By: Joe Stowell, Strength For The Journey.com
“First, go and be reconciled to your brother.” Matthew 5:24
The Last Supper, painted by Leonardo da Vinci, is one of the great Renaissance masterpieces. It took da Vinci 3 years to complete, and during this time in frustration his temper flared, and he lashed out with bitter words to a man who had deeply offended him. When he tried to resume his work, it was time to paint the face of Jesus, but he was so bothered by the situation that he couldn’t continue. So, he went to look for the man and ask his forgiveness. It was only after he was right with God and his friend that he felt the freedom to continue his work and paint the face of Jesus.
This legend makes an important point: our relationships with other people affect our relationship with God. That’s why Jesus said, “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there . . . . First go and be reconciled to your brother” (Matthew 5:23-24). So how do we handle the “creative differences”—or any conflict for that matter—with the people in our lives?
In Matthew 5:1-48, Jesus gave us a palette of instructions on how to craft our relationships into masterpieces. He wants us to avoid interactions that will lead to sin and to be sure that our attitude is right toward others. His advice for resolving our differences came down to a handful of key thoughts: settle disagreements quickly, keep your promises, and turn the other cheek.
First, don’t let the paint dry—address relational problems before mistakes become permanent. Jesus talked specifically about this in relation to going to court. In Matthew 5:25, He said, “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court.” If you are guilty of offending Bob, and he serves you with papers, give him back his easel and throw in some paintbrushes for good measure. Jesus said that if someone wants to sue you and take your shirt, give him your coat as well.
Second, don’t let colors clash. When you disagree with someone, you have two choices: either stand and fight or, as Christ suggested, turn the other cheek. While it’s normal to want revenge when we are wronged, a Christian would rather be slapped twice than to repay the evil by whacking the person back. In Matthew 5:41, Jesus said, “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” While this response may seem lopsided, the alternative would involve sin on our part, and would just deepen the hostilities.
Finally, when striving to paint a picture of peace, apply the finishing touch—finish strong and finish what you start. This means following through with commitments and keeping your promises. To Christians, a promise has meaning because it carries the weight of our integrity. Matthew 5:33says, “Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.”
One interesting fact about The Last Supper is that da Vinci created all angles and lighting in the painting to draw attention to Christ. It’s kind of the same way with our relationships—at any angle or in any light, they should all point to Christ.
Peace in a Day of Trouble
May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high! — Psalm 20:1 NASB
Unemployment, wars, terrorism, natural disasters, leaders’ poor decisions — times are hard.
But as our older relatives will tell us, hard times are nothing new. Flip through old family photo albums or history books, and see how difficult life was. Against the background of diseases, droughts, and financial depression, we see men and women of deep and abiding faith.
Turn in the Bible to the book of Psalms. There we hear the cries of God’s people in times of trouble. We also hear echoes of our own frustration, our own fears, and our pleas for help from the only One who understands, the One who can best respond.
When the troubles of this world crash in around you, flip through the pages of that photo album to gain some perspective. Then open the Psalms and find words of encouragement and peace for your weary soul. God is faithful, He understands, and He hears your prayers.
God, thank You for believers in ages past who struggled in times of trouble yet held fast to their faith. Help me to be able to hold fast to my faith. Amen.
When a Bucket’s Not Enough
I leave you peace; My peace I give you. I do not give it to you as the world does. So don’t let your hearts be troubled or afraid. — John 14:27 NCV
Imagine being in the middle of a lake. The boat you’re sitting in has sprung a leak. The lake is deep, the shore is distant, and your boat is filling fast. You know what it feels like to be “troubled or afraid”!
What you need is a bucket to bail the water out — or do you? A bucket will only do so much. Sooner or later the water will come in faster than you can bail it out. You realize that if you want to stay afloat, you need to fix the hole in your boat.
When life is difficult, much is out of our control, and we feel ourselves sinking, we need to recognize that we aren’t able to bail ourselves out. We won’t find peace, much less our way back to shore, on our own. We need to fix the problem at its source—and only Jesus can do that. The peace as well as the guidance and help He offers will keep us afloat.
So the next time you reach for a bucket, consider reaching out for Jesus instead.
PEACE THROUGH CHRIST
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
We all want peace.
We want peace in the world, and sometimes we fight for it.
We want peace in our countries, so we vote for the person we think will do the best.
We want peace with our friends, so we do what we can to not offend them.
We want peace in our family, so we work hard to provide for their needs.
Lastly, we want peace in ourselves, so we compare ourselves to others and say we are much happier with what we have.
People spend their whole lives working for peace. Unfortunately, true peace is not something that can be achieved, it can only be received.
True peace can only come from God (John 14:27). This peace doesn’t affect our surroundings, it affects our inner souls. Paul says that it will go deep into our hearts and minds.
It isn’t something that can be explained in a self help book or with a few simple steps, it is only something that can be received from God.
Ironically he brought us peace through an act that was not peaceful at all, the death of His son (Romans 5:9).
As a follower of Jesus, we should be the ones looked to when others need peace. Not because our surroundings are peaceful, but because our hearts and minds are at peace with God through the death of Christ on the cross.
We know that our treasure is in heaven and we will one day reign with the one true Peace Maker.