March 16, 2012: The Twenty-First Day of Lent*
March 16, 2012 § Leave a comment
“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.”
~ Matthew 5.23, 24 ~
Christ has just illustrated for his audience that under the old Law, the act of murder was subject to punishment. However, in the Law of the Kingdom, even insults and anger have no place. Christ is not just concerned with evil actions; he takes issue with “harmless” actions and negative emotions as well. The Kingdom of Heaven operates by different rules.
As a result of this understanding, Christ gives a practical application. The main concern with the Law of the Kingdom is proper relationship with God and each other. Jesus again demonstrates the importance of this by making a connection between the health of one’s relationship with God and the health of one’s relationship with others. In the Hebrew Law, sacrifices occupied a central role. If someone had broken the Law in some way, a sacrifice restored that person to proper standing within the eyes of the Law and God. Christ says that even in this holy act of sacrifice, if you remember that someone has a grievance against you – leave the sacrifice and settle the issue! God desires reconciliation with each other so much that it is worth disrupting a sacrifice ceremony for.
God desires that we live in proper relationship with him, yes. But he also desires that we live in proper relationship with each other. We cannot focus solely on our relationship with God and expect that because we do so, that God will work out the rest of the details with our insensitivities and shortcomings with each other. God will give us grace to be reconciled with our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, friends, and neighbors, but we cannot bury our heads in the sand and expect him to do all the work. The business of reconciliation means that we must leave our comfort zone, admit our faults, and be willing to make amends. This is difficult business, but this is heavenly business.
How is God calling us to reconciliation? To leave behind our feelings of anger, bitterness, and resentment? To abandon our speech of harsh words that cut others down? We can rest assured – he leads us to this point, and so he will give us grace to follow through. Blessed are the poor in spirit… Blessed are the peacemakers.
Lord Christ, I confess that I have tried to ignore the ways in which I still hold grudges and justify my continued anger. These are not the ways of your Kingdom. Please help me to see the necessity of repairing relationships. Help me put my pride aside and be willing to resolve conflict. Amen.
*Oops! The forty day count for Lent does not include Sundays in the Western Church tradition. I have accidentally been counting Sundays; my apologies!