"....leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." Matthew 5:24
The words of Christ.
All of Scripture is God-breathed.
However, I give a bit extra consideration to the red-letter words because they were actually God-spoken:
First be reconciled to your brother....
Our God is a relational God. That's why He allows us to call Him Father...
why we are to call fellow believers brother and sister.
With His death, He showed us the value He places on His relationship with us.
These words of His show me that He is also deeply concerned with our relationships with one another.
He doesn't even want our sacrifices if we are not right with other believers. Even one other believer.
We are, after all, the Body of Christ. If we are at odds, hurting one another or building up walls, we wound Him.
Instead of functioning as God intended, we inflict an autoimmune disease,
and just as a body with disease can't function properly, we can't really bring Him glory if the Body is attacking and weakening itself.
Because my relationships affect His glory in the world, they are a greater priority to Him than are my offerings.
That's pretty serious.
And yet how seriously do we take it?
I look around me (and within me) and all too often see brothers and sisters in Christ, husbands and wives, parents and children,
attempting to offer Him gifts
offering up every sacrifice
except their grudge.
Oh, but that grudge, that selfishness, that anger or hurt--they are the very first offerings He desires from us.
Reconciliation is the first fruits He wants from His followers--before any service or sacrifice.
And we try to offer Him everything else.
Under the New Covenant, because Christ offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifce, we are called to give different offerings than were those whom Jesus was addressing.
Paul instructs: "And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice--the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him." Romans 12:1
How often do I attempt to apply the instructions of Paul, while ignoring the command of Christ?
I lay the willing parts of me before Him in offering: teaching, serving, mission trips, writing...
I offer and offer and offer these gifts at the altar
fooling myself that they have value to God,
that they will make up for the walls I have built in my relationships,
or the conflict I am avoiding that could lead to reconciliation,
but He says: "You are working so hard, but so pointlessly. I don't even want this if you can't honor me FIRST in your relationships. Leave it. First, go and be reconciled."
I can offer my body as a living and holy sacrifice, but it will not be the kind He will find acceptable if I do not obey His command to go and reconcile.
Whom do you need to get right with today?