“…when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”Matthew 5:23-24
The life to which Jesus calls us is proactive, not reactive. In other words, a disciple of Jesus takes up his cross, offers the cup of cold water, sits with the suffering, works beside the weary, and gives hospitality to the lonely as a natural sharing of the Spirit of God to the world around.
A reactive life waits until Christmas to be generous, spurred by the bell ringer in front of the grocery store or the United Way campaign at his/her place of work. They don’t give primarily because of their love of Christ but because of some external pressure or influence to do so.
Jesus’ instruction to “first be reconciled” seems to assume that the person “leaving his gift” does so because of internal urging and not because someone said, “George is mad at you.” Sensitized by Jesus’ “Love one another,” there is nothing else to do but reach out to the wounded person.
There is also no assumption about who is in the wrong. Maybe it’s the wounded person; maybe it’s the worshiper. Jesus doesn’t seem to care about that. “There’s something negative between you and your brother or sister; go fix it,” he says.
I tend to think it is the worshiper that is guilty of the wrong. Perhaps she spoke sarcastically or he was abrupt or critical. He wasn’t paying attention when he said it and missed the tear, the silence, or the quick ending to the conversation.
Or maybe he didn’t miss the clue but instead said, “It’s no big deal; they just need to grow up.” The damage was done, and the Kingdom of God lost the good that might have been done through their friendship.
Jesus says to be reconciled – a word that means to restore a friendship. That is the only acceptable outcome, but it starts with the worshiper being alert and sensitive to the Other.
Prayer: Praise be to you our God and Father. Our first thought of you is humility and worship. We sometimes believe that worship can be offered outside of anything else in our lives. Including animosity with our friends and loved ones. Over a wound. Over a disagreement. Whatever. But Jesus told us that the first thing before worship should be reflection on our relationships here. Help us to be honest with ourselves and seek peace before we come to you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.