talking to him, and you're going to remember that somebody has something against you. You're going to remember you're holding onto a rock, and you need to stop praying and send that email to start that conversation.
What we need to do is we need to make this a priority in our life. That's how we keep short accounts. We change that perspective. "Anger is not okay. It's not okay to carry these rocks." When the rocks do come into our life, we want to make it a priority to set them down, not drop them dramatically. We want to go and deal with it and set it down.
If you move on to Matthew, chapter 7, he gives even some more practical advice of, "Okay, you recognize somebody has something against you or you're carrying a rock. So now what do we do?" Now we want to go and try to engage in this conversation. What do we do? Look at this. It's immensely helpful what he says here. Matthew 7, verses 3 through 5:
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
If we're going to keep this a priority, if we are going to engage in these conversations, if we're going to try to set these rocks down and not drop them, then what we do is you go to the person, and you own your part. You own your part! You go, "I recognize I have a plank in my eye. There is something in my eye. Yes, they may have done something that hurts me, but I have contributed to this dysfunction right now. I am just going to own my part," which is so much easier said than done.
The reason why it is so much easier said than done for us is this. It's because of this thing called the error of attribution. This error of attribution is something every single one of us does. The error of attribution is this. If somebody else does something that hurts me, frustrates me, annoys me, or angers me, the error of attribution is I think I know exactly why they did it.
The reason why they did it is they're selfish. They're a sinner. They have a character defect and a flaw, and that's why they hurt me and annoy me. Here's a simple example. Let's say somebody shows up late consistently to appointments they have with you. The error of attribution is you blame their character. That's why they show up late.
"Well, they show up late all the time because they're selfish, and they think the world revolves around them. They think I'm here, and my time doesn't matter. That's the way they are with everything. They are so selfish that they never think about my time. That's exactly why they're showing up late to every appointment I have with them, because they are a selfish person with a character defect." That's the error of attribution.
The error of attribution plays both ways because now when we do something that frustrates, hurts, or angers somebody, what do we do? We don't blame our character; we blame the circumstances. We blame the environment. If we're the one who hurt somebody, if we're the one who shows up late to a meeting, it's not because we're selfish and have a character defect. It's because the fool in front of us was driving slowly.
"It's because that person took so long to make a left-hand turn. Then the elevator was full, and I had to sit there and wait for that elevator. Then when I got there, I had all these emails. Then three people interrupted me. Don't you understand? The reason I was late was because of these circumstances. The reason you're late is because you're a selfish sinner."
The error of attribution is something all of us struggle with. The error of attribution says this. If somebody does something that hurts you, it's because they're crazy. But if we do something to hurt or frustrate somebody, it's because they're crazy. Something that will completely change our relationships is this. It's if you and I just assume every time there's a conflict, we are at least 51 percent responsible. Just assume that.
If you just assume with every conflict you are at least 51 percent responsible, then that's going to change the way you are going to approach those conversations because you're not going to approach those conversations seeking to build a case against that person or reload some gun you're just going to fire at them. What you're going to do is you're going to face those situations, and you're going to start off going, "What did I do? How did I contribute to this?"
Then you go to the person, and you own 100 percent of your 51 percent. You go to the person, and you own 100 percent of your 40 percent or 100 percent of your 20 percent. Maybe it's one of those rare cases where you're only 2 percent responsible for that conflict. What you do is you start that conversation by owning 100 percent of your 2 percent.
When you do this, when you start to understand, "I contribute to the dysfunction that is present in my relationships," and you start taking the plank out of your eye, and you try to make reconciliation a priority, you're going to realize the relationships are starting to change. Here's what we all know is true as well. There is not much in life more frustrating than being in a relationship with somebody who will not admit they make any mistakes.
If you're in a relationship with somebody and they never own their part, that relationship has a lid on it. It can only go so far because two people who are in a relationship (two sinners in any relationship) are going to hurt each other. We are going to frustrate each other. There are going to be times where we anger one another.
If one of those parties will not admit when they make mistakes, will not admit when they have contributed to the dysfunction, then that just means the relationship is only going to go so far. There's a lid on it. There's not much more frustrating than that.
