So then, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your gift.
Note: any Bible reference containing only a chapter number and verse number is understood to be in the Gospel of Matthew.
The feelings of others
The largest room in my home church is called a Worship Center. In light of what Jesus says in todays Bible passage, perhaps we should build a larger room and call it the Reconciliation Center. Alternatively, we could simply start doing what Jesus says, no matter what we call it!
Yesterday, we developed the idea that Jesus has great concern for our actions, feelings and attitudes toward others (5:21-22). Today the focus shifts away from us to the inner life of others. To be a disciple of Jesus means you must be concerned about how others feel about you, not just about how you feel about them.
Note carefully that the person in 5:23 — the word you is singular — is involved in an important spiritual activity: bringing a gift to the altar as an offering to God. There he recalls that his brother has an issue against him. This concept casts a very big net; has something against you (5:23) could also be translated has anything against you. Anything!
R.T. France reminds us of some basic facts: 1) such an offering could only be made at the temple in Jerusalem, and 2) Jesus spoke these words to his disciples in Galilee. He says Jesus envisages a worshipper who has travelled some eighty miles to Jerusalem with his offering (probably a sacrificial animal), who then leaves the animal in the temple while he makes a journey of a week or more to Galilee and back again to effect a reconciliation with his offended brother or sister before he dares to present his offering. Wow!
So, todays passage makes a very simple point. Keener summarizes it by saying that a disciples relationship to God partly depends on how the disciple treats others. Walking away from damaged relationships displeases God. A disciple may not find reconciliation, but they are obligated to seek it.
Those of us who are parents know that broken toys get abandoned. In the case of toys, that does not matter very much. But adults quite frequently have the same attitude toward broken relationships. Jesus demands a higher standard from his disciples!
After writing this lesson, I had just sat down in the Worship Center when I realized that a lady down the aisle was someone I had offended and now avoided. The Spirit impelled me down that aisle and onto one knee to apologize. She graciously accepted my apology and we were reconciled before the worship service began. That felt very good!
This subject of reconciliation is more important than you and I have thought. Would not today be a good day to set matters right with someone you know?
Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.
 R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007) 203.
 Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 185.