Jesus goes on to describe how we, as his disciples are to settle our grievances with others without resort to courts. We are not to approach the holy while harboring anger toward another.
I always find this an amusing set of verses. Why? Because while America is widely considered one of the most religious of all nations, and certainly has its fair share of biblical literalists, we are also the most litigious of all nations. We sue for everything!
And Jesus clearly says we shouldn’t. Yet we do. We sue for harms done, and those imagined. We sue for something called “pain and suffering” often defined as mental anguish however one measures such things. A wife may sue a mistress for “alienation of affections” or for all that she would lose in the future in terms of wages for the tortious death of her beloved. Charts are created to approximate how much he likely would have made over his lifetime, and she can claim she’s entitled to have the money he “might have made.”
We sue for not having a coffee container warm us that the contents might be hot. We sue in other words for service companies not being mindful of our own thoughtlessness.
Yet Jesus said we should not do this.
I have never read the above passage to mean that failing to be perfectly virtuous meant that one was denied “heaven” in the afterlife. I don’t think Jesus spent a lot of time talking or teaching about any afterlife at all. No, I think Jesus was talking about our life here and now.
He was saying we can never hope to live in knowing unity with God when we are filled with anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, and all those things that cause us to file law suits. When we are in such states, we are by definition, locked in our ego selves, unable to connect with the “I” of Spirit.
That is where, I believe, the kingdom of heaven resides. It is within ourselves, accessible when we come to God with a right heart, in love, compassion, humility. That allows us to unlock the door of our true essence and rush into the arms of a waiting God.
When enveloped by all the negative emotions humanity is so prone to, we are forever trying a key in the lock that will not turn.
Our virtue must be deep. Jesus was willing to die to help us to see that. Can we be willing to at least try to follow him? Afterall, to gain a kingdom, giving up our petty emotional limitations seems a small thing doesn’t it?