Monday, January 26, 2009
Current Study: Reconciliation
Today’s Topic: The Responsibility for Reconciliation
Today’s Scripture: Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
I have no idea what started the fight. In fact, there had been a series of fights. One day we went to our bedroom, locked the door, and began slugging it out. I had thrown him on the bed and was in the middle of a flying leap from my bed to his when his feet came up into my midsection. He flipped me right over his head. The problem was that the bed was next to the wall, and my head went through the sheetrock. I missed going through the second story window by just inches. The fight stopped for a while as we developed a plan to cover the hole. But it wasn’t over. Days later I attacked him with some horrible words, and as he tried to punch me I ran from the house. He locked the doors. I found an open window. He closed the window on me while I was halfway through and began pounding on my back. I soon discovered that I was never going to be able to best my brother at anything – until I discovered golf.
So what do you think? Based on the facts of the story as told above, which one of us had the responsibility to go to the other and seek reconciliation? I’ll wait a moment while you review the case and try to decide which of us was to blame…… OK, enough time. I need to tell you that this was a trick. While the story is true in every detail, it’s a trick because in God’s eyes responsibility for reconciliation has nothing to do with who’s to blame. If it did, we would never be able to be saved and reconciled to God because in our sin we would never seek the One who is sinless. God’s model of reconciliation is for the One in the right to seek out the one in the wrong. Time spent determining blame is wasted time that prolongs the pain of separation.
Look closely at today’s Scripture verses. Do you see any mention of blame? I don’t. I see a person who knows that there is a problem between himself and a brother, but we have no indication of who was at fault. All we see is that any attempt to declare yourself right with God in worship is invalid if we are not right with one another.
If we look at the context of these words of Jesus, we see something very important. They are taken from what we now call the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus is teaching the people that there is a higher standard than the law by which we are to live. His first illustration of this is with the commandment “Do not murder.” Everyone listening to him agreed that this was the law. But Jesus carries the law to its fullest meaning when He says, “…anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” It is at this point that Jesus says “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
Now it gets really interesting. Follow the logic of Jesus here. He says murder makes us subject to judgment. He then says that anger expressed in sinful behavior to another person makes us subject to the same judgment. Then He says – ooh, this is so good – that if you know that your brother feels this way towards you – that he has something against you that is causing him to act sinfully towards you, that you are responsible to go to him and make it right before you come and worship God as if nothing was wrong. It is arrogant to come before God and worship when we know that someone else is in danger of God’s judgment because of how they feel about us. If we are to blame for their feelings it is even more prideful. But even if we are able to justify ourselves before God, Jesus says that until we are right with one another God does not want our offerings of worship.
There is yet another lesson in this we need to see. We are told to “go and be reconciled to your brother.” Notice that it clearly does not say to go and attempt to be reconciled. We are not let off the hook just because we claim to have tried our best. That may apply to a person who does not know Jesus Christ and is not our brother, but it doesn’t apply to brothers in Christ. There is never to be an unreconciled relationship in the body of Christ. Sound idealistic? Yes, but maybe that’s because we haven’t really taken the words of Jesus seriously enough. Maybe it’s because we are still participating in the blame game. Maybe it’s because we believe Jesus excuses our human weakness and doesn’t really expect His words to be considered as absolute truth. Maybe it’s because we just don’t want to try. Whatever the reason, I believe Jesus intends for His body, the church, to be the living example of people who are reconciled to God by modeling true reconciliation with each other.
I can’t tell you when it happened, or even how it happened, but one day I received a phone call from my brother that proved it had happened. I was finishing my first year of college and he was preparing to graduate from high school. He called to ask if he could be my roommate in the dorm for the next year. We were reconciled. I wish I could tell you the exact steps we took to get that way, but I can’t. But I can tell you about forgiveness, and I’ll do that tomorrow. For today, take a fresh look at your broken relationships. Eliminate the need to place blame. Initiate contact. Go and be reconciled. It is your responsibility before God.