“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
How many of us will go deep and obey this radical commandment of Jesus Christ today? This is, unless I am mistaken, the only time in Scripture where we are commanded not to worship, pray or bring offerings to God. What is the context for such a strong prohibition from Christ? The issue of unresolved conflict, bitterness and unforgiveness between ourselves and another person. The Son of God says, in effect, “Do not come to the activity of worship without bringing your whole heart. Do not pretend that you can bring your whole heart when I see that a portion of it is black with unforgiveness.”
So what do we do then? Look at the verbs that the Lord uses here:
- “remember” – God graciously brings to mind the person and the issue that He wants you to address
- “leave” – this is not so much about avoiding a location as it is about not feigning worship. Stop pretending that you can experience true, approvable worship of God when you have bitterness in your heart towards another whom He loves
- “go” – the call of God is upon you to take the initiative to make things right with the one that has offended you or who has been offended by you
- “be reconciled” – you must take every effort to do what is needed to remove this barrier between you and the other person. God will graciously accompany you in the process and give you courage to do what is right in His sight
- “then come” – now that you have endeavored to make things right, no matter how the other person has responded to you, you have a full invitation to engage in free and approvable worship of your Lord. He welcomes you!
- “offer your gift” – even more so, now, you have clear reason to worship. God has not only made you right with Himself through the offer of Christ but has also strengthened you to trust Him in making things right with your fellow man. He has deepened your understanding that your faith has both a vertical and horizontal component. He has purified your life by calling you to the difficult task of working toward healthy and righteous relationships with others. He is worthy of your worship – give it to Him!
I wonder how rich and vibrant our gatherings at our churches would be if all of us were to obey this command of Christ? Pastors and parishoners, moms and missionaries, dads and deacons…if each of us were to lay aside the grudges we carry I am convinced that we would experience greater moves of God the Spirit in our lives and churches. Search your heart today and before you back out of your driveway for church, bend your knees before the Lord. Before you offer a song to Jesus, make a call to the one with whom you are angry. Before you lift your hands in praise, let those hands be cleansed by regarding what your Savior has said above.
Then bring Him your heart-filled praise and worship.
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