Daily Devotional

Be Reconciled to Your Brother

by Simon Whitton

22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.  Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin.  But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.
23 "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at 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; then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 5:22-24 (NIV)

Jesus takes our relationship with other believers very seriously.  In this passage He says that the way we treat them could even result in judgment or danger from the fire of Hell.  Because of the seriousness of the consequences, Jesus goes right to the heart of our faith and talks about the offering that atones for sin.

Within the temple, in the inmost court, was a huge rock, on top of which was a large altar made of bronze.  The altar was about 30 feet square and possibly 15 feet high. Access to the altar was via a ramp from the floor of the court.  Smoke from the fire of this altar could be seen from miles around.  It's possible that the 'fire of Hell' that Jesus spoke of was intended to remind them of the fire of the altar.  The word 'altar' literally means 'place of slaughter or sacrifice'.  This is where Jewish men, with priestly assistance, would offer sacrifices for sin.

The altar was a place where things were made right between God and man. Jesus may have been saying, 'How can you be reconciled with God, when you haven't reconciled with your brother?'  Or perhaps it was about the sacrifice, why should the sacrifice bear the full burden of our sin, when we have opportunity to make right some portion of it?  The Lord doesn't delight in sacrifice, it is surely meant as a last resort.

The prompt to reconcile was if 'your brother has something against you', which suggests you may have offended him in some way.  But guilty or not, the responsibility is still ours to initiate reconciliation.  Later in Matthew, Jesus addresses a different scenario where a brother has sinned against you:

15 "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.
16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'
17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Matthew 18:15-17 (NIV)

Here, a clear process is outlined, the goal of which is to reconcile the sinner to God and you.  There is wisdom here that can even be applied outside of the church to some extent.  The principle is that offenses should not be left to smolder, but should be carefully addressed with increasing accountability.  In this scenario, the Lord again gives us the responsibility to initiate reconciliation.

Spend some time in prayer and ask the Lord to forgive you for those times you have handled offenses poorly.  Whether you offend others or someone sins against you, pray that the Lord will give you the boldness, the gentleness of spirit and the wisdom to handle each situation.  Always remembering that the goal is for people to be reconciled to one another and to God.

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