‘And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.’
In many Bibles, this short section carries the heading “Settling With An Opponent”; however, sectioning it off can detract from the larger context of Jesus’ teaching about the coming Kingdom, which we have read though in recent days.
Jesus’ words here recognise that there are disagreements between people, and He exhorts us to resolve matters before they become too serious. One way I have always found helpful to understand this passage is that we should keep ‘short accounts’ with one another.
If we allow our disagreements with others to fester within us, they will begin to consume us; and, in the context of the greater theme of Luke’s discourse here, we will lose sight of the coming Kingdom.
As the winter ends, we may have had the experience of building a snow-person. We roll a ball of snow, and as it rolls it picks up more snow and grows, but it also picks up bits of stone, twigs and leaves. Those bits are like our small disagreements which we need to stop and deal with as they arise.
Jesus’ advice to resolve matters sooner is sound. His warning to avoid going to court is wise! As a magistrate, I have had the experience of hearing many cases where a dispute has gone badly wrong. Neighbours or (ex-)friends/lovers, where a small matter – usually, possessions or bad parking – has ‘snowballed’ and ended in harassment, damage and even physical violence.
Trying to keep ‘short accounts’ and stop things ‘snowballing’ does require both sides’ co-operation. Yet, Christ’s call to us is: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
The late Brother Roger of Taizé wrote: “Reconciliation is a springtime of the heart. Yes, to become reconciled without delay leads to an amazing discovery that our own hearts are changed by it.”
Christ, Saviour of every life, You come to us always. Welcoming You in the peace of our nights, In the silence of our days, In the beauty of creation, In the hours of intense inner struggle, Welcoming You means knowing that You will be with us in every situation, always. Amen.
(Prayer by Brother Roger of Taizé)
Walt Johnson, Elder; Wilbraham St Ninian’s, Chorlton, Manchester.