Resolving conflict and bringing peace into our relationships has been my theme this year. For this post we will turn to the subject of reconciliation, as we look again at Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.
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
When I first read these verses, I was surprised that Jesus said to leave your gift before the altar and not offer it until you have reconciled with the one who has something against you. Thinking we are to honor God above all, to leave an act of worship incomplete seemed strange, almost dishonoring to God. In my mind, I should finish what I have started, finish offering God the gift and then go and be reconciled. So does this command to stop and go, mean that to truly worship God, I need to have a clear conscience before Him? Is it not enough to confess my sins to Him…do I also have to do all I can to right my wrongs and bring peace in my relationships?
According to a dictionary the English word reconcile comes from the Latin re, again, conciliare, to unite….to be reconciled is to be reunited. Jesus does not say, “Go and say I am sorry”. We are often taught as children to say we are sorry (even if we really aren’t). Asking for forgiveness is a starting point for reconciliation, but it may take work on our part for the other person to change his/her mind in regard to what they have against us. In fact depending on how we have wronged the person or how long it has been going on, restoring the relationship may take much time and effort.
I can’t help but think of Zacchaeus. You may remember him from the children’s song about a “wee little man” who climbed up in a sycamore tree in an effort to see Jesus. As a result of his faith he promised to go back to people who had something against him and say “I am so sorry I cheated you”. No, he pledged to make right by giving back four times as much.
Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” Luke 19:8
Of course there is also the possibility that you may feel you are not the only one at fault in this conflict. Does that change how you handle it? Does God let us “off the hook” if both parties are at fault in a conflict?
No…not at all. In fact God commands us to love, pray, do good and bless our enemies (Luke 6:27-28). We are to treat those we have something against like we would want to be treated (Luke 6:31).
Why…does God ask us to ask to reconcile when someone has something against us? Why are we to show kindness to others that we may see as undeserving? We are to do this because God shows us love (Ephesians 2:4-5) and we are to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1).
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Luke 6:35