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Matthew 5:25-26

Resolving Disputes

25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. 26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

How many disputes have you been engaged in over the course of your life? Did any of those or could any of those have ended in a legal suit? I am not asking in order to make you feel guilty, but to get you to see that what Jesus is saying to us in these verses applies to everyone.

We have all been caught up in some sort of disagreement. In our previous discussion we saw that personal conflicts render us unfit for worship and that we need to resolve as many of those as possible. In today's verses we are called upon to face the fact that there are other undesirable consequences to these unresolved conflicts. Once again, Jesus exposes our sins in order to lead us to the conclusion that we need a personal Savior.

"Agree with thine adversary quickly.." goes a step beyond the admonition in the previous verses where we were told to resolve differences with our brothers. Now we are told to literally "be at peace with your enemy" and to do it "quickly". A few verses later we will be told to "love" our enemies and to pray for them. The first step in this process must be the settling of differences.

The phrase, "whiles thou art in the way with him;.." highlights the urgency for resolving a matter. It implies that we are to make peace immediately, right when and where the disagreement first occurs. These things tend to escalate with time, they render us unfit for worship and they can have serious consequences. If you will pardon the use of a colloquial expression, we are told to "nip it in the bud."

The reasons for this are introduced by the word "lest" and have caused some confusion and debate among scholars. Some have reduced this to an allegory in which the judge is God and the judgment is such that we cannot pay except by eternal punishment. Others interpret it literally. I believe the literal interpretation must be understood, but that the allegorical is a possibility.

That we are to avoid going to court in any kind of civil or criminal action, is well established in scripture. Jesus will teach us in verse 40 of this chapter that, "... if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also." Obviously there is no need to go to court, if settlement is first made for double what the plaintiff is asking. It is, of course, a very difficult thing for us to accept and to apply in our own personal situations. I do not know of any Christians in the modern church who have obeyed this commandment. (I inviteyou to send me their stories, if you know of any.)

If our adversary turns out to be a brother in Christ, Paul has written a strong warning against law suits."Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?" (1 Corinthians 6:7)

Paul also used the phrase "go to law before the unjust" (6:1) to refer to the civil courts. The meaning is quite clear. We are not to voluntarily place ourselves into a position where we would be judged by a nonbeliever. We should not carry on a dispute until we are brought before a judge. God is our judge. The same Greek word is used to refer to Him as judge, and the O.T. word for God is "Elohim", meaning "judge or magistrate". To voluntarily allow someone other than God to judge us, is next to idolatry.

Jesus goes on to warn us what could happen if we come before a judge, particularly if he is a nonbeliever. He could rule against us and, in those days, imprison us until we have paid everything we have. We have no debtor's prison in the United States, but we could lose everything in a law suit. Such a judgment against us would show us, God's people, to be in the wrong.

But, 1 Peter warns us against suffering as evildoers. "If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters." (1 Peter 4:14-15)

I hope this has made it clear that being involved in personal disputes can seriously affect our relationship with God and our ability to represent Him honorably. These commandments to be at peace may be the most difficult to obey in all of the Bible, but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

Before The Throne:

Pray for the ability to make peace with all men and for the courage to follow the Bible's teachings when you find yourself in a dispute. You will need the conviction that God is in control of every situation, so ask God to increase your faith. Also ask Him to keep you out of situations that could dishonor His name. This is a lesson that most people would never understand without the help of the Holy Spirit. Thank Him for opening your eyes.

For Further Study:

** with. Gen 32:3-8, 13-22; Gen 33:3-11; 1Sam 25:17-35; Prov 6:1-5; Prov 25:8; Luke 12:58-59; Luke 14:31-32; ** whiles. Job 22:21; Ps 32:6; Isa 55:6-7; Luke 13:24-25; 2Cor 6:2; Heb 3:7, 13; Heb 12:17; ** and the. 1Kgs 22:26-27;

(v.26) ** Thou. Matt 18:34; Matt 25:41, 46; Luke 12:59; Luke 16:26; 2Thess 1:9; Jas 2:13;


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