Here's the way that story with my kids and my wife wrapped up. It ended the way a lot of them by the grace of God have been ending lately. Jackie gets them to bed, brings peace back into the house. Praise God! She walks back into the bedroom. I just look at her immediately, and I just go, "I did it again. I did it again! We talk about this all the time." (My tone, my lack of gentleness, my harshness.) "I did it again. You walked into that chaos. You had to clean up my mess. Thank you. I am so sorry for doing that. Will you forgive me?" "Sure." Reconcile.
The boys made it to sleep. They wake up the next morning. I go see them. We have the exact same conversation. "Boys, you've seen me do it before. We talk about this. This is something I'm working on. You know this is an area where I need God to continue to take more control in my life. Last night I did not make good choices. I was harsh with you. I was not gentle with you. I was not compassionate with you. Will you forgive me?" "Yes."
You just go to somebody, and you just say, "Hey, in that conversation we had the other day, it seemed like something I said might have hurt you. Did it?" Or, "Hey, when we had this interaction, you said something to me. It's just been something that's been hanging around. I can't stop thinking about that. Will you help me understand what you really meant by that? Can you explain that more? Because if I did something that hurt you, I'd love the opportunity to clean it up."
Listen to this. When we engage in those conversations, what we need to do is we need to be specific. We don't say things like, "I maybe was harsh." You don't say things like, "Yeah, I guess I kind of was a little bit angry." You don't say things like, "I might have lost my temper a little bit there." Or, "Yeah, I probably could have handled that in another situation or a little bit better."
We've been in those conversations with people before, and they say that to us when they're trying to kind of own their stuff, but they're not really owning it because they're not being specific about what they did. It is frustrating, and it doesn't help.
If we want to keep short accounts, it starts with changing our perspective on anger. Then it goes to making reconciliation a priority. We do that by owning our part and engaging in those conversations. Let's look at how he wraps this section up because he gives us one more principle, one more step we can make or take. Verse 25:
"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."
What Jesus is saying here is you need to change your perspective on anger. You need to make reconciliation a priority. This third point I want to make out of this passage is this. What Jesus is telling us is we need to…
3._ Seek to resolve conflicts promptly_. He is saying settle those matters quickly with your adversary. Do that quickly. Paul picks up on this in Ephesians, chapter 4. Here's what he says as well. Ephesians 4:26 to 27. He says, "'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." What he is basically saying is when you're tempted to pick up a rock, do not pick it up. Seek to resolve that quickly because that anger is not okay. Seek to resolve that quickly. Seek to be prompt with all of that.
I want to illustrate a way we can remember this or think about this that's going to be helpful. It's in the form of a number. I want to give you all a number. I'm a numbers guy. I like numbers. I was a CPA for 10 years before I came on staff here at Watermark. If given the choice, I would choose to journal in Excel every day if I could. Just those columns and the rows are organized. I like it.
I'm a numbers guy. What I love about numbers, what I loved about them as an accountant, is numbers don't talk back to you. They just are. They are objective truth, all right? Your age is an objective number that tells you how long you have been on this earth. Your checking account balance is an objective number letting you know whether or not you can afford to go out to eat today after church. Your weight is an objective number letting you know if you can afford to go out to eat today, let you know if you've been eating at your casa or Taco Casa a little too much.
I love numbers because they're just objective, and they just tell us something. I want to introduce you all to a number that will help your relationships. It's a way we can apply what Jesus is teaching here. There's also this term that goes with it. The term is lag time, which is how long it takes you from the moment of conflict to the beginning of the reconciliation process.
That time between the moment of conflict to the beginning of the reconciliation process I like to call lag time. That's a number. That is an objective number that will let you know if you're keeping short accounts and if your relationship is healthy. I mean, to my shame, I would sit up here and tell you that 13 and a half years ago when I got married, my wife's and my lag time was terrible on most of our conflicts.
