Most days I am walking into someone’s battle. It is usually not with an enemy as such though they have made it so. It is with another Christian, maybe an authoritative figure or just a fellow member of their Church. Often they haven’t counted the cost of their argument. They haven’t considered what they would lose, the damage they would cause to themselves and to others. They neither ask for peace and they never get on to the cross. The one word I never seem to hear is the one word everyone is fighting for, ‘sorry’. I said to one person who was in a fight with their Pastor, “Do you not realise the damage this is causing you? Even before we think of the people in the Church. If you carry on like this then you will die a sad, old, bitter person with bad memories.” I met this person at the end of the service of a church I visited a year ago. I had noticed how she had come forward to serve the bread and wine during the Communion part of the service. She was one of the two members who then went row by row collecting people’s tithes and offerings. After I called people to the front for prayer after my sermon she was the first one out. She wanted more of God and was praying through tears. After the service had ended she was the first to approach me to tell me how much God had spoken to her through my message. After a couple of questions I realised this was the woman the Pastor had told me had given him so many problems because she wanted rid of him for he had made too many changes!
When was the last time someone hurt you? The list of names come easily. Here’s another question: When was the last time you hurt someone? Is that even possible?!!
Many are living with open wounds and cannot truly be the person God has called them to be. Those wounds could have been caused by you and me.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5 v 23-24)
Maybe our church buildings need to stay empty for this reason alone?
Jesus is on the mountainside teaching his disciples with the crowd around listening. The Temple in Jerusalem is a long way away (perhaps 75 miles) but it is etched in the imagination of the people. So Jesus tells a story of travelling all that way to Jerusalem, to the altar, this is a special occasion and everyone would know how exciting this trip would be. The purpose is one of thankfulness for all that God has done, you desire to celebrate Him and you have purchased an animal, it was bought whilst there or you brought it from Galilee, either way it cost you. But then at the altar something happens, you remember, not how hurt you are, but the hurt you have caused to someone. You realise it is more important to stop worshipping and giving and going to reconcile than it is to continue knowing someone is angry or hurt with you.
Go back in the same way that you came. You came with excitement, with personal cost, with thanksgiving and Jesus tells us to approach the person we have hurt in the same way. There is no condition attached to this on whether or not the person is innocent and actually the argument is 50/50. Just go because of your part. Stop singing, leave your money or your lamb and leave the building. Then come back and start again. Reconciliation is more important than your worship.
This word ‘reconciled’ means to change thoroughly, it means to bring back together a relationship that was broken. For that to happen repentance needs to be present; the willingness is hugely important; pride needs to fall; humility needs to rise; it won’t be easy but when we hurt someone the first place to go is not the altar though that may be where the conviction comes. We must go and use a word that is more longed for than spoken, ‘sorry’.