“I am sorry. Please forgive me.” Six words in any language that are very difficult for some people to say. Some would rather drink poison; a slight exaggeration but you get the idea. Some christians struggle with saying these words too. For all our religiosity, many of us struggle with the more practical side of our calling. Have you ever noticed people, christians included, would rather stop speaking to you instead of apologizing when they are wrong?
These thoughts came to mind as I reflected on the words of Jesus in His sermon on the mount: “If you bring your gift [offering, sacrifice] to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” Matthew 5:23-24, NKJV). In these two verses, Jesus affirmed the link between reconciliation and worship. As Matthew Henry observes, “Religious exercises are not acceptable to God, if they are performed when we are in wrath; envy, malice, and uncharitableness, are sins so displeasing to God, that nothing pleases Him which comes from a heart wherein they are predominant.” In other words, to attempt to worship in an unreconciled state is to offer up worship that is unacceptable. Read that sentence again, slowly. Paul reaffirmed this in his call to prayer when he instructed believers “in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger and disputing or quarreling or doubt [in their mind]” (1 Timothy 2:8, AMP). In Romans 12:1 he encourages believers to ensure our sacrifice of worship was “acceptable unto God.” The implication here is that it is possible to be offering something to God that He will not accept.
On the link between reconciliation and worship, Henry stressed a very important point when he said, “Love or charity is so much better than all burnt-offerings and sacrifice, that God will have reconciliation made with an offended brother before the gift be offered; He is content to stay for the gift, rather than have it offered while we are under guilt and engaged in a quarrel.” That’s powerful stuff! Jesus’ instructions were quite clear and because we cannot deceive the Holy Spirit, He knows when we are trying to offer up our sacrifice without meeting the pre-requirement. Though we may try to pull “a fast one” on God, He cannot be fooled. We cannot rationalize our way out of saying those difficult words, “I am sorry. Please forgive me.” Not if we desire for God to find our worship acceptable.
As we make our way through the first month of 2017, maybe one resolution for some of us was to have a closer walk / better relationship with God. It is important to realize that such a walk / relationship demands something of us. It is God who sets the standards for worship and He has determined that true worship involves reconciliation. Those of us who choose to take that walk with Him must do so on those terms. “If you bring your gift [offering, sacrifice] to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” How are you doing in that regard?