Matthew 5:23-24 (English Standard Version)
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.
The wording of this passage has always intrigued me. I somehow expect Jesus to say, “If you remember that you have something against your brother, go and be reconciled.” Well, okay, that makes sense. God wants us to be forgiving.
Instead, Jesus requires something more difficult: “If someone has something against you, then you go and make it right. Then come back and worship God.” What does Jesus mean? How can we make others give up their grudges against us and desire reconciliation?
Like other teachings from the Sermon on the Mount, this lesson is about living righteously. Jesus implies that the gift God wants from us is not a ritual offering but a true and real sacrifice of the heart.
What, then, do I sacrifice when I approach a hostile friend or relative and ask to make peace? I suggest here a few possible “costs”:
- Pride – I humble myself by “blinking first,” that is, by breaking through the standoff and asking my brother to reestablish a connection with me.
- Viewpoint – I give up my self-serving interpretation of the facts and try to see things from his point of view.
- Victimhood – I forego the sympathy of others who acknowledge how I have been mistreated or misunderstood.
- Expectations – I abandon the idea that my brother needs to shape up before we can be reconciled.
- Self-Righteousness – I reexamine my part in the conflict and admit my own wrongdoing and need for my brother’s forgiveness.
- Rights – I lay aside my right to an apology or explanation for my brother’s actions and attitudes.
- Independence – I acknowledge my need for relationship and my sorrow over the rift.
- Bitterness – I notice if my anger or hurt has built a stubborn wall of resentment that needs to come down.
- Bias – I try to see my brother’s whole personality instead of only the angry side that is accusing me.
- Defensiveness – I lay down my defenses and offer compassion instead of criticism.
Of course, I cannot control my brother’s response to my peacemaking efforts. But God counts me righteous if I make the sacrifices listed above with pure motives and leave the door open to reconciliation. My brother can only decide for himself whether he will step through it.
FATHER, I thank you for building into our minds and hearts the deep and passionate need for relationships. Because you are loving and merciful, how it must grieve you to see your children quarrel and hurt each other. Give me a heart that understands; help me to see my relationships from my brother or sister’s point of view. Forgive me for the times I have worshipped you while part of me was brooding over an injury or justifying a self-serving opinion.
Psalm 51:16-17; Exodus 23:4-5
How does reconciling with an angry brother or sister better prepare you to worship God?