When Jesus commands us to love one another He really means it (Jn 13:34). He isnt fooled for a moment when we try to cover angry hearts with superficial friendliness or attempt to justify our anger by placing the blame on others. He simply wants our hearts cleansed of all lovelessness and then goes on to demand that we diligently try to heal any damage we might have caused others. And in case we contemplate ignoring His words on this subject He lets us know God will hold us accountable. Being offended and offending others is not a remote possibility or something that merely happens occasionally in our lives. Sadly these are common occurrences. This is why learning how to be reconciled is a skill every disciple must know and regularly practice. Today as we examine our Lords command well first try to understand the clear meaning of His words. Next, well consider why reconciliation is so important. Then well go on and talk practically about what a reconciliational event might look like, even while acknowledging that some situations are hard or nearly impossible to reconcile. And finally, well recognize how appropriate this subject is when preparing our hearts to take communion.
What does Jesus say?
1. (vs. 21, 22) He says we can murder someone is our minds without physically harming them. How do we do this:
- Ephesians 4:26 It isnt a sin to be angry, but if not resolved anger will cause us to sin. Jesus is talking about prolonged anger (a grudge) which arises from a decision to hold onto an offense rather than reconcile.
- Three ways:
- Abandon/Divorce: kill the relationship, kill the memory of the person (forget them and move on)
- Dehumanize: strip the person of dignity; theyre a demon or fool, not an equal partner in our community (he/she has a spirit!)
- Slander: kill the persons relationship with others by my words
2. (vs 23, 24) He says if I know I have offended someone I must go and ask them to forgive me so they can be released from their anger.
- I must not cause a brother or sister to stumble (Ro 14:13).
3. (vs 25, 26) He says if I have offended someone and then refuse to take steps to remove the grudge in their heart they will someday accuse me before God who will agree with them and judge me for being merciless.
- I am partially responsible for the bitterness others hold toward me and the sinful acts it causes them to do if I do not attempt to heal the matter and release them from their anger, I must go and try to set them free.
- When we harden people toward us we also harden them toward God. Bitterness is a disease that affects every relationship.
- If we choose to leave them in bondage to anger, we share the responsibility for their sin. When someday they blame us before God their charges will be valid.
- If we are indifferent to the spiritual damage we cause others (cause them to stumble) God will judge us as loveless.
Jesus says God will hold me accountable for grudges I hold toward others, but also for the grudges others hold toward me if I have not tried to reconcile with them. Then He says we must obey in these matters if we wish to continue receiving grace for ourselves. His warning does not nullify grace or imply that we earn it, but it does tell us that mercy is not a one-way street. If we want it for ourselves we must give it to others.
Blessings that come from practicing reconciliation.
- It preserves love
- It brings people to Christ (Jn 13:35, By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another)
- It brings the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Ps 133)
- It allows the Body of Christ to be a team that effectively works together
- It brings joy, peace and health
Steps to reconciliation
- Meet: You initiate as an obedience to the Lord. Most people dont have a clue how to properly handle offense. You help them rightly process their pain toward you (drain the venom).
- Speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15): Speak with the goal of healing, not hurting. Only truth can be the basis for real relationship.
- Try to win the person, not the argument.
- Humbly, openly judge yourself first. Evaluate your own attitudes and actions from Jesus perspective.
- Ask for forgiveness (only after the above step).
- Usually offenses go two ways so helpfully they will apologize and ask your forgiveness as well, but if not, tell them you forgive them (kindly, not accusingly).
- Pray for one another.
- Schedule a follow-up meeting before you separate because doubts will soon return and make you want to avoid the person.
This is not a perfect world and there may be people with whom a full restoration (establishing love and trust) is not possible at this time. Here are situations that may be difficult to reconcile:
- Addicted people: The person's spirit is no longer in control of their actions.
- Dangerous people: By reentering the relationship I am put back into danger. I forgive and love but can't yet trust.
- Denying people: Honest disclosure isnt two-way. The person insists they arent angry and the problem is all in your mind.
- Divorcing people: People who decide its easier to dump you than reconcile. They reject your attempts and announce they have moved on.
- Labeling people: People who label you as unsafe and refuse to give you another chance.
- Dominating people: People who cant be at peace unless they get their way.
Remember: Romans 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
Preparing for communion
Hence the beautiful practice of the early church to see that all differences among brothers and sisters in Christ were made up in the spirit of love, before going to the Holy Communion
Certainly this must be the highest act of worship on earth, such reconciliation - though obligatory on all other occasions of worship - must be peculiarly so then
(Jameison, Faucett; Brown, Commentary, Vol 3, p. 33)
1. Describe a time when you went to someone to ask for forgiveness. How did they respond? How did you feel afterwards? What noticeable changes resulted, if any?
2. This passage in Matthew 5:21-26 is intimidating. Jesus words are so blunt and His warnings so dire that we might find ourselves running away from it rather than trying to obey it. In a one or two sentence statement can you put the essence of what Jesus is telling us? Is this something a person could realistically obey? How?