Every Thought Captive

The Language of Living

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. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

Matthew 5:23-26

I heard of a physician who suggested that there are four things to say to a dying person: “Thank you. I love you. Forgive me. I forgive you.” Why is it that words whispered near death feel so intimately alive? We are all terminal patients, and the language of reconciliation reaches out to the deepest human longing to be made well.

Drag a match scratching along a gritted strip; watch the spark flair and flame out a small, consuming charge; blow the burning stick out quickly in a harmless white puff or let it linger, flick it on fuel, and the fire blazes. Resentment rages in the mind and flows through the body: the heart races, constricted breath builds, the face knuckles down, and the mouth explodes murderous words. “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?” James asks. “Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1).

The language of death dominates our everyday discourse. I hear friends say, “You’re killin’ it,” as a commendation. Even peace is spoken in words of war: “Kill ‘em with kindness.” What must rage within the human soul to talk about life in terms of death? “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45 NIV). Who can give us a language worthy of living and free us from the dialectic of death?

If we take Jesus at His word, which I seriously do, then the command for reconciliation is not simply a rule to follow but is the language of living, the calling of new creation. Jesus commands what He gives through His calling:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself . . . (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).

Reconciliation does not pretend that everything is “OK,” that nothing wrong happened after all. “It’s fine,” we say. No. Reconciliation faces the full force of harm inflicted and overcomes resentment and violence with good (Romans 12:21). The cross definitively answers Cain’s old blood-stained cry, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9).

The question is will we learn to speak a language worthy of living? Will we listen to Jesus’ command, rightly shudder at its utter seriousness, and receive His blessing to become a human fully alive? Will we reach out to the world’s deepest longing with the language of reconciling love, a life-giving fire more fierce than death?

About the Author

Photograph of Brett Bradshaw

Brett Bradshaw

Director of Spiritual Formation

Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Brett Bradshaw serves as the Director of Christian Formation at Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas. Andrea is his wife whom he delights to love. Ellie, Emery, and Haven are his precious daughters, the little ones who are a daily glimpse of the Kingdom of God.