"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 your brother (or sister); then come and offer your gift." - Matthew 5:23-24
I am a firm believer that one of the greatest indicators of our relationship with God is measured in how we relate to one another. It seems only natural that the grace given to us freely by God should flow through us and be shared with all those we are in contact with. This simple truth has helped me to see others as God sees them - beloved, sacred, and worthwhile. Of course, I have my moments (I know, big surprise!) where I see someone as less than sacred, and less than "deserving" of the grace that I certainly deserve (an obvious sign that I need a double-dose of humble pie!). The fact of the matter is that human relationships are complex, and sometimes downright dirty.
Jesus knew what it was like to be tempted. As a matter of fact, he was led into the wilderness so that he could be tempted! I think Jesus knows a bit about what it means to be human. Jesus also knows what it means to be holy and what it means to live a life of grace and mercy. As one who believes in the power of prayer to bring healing, restoration, and transformation, I also understand the reality of a sin-saturated world that places blocks to these ways of wholeness. Sometimes these blocks are caused by forces outside our control, but many times I have found that these blocks are self-imposed. Attitudes of bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, or revenge top the list of "wholeness-blockers". Just as an untreated wound would begin to fester and become infected if not properly treated, our spiritual wounds and brokenness become more susceptible to infection by sin as the roots of selfish pride dig deeper within us. The desire to be "right" often trumps our call to be gracious and compassionate while the urge to fight back or "get even" shadows the call to be light and peace. Fortunately, there is way to bridge our need for healing and wholeness while addressing these issues of selfishness and sin.
The beatitudes (Matthew 5) are a great place to begin this journey of transformation, and if you are like me, you will read and re-read, practice and re-practice (is that a word?) the principles taught by Jesus here. Many times, you will fail. Sometimes, you will succeed. But God calls us to deeper relationship with himself through Jesus and our relationship with Jesus is deepened as we seek to love others through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is exactly what is spelled out in Matthew 5:23-24. Though we may have something important to do with regard to our practice of faith in God (bringing our gifts before God), we must first seek to be reconciled with our sisters and brothers (which is also a practice of faith in God, by the way!). This is challenging work, but God's grace is with us as we attempt to take that step. Challenging us even further is the fact that just before these verses, Jesus equates verbal put-downs with murder (Matthew 5:21-22). With this perspective in view, it really is more profitable to seek reconciliation rather than retaliation.
In what ways, in what areas, and with whom is God challenging you to seek reconciliation rather than retaliation?
For The Kingdom,