“So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”
— MATTHEW 5:23-24 (NRSV)
Though someone may despise, dislike or not trust me,
Lord, help me to see past their perception of things,
Help me to push past my sense of hurt and love them,
Because I know that by doing this the blessing it brings.
The only way forward in reconciling work is to start and then keep persevering. The only way to start is to go forward and love despite the indifference, conflict, and lack of trust — to pour ourselves out as a libation — then to keep going.
We use their hurt as a platform to boldly love them, in faith, expecting only the need to continue just loving. Reconciliation is the instrument of healing in this relational life.
One point that Jesus could be making about reconciling with the one against us, is that reconciliatory activity should come before our offerings, financial or otherwise – including offerings of praise and worship. First things first; first love your neighbour, then worship God with a clean heart. (Of course, at times, the Lord will impress on us in our worship that we are to restore a relationship.) What good are our sacrifices of praise and worship if we betray the fundamental will and intent of God? We would be Pharisees.
Perhaps what Jesus is trying to point out in this difficult-to-achieve command is that there is no way we can love God and at the same time continue to hate another.
The Lord commands us to love each other because it is a fact that God places us in relationships as a test of our love. Love is not just a fair-weather activity; love comes into its own upon challenge, within conflict, when relationships are strained. Love has the power to trump all challenges to it.
How can we look God in the eye (figuratively speaking) if we haven’t first done everything we possibly can do to reconcile? And there is never a limit to trying.
Love is the character of our trying; of our persevering; of our never giving up. Love never fails in this regard as we commit to never giving up; to simply love beyond any hurt coming our way. This is not as hard as it seems, for the commitment, once made, stays us in the will of God.
The be-all and end-all of life is God, and the practical means and ends of life are relationships. Nothing may be more important than reconciling strained relationships. It’s not really about the results, but the intent; it’s the love of God that never gives up – that never fails – that sustains our reconciliatory effort.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.