Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Matthew 5:23 and 24
This is very interesting to me in that this deals not with how I shouldn’t hold something against my brother but how I should act when my brother has something against me. How many times have I said, “Well if he/she doesn’t like it then its their problem and I’m not going to make it mine.” Apparently if my brother* has something against me it IS my problem and I should make it right.
Unresolved issues between friends, co-workers, family or church members is the cause of most, if not all, break-ups from divorce to changing jobs to church splits. Issues that arise and are never resolved grow, just like the anger we talked about earlier. Many of the issues are just small things, little hurt feelings, or slights that then fester and grow, some are much larger. Each time another thing happens it gets added to the last thing and before long it is a mountain of issues that goes back years and is impossible to resolve. The relationship then falls apart and the people move on with resentment in their hearts for the rest of their lives. We have all known the person like a former co-worker of mine who was still angry with her ex-husband even though she had been divorced from him and remarried for almost 20 years. Every time there was a gathering with their joint grandchildren or some issue over Christmas gifts or etc, she would come back to work ranting about how terrible he was and it would inevitably go back to something similar that he did 20 years ago. She had a long list of reasons proving that he did whatever he did just to get at her because he was the one with the problem.
In this portion of Jesus words He says, “if you are presenting your offering at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you..,” lets look at the situation. You are presenting your offering at the altar. The root word for offering is do’ron and one of the meanings is sacrifice in some places it is translated as “gift” or in others as “sacrifice.” Since the context is bringing your offering to the “altar” I believe Jesus was referring to one of the required blood sacrifices that were brought to the altar as part of the Old Testament temple worship practices. Other monetary gifts were put in the collection box not the altar as from the story of the widow with the two coins.
|Me in Jerusalem “The dome of the Rock” in the background, site of the Old Testament Temple.|
So lets set the scene you are bringing a sacrifice to the altar in order to obey the law, maybe even for the day of Atonement when you want God to forgive your sins. You remember that your brother is mad at you about something. You are supposed to go get it right, change the situation, conciliate, be reconciled with your brother and then come back. Why is it my responsibility to go fix something that is my brother’s problem?
Have you ever thought somebody had something against you and come to find out they really didn’t? I have been so sure that someone was “thinking” something about me and had this whole scenario worked out in my brain and just knew that they were mad at me. Come to find out it was all in MY brain and I was the one with the problem.
Jesus was really into the individual, whenever He had conversations with people it was always about the person He was talking to. How many conversations did He have with his disciples when they would try to find out what was going on with someone else and Jesus would always say, “What is that to you?” Jesus is concerned about what is in my heart.If I think someone has something against me those thoughts are going to color my on-going relationship with that person and I need to get it cleared up for my own sake.
One of the lines in the Lord’s prayer that we all know so well is that we ask God to forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. You are at the altar asking God to forgive your sins and so you need to go to your brother and forgive him of his. Forgiveness is the most powerful, freeing gift the Lord ever gave us. He has forgiven us and He expects us to forgive others. The very fact that you remember that your brother has something against you shows that you have unforgiveness in your heart for that brother otherwise you wouldn’t be remembering the issue.
Now granted maybe your brother really does have something against you, all the more reason to go to him and get it cleared up. Sometimes that is very hard to do and really a whole other topic.The point is we cannot allow unforgiveness or unresolved issues to dwell in our hearts we have to keep our accounts short and cleaned up. If we want forgiveness we have to be willing to forgive.
Grace and Peace
*brother – gender neutral term for masculine or feminine used throughout