I mean, there would be times over and over again in those first couple of years of marriage where a fight, a conflict, would happen on a Friday night. We wouldn't resolve it until Monday evening, just lose the weekend. It was just gone. Just gone! I can tell you over 13 and a half years, one of the areas where we have seen God just take so much ground in our life, applying Jesus' words that I can sit up here and tell you, as our marriage has progressed, as we have gotten older, we've gotten more mature, that lag time just gets shorter and shorter and shorter.
It's a number we talk about because it gives us an objective picture of, "How are we doing in keeping short accounts?" That number is often hours. Sometimes it's minutes. Sometimes it's even just seconds after the conflict getting to the point where we're starting the reconciliation process. If we're growing in our maturity, if we're being controlled by the Spirit of God, then that lag time in our relationships will be as short as it possibly can be. That is seeking to resolve those conflicts promptly, to do that as quickly as we possibly can.
Now one question I'm sure some of you have right now is this. "Okay, Adam. Do I need to do this all the time? Am I just supposed to spend most of my time in my life just walking around just resolving conflicts all the time? Anytime anybody does anything that annoys me, angers me, or frustrates me, you tell me I have to have all of these conversations all the time? That sounds like it's going to be pretty inefficient. I don't know how I'm going to…I don't know…get work done. Do I need to have these conversations all the time?"
The quick answer to this is no. You do not have to do this all the time. Proverbs 19:11 tells us, "A person's wisdom yields patience; it is to one's glory to overlook an offense." There is a difference when somebody does something that angers you and when somebody does something that annoys you. Wisdom is having that discernment to know, "When have they angered me and I'm picking up a rock and when are they just annoying me right now?"
Here's the fact of the matter, guys. People are annoying. They drive slowly in the left-hand lane. They take pictures of their food and put it on Instagram. Men use emojis. We're all just annoying. Here's what we need to do. When people are just annoying, you forgive them. That's where we're just patient. You just forgive them. You overlook that offense when they're annoying.
How do you know the difference? If you've been around Watermark awhile, you know we talk about these four questions. Ken Sande is the author of a great book, a great resource, called The Peacemaker. It's a great contribution to the church about how to seek reconciliation. He has four questions in that book that are so helpful for us to try to discern whether or not this is something we need to go and talk about or if this is just something we need to forgive. Here are the four questions. I'll go through them quickly.
Is the conflict seriously dishonoring to God? If it's not seriously dishonoring to God, you probably just need to let it go.
Is it permanently damaging your relationship?
Is it hurting other people?
Is that behavior hurting the offender?
If you don't answer yes to any of those, if your answer to all of those is no, then you probably just need to let it go. Just let that roll off your back. Just let that be, "All right, that's just generally annoying. I can still be in a relationship with this person. We all have our things. I have my thing. You have your thing. That's fine. Let that one go."
If you answer yes to any of those, then you probably need to address it and engage in that conversation. Assume you're 51 percent responsible. Take the log out of your eye, and engage in those conversations. That's it. That's how we keep short accounts. We change our perspective on anger, we make reconciliation a priority, and we seek to resolve as promptly as we can.
Let me just end with one last story. Here at Watermark at the Dallas Campus on Saturday night, we do a four o'clock service. Last night I shared this same message here at the Dallas Campus at four o'clock. My wife and my boys were here. Jake and Joshua were here. They were sitting back there.
That story I told about Jake and Joshua a little bit earlier I didn't let Jake (my oldest) know I was sharing that story. When I tell stories about my kids, I usually ask their permission, especially the older one right now because he is just starting to connect the dots and be a little bit more sensitive to some of that stuff. I usually ask permission, and I completely forgot to ask permission to share that story last night.
When I told that story last night, there were a couple of more details I shared in there that were embarrassing to Jake. Afterward, we were done, and I am standing right down here. Jake, Jackie, and Joshua come running down. I'm having a conversation with somebody, and Jake knows the person I was having the conversation with. He went right up to those people, and he said, "Were you all laughing at me?"
They were kind of taken back. They were like, "Well, yeah, but no." I just pulled him aside really quickly, and I was like, "Are you embarrassed that I told that story?" He was like, "Yes!" I said, "You're right. I didn't tell you I was going to share that story. I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?" He was like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'll forgive you." He just kind of ran off with his brother.
