“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 5:33 says, “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.
- Are you in the middle of some “creative differences” with anyone you know? How should you respond, based on Jesus’ instructions?
- Read the entire chapter of Matthew 5:1-48. In your journal, break the chapter into smaller parts and write a heading for each. Take some time to study each section—record your observations.
- Reflect on the life of Christ. How did Jesus live out the instructions He gave us? Were His interactions with the disciples, the Pharisees, and the government consistent with what He taught?