“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 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 5:21-26
Something I’m certain we’ve all experienced is conflict. Conflict can happen at any moment, over anything. It can appear justified by hurt feelings, differences of opinion, or just about any other thing we’re involved with. I’m also pretty certain we’ve all experienced conflict wounding, hopefully not physical, marking us and leaving dark shadows of fear within us. Conflict has been, and continues to be, unavoidable. There’s no way to escape it. Fortunately for Jesus followers, we’ve been given a means at conflict resolution that perhaps cuts across our culture’s grain.
In our passage, we find instructions to reconcile our differences, or conflicts, with each other before they get out of hand. Jesus says reconciliation should be accomplished before things progress to where it would be nearly impossible to experience. This is such wonderful advice, and it sounds very similar to what our parents tried to teach us, and, if we’re parents, we try to convey to our children. But there’s something deeper to learn here. Certainly, reconciliation is key to restoration in conflict. But, rather than someone outside our relational sphere settling our disputes, it’s ours to settle. To do this, however, requires something of a sacrifice from us. It requires a humble spirit.
Someone needs to approach those they’re in conflict with and seek restoration. Whether you were wronged, or they were, matters not. Moving towards someone with a humble and contrite spirit can be the Balm of Gilead to heal wounds inflicted by conflict (Jeremiah 8:22). Our passage indicates this reconciliation occurs before we worship. The offering of gifts at an altar was an act of worship during the time these words were spoken. While we don’t ‘offer gifts at an altar’ as such, we do worship God in a variety of ways. As you move towards God for worship, and you remember someone needing reconciliation, celebrate the words of Jesus and go to them! It’s very likely your worship will be sweeter and deeper once relational reconciliation is a reality!
By Rich Obrecht