The other night, I had the privilege of participating in a small group discussion of Matthew 5 and I wanted to share a few things I learned.
The specific Scripture passage was Matt. 5:23-26. I’d like to break the passage in half and look at verses 23-25a today.
“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. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court.”
At the beginning of the passage, we can see clearly that holding a grudge against our neighbor hinders our relationship with the Lord. We are told to not even present an offering before Him if we are in the midst of conflict with another person.
Whenever I am refusing to forgive someone, that is typically a sign of pride in my life. It’s evidence that I think I’m better than the other person. “How could they do that to me?” “I would never do anything like that.” And so on. It’s pretty hard to stay mad at someone after I’ve accepted that we’re all on an even playing field.
Pride and unforgiveness are sins, and sin separates me from God (Is. 59:2). Because God commands me to love and forgiveness, I have to willfully choose myself over God in order to hang on to my right to be angry and/or hurt.
When I do that, I’m not walking fully with the Lord. There is a rift in the relationship and it taints all the ‘offerings’ I want to present before the Lord.
This command can provide an ideal stall-tactic if I let it. The idea that I have to make things right with my brother/sister before offering gifts to God can easily be twisted into the idea that I have to calm down and come to grips with that person’s actions before moving on. And that can take a while.
But the very next verse warns us to ‘settle matters quickly.’ There’s a very specific time frame. I do not have permission to dawdle here; I am called to get a move on and speed towards reconciliation. I know that can be hard sometimes. After all, time is a great healer and it often behooves one to take a ‘time out’ and cool down.
I do not, however, have license to shelve the problem and worry about it ‘tomorrow.’ Eph. 4:26 warns me not to let the sun go down on my anger.
Besides, if that anger is keeping me out of the presence of the Lord, then I should want to get rid of it as soon as possible.
A final note on these verses: I think sometimes we can get too caught up with our gifts and forget what’s really important. I often stride proudly to the alter with my blog post, church attendance, Scripture memorization, tithe check, etc. But that’s not where God’s heart is.
He values the people. Loving others, as He loves me, that’s the real gift.
If I don’t have love, I am nothing. (1Cor.13:2)