I had an opportunity to go out to dinner with Jackie last night after the service. Jackie's mom was watching the boys, so we went to dinner. Jackie was telling me a little bit more about the way he was reacting up there when I told that story, and people were laughing. He was looking around and just going, "They're laughing at me. They're laughing at me!" I was heartbroken. It was like, "Ugh. I should've asked permission. I totally failed."
We sat there at dinner, and I just couldn't get over it. I tell Jackie, "Hey, I just want to let you know I have to go talk to him. I have to make sure he is okay. I have to make sure he is okay!" We ate dinner, and we were talking. Then we go home, and I bring him into the bedroom. I sit down, and I'm like, "Jake, you know tonight that story I shared?" He said, "Yeah." I said, "Again, I did not ask you permission to do that, and I think I hurt you with that. Did I hurt you?"
"Were you embarrassed?"
"I am so sorry I did that. Will you forgive me?"
"Yeah, Dad, I forgive you."
"Thank you. Do you know they weren't really laughing at you? They were laughing at me and my reaction."
"Yeah, yeah. I get that."
The conversation kept going, and I thought it was kind of funny because, like 8-year-olds often do, he was getting a little distracted by the end of that conversation. He was ready for this conversation to be over. I knew there was this other little detail I needed to share with him, and the other detail was oftentimes we'll take that four o'clock service, and we'll send it out to Plano and to Fort Worth. That's the service they watch, which had all the details he didn't want in there.
He is kind of distracted, and I'm like, "Jake, can I ask you one more question?" He was like, "Yeah. What?" I'm like, "Do you mind if that service goes out to the campuses?" He just was like distracted, distracted, and he goes, "What campuses?" I was like, "I think I got my answer. We would send that to Fort Worth and to Plano, and they'd watch it. Are you okay with that?" It was just, "No." I was like, "Okay." Fort Worth and Plano, that's why you're not watching that today. It's because of that. We just cleaned it up.
Here's why I end there. I cannot overemphasize just how different that is for me. Fifteen years ago, the conflict avoider in me, the person who loves the error of attribution in me, would have blamed him. I would have ignored that conversation. It would have been a rock. There's just no part of me that would have sat there at dinner just going, "I need to go reconcile. I need to go reconcile. I need to go reconcile."
I'm one of the biggest conflict avoiders I have ever met, and I just want to let you know that if Jesus and God can change my life in this and change my relationships in this, I am confident he can change anybody's life and anybody's relationship in this. What's amazing is God loves us so much, and sending Jesus to die for us on the cross does not just change our eternity. It radically transforms here and now with some very practical things like just our relationships with one another.
This is love watching people not just hold on to conflict or just go, "You do you, and I'll do me. Let's just all just kind of try to get along." No, what love is is when two people go, "Listen. We're hurting each other. We're frustrating each other. Let's sit down, and let's talk about it." When we take Jesus' words and when we do that, I'm telling you, the world takes notice. The world takes notice!
Here's the question. Who do you need to call? Who has God been bringing to your mind as you've been listening to this? To whom do you need to reach out? What email do you need to send? What coffee do you need to set up? What plane ticket do you need to book to go, to own your part, and to try to resolve those conflicts? It's work, but it's worth it. It's worth it! Let me pray for us.
God, we thank you for your Son Jesus. We thank you, God, that we can resolve our conflicts we have with one another. We thank you that your Spirit changes us, and there is grace and mercy, that we can admit, Lord, that we have planks that are in our eye. We can admit freely that we contribute to the dysfunction that's in our relationships.
God, what I pray for us now is I pray we will be courageous. We will not avoid the conflicts that are present in our lives, but we will be courageous. We will be humble, and we will change our perspective on anger. We will no longer be okay with carrying rocks around. We will prioritize seeking reconciliation. We will do it promptly, and we can enjoy that joy that comes when sinners reconcile. That's what we ask. May we continue to love one another that way, Lord, so the world will see, and we can point to you. We ask this in Jesus' name, amen.