So 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. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.Matthew 5:23-25
I find this command of Jesus to be very troubling to myself right now. As I put this article together, I remember a pastor I not only listened to every Sunday, writing down notes to better keep them in memory, as well as applying them to my personal life if and when they fit. But I also once looked up to this man and could see myself as someone he could mentor.
Unfortunately, after confronting some error within the church, later to apologize and explaining the need to recognize the issue as well as my plans to further my understanding of faith (if in fact I was wrong). This same minister showed true colors by creating false accusations about me only a few days later and when I attempted to confront that issue to him, he would never hear from me again.
We are coming up on a one-year “anniversary” since this incident, and within that year I have made 5 attempts to speak to him and still, the door is locked. All the while he continues to dress in righteousness, teaching a congregation of people how we must be forgiving yet unwilling to extend it to his own offenders. A pastor no less, one who is to be a representative of God to the people.
That is why I find this command to be troubling. Too often, generally speaking, we have people who talk about how forgiving we are to be, just how forgiving they them self are to others. Yet when it gets to the really hard moments, those moments you are involved with that very same person, you notice just how unforgiving they can be. Sometimes even formulating lies to throw you under the bus, knowing full well you have no possible way to defend your case. Sometimes, even while you make your attempts to resolve the issue, or to simply discuss it, you still remain in front of a locked door.
This is not at all what Jesus taught. Bottom line, from what I can see, not everybody is forgiven, yet, we must be willing to provide another with forgiveness.
Forgiveness is unconditionally available, but conditionally given.
This condition is repentance, the recognition of harm done and the desire to resolve it, no matter what or who is at fault. In Matthew 18 we see examples of what we are to do when we have sinned against another, as well as when they sin against us. If and whenever possible, regardless of who is to blame, we as Christians are to resolve the conflict.
I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.Matthew 18:22
This brings us to this passage. Here Jesus appears to be summarizing what we find in Matthew 18, yet from the viewpoint of one who is angry with their offender. The narrative is most likely taking place in temple worship. When we remember a sin we have committed, or a feud with someone that was left unresolved, we are to go to this brother (This suggests Jesus is explaining in terms of a fellow believer, though not limited to). Do whatever we possibly can to come to terms. The fact that Jesus is instructing us to “Leave the church and go” shows us how important it is to Him. Once we resolve this conflict, then come back and worship the Lord.
Now we have shared an example of a problem, as well as sharing how important it is that we resolve conflict. But we havent really covered why it is important.
God the Father is all seeing, nothing is hidden from His face. (Hebrews 4:13). So when we have an unresolved conflict, perhaps in this case something we ourself have not yet forgiven no matter how much we say we have. The fact is, if we don’t confront the issue, there has not been forgiveness given to that person. No matter what you tell yourself that you have forgiven them, that other person is still burdened and in pain by the very fact that you will not speak to them. This shows the hypocrisy that is in the human heart.
When we are in this situation, convincing ourselves that we have forgiven the person, yet the other part is clearly still coping, God sees both of this. And when we come to God to seek forgiveness for whatever sin we have commited against Him, while still being unforgiving to a brother, it is nothing but a hypocritial sham to the Lord. Much like the unforgiving slave in Matthew 18, the Lord sees us in that same light.
You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?Matthew 18:32-33
Is there someone right now you have conflict within your life? Someone who has yet to forgive you or resolve the issue? Perhaps you are the one that needs to be forgiving? Go now! Seek out your brother, and resolve the conflict with them. Then, you can go to the altar and present your gift to the Lord.