MATTHEW 5:23-24: “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: What gift can you give to those difficult people in your life? Have you ever had to buy a gift for someone that you did not like? Or, perhaps it was for someone who had wronged you in the past, or whom you accidentally offended. Finding the right gift in these circumstances is nearly impossible.
When we have broken relationships in our lives, the easiest thing to do is sweep them under the rug and try to put them in the past. We begin to pretend that these things never happened or that they don’t matter because they happened so long ago. Yet, where there is a seed of unforgiveness the weeds of bitterness can begin to grow.
God is so concerned that we walk in the spirit of forgiveness that He calls us to put reconciliation before our worship and forgiveness before our service. In fact, our worship and prayer life become hindered when we walk in unforgiveness toward others. The responsibility for reconciliation is ours and ours alone. It is not predicated on the estranged person’s attitude or response. God looks at our hearts and asks us to walk in obedience to the desires of His heart.
God desires us to be reconciled!
How many believers, how many churches, will go through this Christmas season with broken and estranged relationships in the pews? How many families will meet together, only to rehearse feelings of hurt and anger in their hearts toward another family member? How many lights will grow dim under the winds of anger, unforgiveness, and bitterness?
God desires us to be reconciled!
Throughout my life and ministry, I have tried to live in a spirit of reconciliation toward others. It is a difficult path to follow. First, I am a sinner saved by grace, so even my best efforts are wanting. Second, my attempts to live in a spirit of reconciliation have not always been welcomed or accepted. I have found that God does not hold me responsible for the response of others. He holds me responsible for my response to His grace.
Christmas is a time to reflect on God’s gift of forgiveness through the coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to establish the pathway of righteousness. He came to fulfill the righteous requirements of the Law. He came to give His life as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. And, He came to extend to us forgiveness and redemption by grace through faith in His life, death, and resurrection. The Sermon on the Mount was not meant to be a list of works that would lead us to salvation. Rather, they are to become the be-attitudes and natural expressions of the love of Christ from those who have been saved, forgiven, and filled with the Holy Spirit.
The pathway of reconciliation is only possible for those who have met and experienced the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. We love because He first loved us. We give because He has given us so much. And, we forgive because we have been so graciously forgiven.
- “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as the true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” Matthew 5:43-45 NLT
How do we apply this truth at Christmas? I believe we need to listen to the still small voice of the Spirit. As we read God’s Word, as we pray, we need to ask the Lord if there is anyone who is estranged from us because of something we have done or something they perceive we have done. The greatest gift we can give to them is to seek reconciliation. Reconciliation does not wait for the other party to ask forgiveness. It begins when we ask for forgiveness. Reconciliation begins when we humble ourselves and put the other person’s benefit before our own.
- “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16 NLT
Jesus humbled Himself and became a man to pay the penalty for our sins. All who call upon His name are forgiven and cleansed of their sins. By grace through faith we are reconciled to the Father and we are called to be ministers of reconciliation toward others. Our call to love and forgive others is not dependent upon their response. We are simply called to extend the same gift we received from Jesus Christ – freely to anyone in our life.
I have witnessed families restored, churches renewed, and lives transformed through the power of reconciliation. The gift of forgiveness cost Jesus Christ everything – yet it is free to receive and should be freely given. When we ask for forgiveness, when we seek reconciliation, we break the chains of unforgiveness and bitterness in our life. We begin to walk in the freedom and power of His grace!
Heavenly Father, as I meditate on these truths, please let me know if there is anyone that has something against me. Give me the humility to ask for forgiveness. Give me the grace to extend Your love and forgiveness as I seek reconciliation. Let me walk in the fullness of Your love so that my gift of worship and service will be pleasing to You!
- “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 NKJV
In Jesus Name!