January 13 I Sunday
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” —Matthew 5:23-24
Reconciliation can seem a difficult virtue of the Christian life. Sometimes we have been so deeply hurt by another that seeking reconciliation can seem unthinkable. But Jesus places great importance on reconciliation, saying that even if we are in the middle of worshipping and realize there is unresolved anger between us and another, we are to drop everything and deal with it. This is because reconciliation is not just about our relationships with others but also our relationship with God. As John writes, “For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20).
Jesus outlines how we should go about reconciling with others in Matthew 18. The simplest stage, though probably the most difficult, is the first one. We are to begin by dealing with the issue “just between the two of you” (Matthew 18:15). This is not about winning an argument. Few enjoy confrontation, but persevering in reconciliation is actually a kindness, for it is seeking restoration between us and our brother or sister.
Should this not resolve the issue, Jesus says to “take one or two others along” (Matthew 18:16). These objective observers will be able to reinforce if wrong has taken place or to point out if the conflict has been exaggerated. If this does not work, we are then to bring the situation before church leadership. The church is more than just a place of worship but is a community where we help each other grow in effectiveness, including through correction.
If all else fails, the last stage is to treat those with unresolved anger “...as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17). This does not mean have nothing more to do with them but treat them as someone outside the church who needs to be brought to repentance towards God. This will take a work of God, but in the meantime, we continue to love and seek reconciliation with them as we would any other.
Reconciliation is no easy matter. Those leaving their gifts at the altar sometimes had to travel hundreds of miles to reconcile with a brother or sister. We have the luxury of instant communication, but the challenge remains in the doing. Some of us need to take that first step of offering an apology, confessing sin, extending forgiveness or seeking to make amends. It will take courage to move past the hurt, but removing that blockage of unforgiveness will yield great blessing in our lives, healing in our interpersonal relationships and depth in our relationship with God.
Prayer: Gracious God, thank You that as I have been reconciled to You, You enable me to reconcile with others. Reveal where there is unresolved anger in my relationships and grant me the courage to address it.