We read in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Often times, we solely think of this in terms of bringing peace between two outside parties.
But there is another situation in which we are called to be peacemakers. We are called to be peacemakers when we are one of the parties involved, and this is what Jesus talks about here.
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. (23-24)
I think there are two important things to note here. First, he says, “If your brother has something against you.” So often, there is a rift in our relationships, and we know that someone is upset at us, but we feel like we did nothing wrong. So we say, “It’s their problem, not mine.”
But when you do that, what you are essentially doing is devaluing them. You’re saying, “This person is not worth my time. If he has a problem, he should come to me.” Or, “It’s his problem, not mine. He should deal with it.”
But Jesus doesn’t allow any room for this kind of thinking. He says that if someone has a problem with us, we are to do what we must to bring reconciliation.
Many times, it just means a simple apology.
“But I didn’t do anything wrong!”
Maybe you did, maybe you didn’t. Maybe the other person is being too sensitive. It doesn’t matter. You need to value them enough that you take their feelings into consideration. And if you have hurt them, you need to acknowledge that.
If nothing else, you should say, “I understand that when I said that or did that, I hurt you. I didn’t mean to. Will you forgive me?”
And from that point, you need to keep in mind just what you did to cause the problem, and for their sake, and for Christ’s who died for them, you need to avoid those actions or words in the future.
The second thing to note from this passage is that broken relationships with others affects our relationship with God.
God will not accept our gifts or offerings if we have not made every effort to bring reconciliation to our broken relationships. Peter writes that God won’t even accept the prayers of husbands if they are not living with understanding with their wives. (I Peter 3:7)
Jesus then points out that if you really did something wrong, it’s especially important to get things right as soon as possible. He said,
Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. (25-26)
But whether you are truly at fault or not, Jesus tells us to do all we can to make things right.
That said, reconciliation is a two-way street. Some people don’t want reconciliation. You can’t control that. What you can do is control your actions. To first pray for that person. To ask God what you can do to bring reconciliation. And then to do all God has told you to do. After that, it’s up to the other person. And if they refuse to respond, then all you can do it leave it in God’s hands.
In short, follow the words of Paul who wrote,
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)
Are you at peace with those around you?