Conflicts and wounded relationships are never fun. They gnaw at us and eat away our peace. These conflicts are like eating a super-hot pepper which taints all the good that follows. These wounds can even affect our praise and worship of God. Jesus says, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” (Matthew 5:23–24, NASB95)
Welcome to our Jesus Says series. A fourteen-week look at twenty-eight commands of Jesus found in the Gospels. Previous entries of this series are on our website. Today’s Jesus Says is be reconciled.
There are two “twists” in Jesus command. The first is the specific order of the actions. Their order shows how important our relationships with each other are to God. The picture Jesus paints is someone bringing an offering, in that day it would have been grains or a live animal. Our offering today may be our time and finances. Somewhere between entering the Temple courtyard and the actual sacrifice, there is a lightning-bolt of remembrance. The first twist is that Jesus didn’t say to finish our worship and then find our brother. No, it was leave worship undone (breaking who knows how many social norms of the day) find your brother and restore the relationship. Then come back and complete worship.
The second twist is specific to the conflict – if you know that your brother has something against you. We often view conflict by our wounds; seeing things from our point of view. But Jesus is asking us to consider the wounds we may have caused others. This is much harder. We may consider ourselves to be in the right. Or that the other person is being too sensitive. Or perhaps we feel they deserved it. But Jesus didn’t give us any wiggle room. If someone has something against us and we know it, then we need to do something about it.
We often come to worship and prayer as the aggrieved party. The wounded one seeking aid, comfort, and healing. And we should. But we must also remember that our sins grieve the Holy Spirit. Part of worship is restoring that connection with God and keeping our relationship in the right order (God’s God, I’m His creation). This requires looking at ourselves from another’s point of view. Not only seeing where and how we are broken but how our words and actions may have wounded others, including God.
How can we be reconciled? The first way is trying to avoid needing reconciliation. Paul wrote, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Romans 12:17–18, NASB95) The second way is to deal with the little things before they become a large pile. Small cuts and wounds may seem inconsequential at the time but can add up like the proverbial straw of camel fame. The third way is to humble ourselves by being willing to be wrong. Our pride will block reconciliation and peace. The fourth way is to walk in forgiveness even if the other person isn’t ready for it yet. In all of these, there is a greater truth.
That greater truth is communication. Reconciliation, peace, and forgiveness can’t happen unless there is communication. We have to listen to one another and talk with one another. So often we make things right with God but never make things right with the others in our lives. We enjoy the release of God’s forgiveness but never release our own captives. This is the way of Cain, not of Christ. God made the first step towards us and initiated reconciliation through Christ. We may also need to initiate the conversation instead of waiting for the other person to say something. Reconciliation always begins with one side stepping towards another instead of stepping away.
Jesus says be reconciled.