Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest thou that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
— Matthew 5:23-24
Have you ever been hurt or offended, but tried to deal with the problem by pretending nothing was wrong? You made an effort to smile, regardless of whether you felt like it or not, and then forced yourself to put on a bright, shining, happy face as though nothing was bothering you. You smoothed the wrinkles out of your forehead, unfurrowed your eyebrows, and prayed that people didn’t see reflected in your eyes the conflict that was raging in your heart.
You inwardly surmised, If I can keep up this facade, no one will ever detect my disgust! However, in spite of your efforts, the bottled-up hurt and offense inevitably surfaced. Perhaps you ran into the offender at church and said hello, but the other person didn’t reply exactly as you thought he should. Maybe he simply didn’t have time to talk because of a previously scheduled appointment, or maybe he was just being plain rude. In either case, your flesh slipped into a silent mode of self-justification, mud-slinging, and name-calling. Inwardly you may have thought poisonous thoughts like: That’s exactly what I expected from that person! I don’t know why I even try! He’ll never change!
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Suddenly you were consumed with negative feelings you couldn’t control. You became a prisoner to your own emotions. Those negative thoughts kept rolling around in your heart and soul, tearing you up on the inside. By not bringing those wounded emotions into the light, you allowed them to fester in darkness and wreak destruction in your life. And to top it off, your inner ugliness revealed that you are just as “in the wrong” as the other person!
Learning how to deal with these conflicts, resolve them, and move in the love of God is key to achieving victory in our relationships and in our lives. We must deal with our hearts and then make sure our outward actions reflect a walk of love. Part of those outward steps may be going to your offender to confess your hurt — or acknowledge his or her hurt — and make your relationship right both with that person and with God. You might say, “But, oh, this is so hard and embarrassing to do.” The truth is, doing the right thing is not always easy.
Our need to confess our hurt and make things right usually comes to our minds when we are in worship. In fact, that’s the essence of what Jesus said in Matthew 5:23,24. In those verses, He told us, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest thou that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Let’s look at this verse and see what Jesus commanded us to do.
Jesus was saying that as you bring a gift to the altar — whether it’s a financial gift, an act of worship, a prayer, or simply your decision to draw nearer to God — you may “remember” suddenly, in a flash of a moment, that there is an issue between you and another person. If an issue has suddenly been quickened to your mind when you come before God in prayer or worship, it is likely the Holy Spirit is speaking to your heart in order to bring an issue to your attention.
Maybe it is something you were not aware of, or maybe it is something that you’ve tried to ignore or just didn’t want to face. But when the Holy Spirit quickens it to you, that is a game-changer. It makes you personally responsible for whatever He has revealed to you. And Jesus said that if you suddenly remember your brother has “ought against” you, it is your God-given responsibility to put forth the effort as quickly as possible to make it right.
In Greek, the word “ought” is the little word ti, which means anything at all. In other words, this doesn’t have to be something that you would deem a major issue. If the Holy Spirit brings anything to your mind that wrongfully exists between you and a fellow believer — regardless of what it is, how big it is, or how small it is — Jesus commands you to leave your gift at the altar, go find that individual, and be “reconciled.” It may seem like a minor issue. But if the Holy Spirit has quickened it to your mind, you need to treat the situation seriously and immediately get “reconciled” with that individual.
The word “reconciled” in Matthew 5:24 is the Greek word diallassomai, which refers to mutual concession after mutual hostility. The idea of concession is giving up an argument, surrendering a point, conceding to someone else, or letting something go and refusing to let it be an issue. In other words, even though the issue is not totally agreed upon, you have at least agreed to be “right” with each other.
The sad fact is that most of the problems that people hold on to and allow to wreak havoc in their lives are truly insignificant. Many people are sent reeling into a maze of emotions over meaningless issues, which they subsequently magnify and exaggerate in their minds to a point of absurdity — literally making mountains out of molehills. We’ve all been guilty of this from time to time.
If I were to ask everyone reading this to send me stories of silly conflicts they’ve experienced, I could fill pages and pages with their testimonies. We could sit and roar with laughter over the silly things that upset people and see just how foolish we all can be. If we then magnify our personal experiences by those of thousands of other people, we’ll begin to catch a glimpse of how many hours of people’s lives are dominated by senseless, meaningless, unimportant debate.
Most of life’s conflicts fall into this category. They are small, temporary, ridiculous, emotional flare-ups that can later be seen in their true light — perhaps humorous or even stupid, but certainly not worthy of getting upset about.
However, these trivial conflicts can easily become serious when we refuse out of pride to admit our error, apologize, and let go of our offense. When pride comes into the picture and someone gets offended, a minor incident that should be laughed off will quickly become a wall that separates. Anytime something small becomes a major issue, we need to back up and reexamine what we are thinking and feeling. Therefore, look inward and ask yourself, Is this problem really so serious, or are we letting this matter get way out of hand?
Once you’ve done what the Holy Spirit has told you to do — and you’ve done all you know to do to clear the air and to make wrongs right — the last of verse 24 tells you what to do: “…Then come and offer thy gift.” Hopefully, the other person has received you, but even if he or she doesn’t, at least you can rest knowing you’ve done your best. You’ve done what is necessary to keep a clear conscience and a clean heart before God. Now it’s time to enjoy sweet, unhindered fellowship in the presence of the Lord.
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, here in Your light, I see the light of Your truth shining on the reality of the nonsense I’ve allowed to become a dividing wall of offense. I acknowledge my part in this, and I repent of thinking and responding contrary to the love of God. I will not ignore the situation any longer or harden my heart in pride. In obedience to Your Word, I will humbly go to my brother with the sincere desire to make this right. This may be difficult and somewhat embarrassing, but a clear conscience and unhindered fellowship with You means more to me than anything. As I seek to make peace, I entrust the outcome to You, Lord.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I keep a clear conscience toward God that is void of offense toward any man. I keep myself in the love of God as I continually seek peace and pursue it. I refuse to make mountains out of molehills and allow petty nonsense to escalate into an offense that will produce bitterness in me or in others. I am quick to repent and also quick to forgive. Holy Spirit, I ask You to quicken my heart any time I need to make things right with anyone for any reason. I commit to You that I will do what You tell me to do so I can live peaceably with everyone and enjoy unbroken fellowship with You at all times.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Have you ever been in a time of worship when suddenly your mind became aware of a relationship that needed to be made right — and that you needed to take care of it before you could proceed with anything else in your life?
- Is there someone who has “ought against” you right now? Or who is that person whom you have “ought against”? Based on today’s Sparkling Gem, what is Jesus asking you to do about it?