Jesus taught in His great Sermon on the Mount that kingdom people live by a moral code that far exceeds mere formal adherence to the law. Christ’s disciples obey their King because they are committed and loyal to Him—the One who has conquered their whole hearts. True kingdom servants seek to follow God’s instruction to its deepest heart application. They don’t merely satisfy the bare minimum requirement. This principle prompted Jesus to say, “Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison” (Matthew 5:25, NKJV).
In context, Jesus is focused on the topics of hatred and anger: “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell” (Matthew 5:21–22, NLT).
“You shall not murder” was the letter of the law (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17). But Jesus dug down to the heart matter of the command, which was hatred. Members of God’s kingdom must do away with all hatred and anger (Leviticus 19:17; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8). Jesus set forth the example of a believer needing to reconcile with another believer: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23–24, ESV).
Jesus insisted that we not allow quarrels and resentments to rankle but get right with our brothers and sisters in Christ as soon as we become aware of an issue. We cannot expect to please the Lord in worship while bitterness and anger are left to fester in our hearts. Appropriate, God-honoring worship involves the speedy giving and receiving of forgiveness and reconciliation of broken relationships (Mark 6:15; 11:25).
The second example Jesus gave was of two feuding people about to appear before a judge in court to settle a disagreement. To “agree with your adversary quickly” is to “settle your differences quickly” (NLT). Jesus urged His followers to settle matters face to face, sooner rather than later, before ever getting to court. The longer we wait to come to terms with an antagonist, the worse the outcome will be for us.
The emphasis of Jesus’ sermon was to teach the principles of kingdom living. Christ came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it—to accomplish its purpose (Matthew 5:17–19). Jesus fulfilled the law and its requirements by providing for His followers a righteousness that “is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees” (Matthew 5:20). Christ’s righteous fulfillment of the law, followed by His death on the cross, would allow His followers to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Kingdom people seek to demonstrate the same kind of mercy and grace that is shown to them by their King. To reject the righteousness of Christ is to face judgment and the “danger of the fires of hell” (Matthew 5:22).
As kingdom seekers, we must be willing to agree with our adversary quickly—to let go of our pride and any other self-righteous, pharisaic attitudes. We must be willing to concede, forfeit our entitlements, and settle our disputes quietly and peacefully. A little later in His sermon, Jesus advised, “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well” (Matthew 5:40).
We may be right in the eyes of the law; we may have the upper hand legally; we may be sure to win our case in court, but God might be calling us to drop our case for the sake of His kingdom. If we try to hang on to our life, Jesus said we will lose it. But if we offer it up for His sake, we will find it (Matthew 16:25). We gain nothing if, in the process of fighting for our rights, we lose our soul (Matthew 16:26).