First Go and Be Reconciled to Your Brother (Matthew 5.23–24)

Whenever you see the word therefore in Scripture, you should ask what it’s there for.
In Matthew 5.23–24, Jesus says: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
What’s “therefore” there for?
Obviously, it connects Jesus’ words about anger (verses 21–22) to his words about reconciliation (verses 23–24). We should not be angry with our brother—whether biological or spiritual; instead, we should be reconciled to him.
And yet, there is a subtle shift of emphasis between verses 21–22 and 23–24. I would have said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that you have something against your brother, etc.” Notice the difference? I would have addressed my remarks to angry people who need to forgive. But Jesus addressed his remarks to people who need to be forgiven by those they have angered. Jesus’ approach is the way of true wisdom.
First, reconciliation with those who have angered us follows logically from what Jesus says about the hellish dangers of anger. We forgive them, if not for their sakes, then simply for our own. Jesus does not draw this conclusion explicitly, however, because it is implicit.
Second, Jesus wants us to be proactive about reconciliation. When we have sinned against another person, we rationalize our sin by citing his sins—whether real and imagined—against us. (To rationalize a sin is simply to offer a “rational lie” for it.) We then wait for him to ask our forgiveness before we ask him to forgive us. Alternatively, when we have sinned against another person, we feel so ashamed that we are too embarrassed to ask him for forgiveness. It is hard to admit that we are wrong, after all, and even harder to wait for another’s mercy. The way of Jesus demands that we overcome both our rationalizing pride and our embarrassed humility. It requires that we take the lead in reconciliation, whether we are the sinner or the sinned against.
Third, reconciliation is more important to Jesus than religion. Notice exactly how proactive Jesus encourages us to be. He encourages his hearers to leave their offerings at the altar if they need to be reconciled to a brother or sister. This is like saying, “Therefore, if you are listening to the Sunday sermon and suddenly remember that your brother has something against you, stand up and leave. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come back and finish the sermon.” Obeying Jesus’ commandments is more important than hearing a sermon, although a sermon should help you obey Jesus’ commandments.
So, does someone have something against you? Do you have something against him? Go and seek reconciliation, right now—whether you are wrong or right! That is the way of Jesus Christ.
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4 thoughts on “First Go and Be Reconciled to Your Brother (Matthew 5.23–24)

  1. I like your interpretation, and agree it’s the right emphasis.
    It’s obvious that we should seek reconciliation when we have done wrong to somebody. It’s not that obvious that we should seek reconciliation merely because they are annoyed about us.

    • Great post. thanks. Reconciliation in humility and love can never be retold enough, and yours is a fine reminder. Kevin, your Matthew 18 reference hints at “…yes, but they hurt me and some punishment is in order…” I’m sure you realize this, but Matthew 18 is to be employed ONLY by those who love the errant sinner. It should hurt to approach someone about their sin, much as if we were approaching our parent or sibling or child. If it doesn’t, you’re not the person for the job. If no one in your local church is up to the job of approaching the errant sinner IN LOVE, that’a a failure of the church, not the errant believer. If you don’t share their heartache, you’re just a judge, not a brother. Jus my two cents.

  2. s. clay says:

    Luv ur article about reconciliation. Wen those in church do not reconcile, the result, obviously is continuous division. Therefore, the root is sin, pride….I personally have lost many friends because they simply refused to reconcile. The way of today’s church folk instead of reconciling is to Cut U Off, Block Ur Number, Not return Ur Calls. It’s so sad, because Jesus clearly told us that offense will come. Shortly I’ll be writing a booklet about OFFENSE, Unity in The Body of Christ is a must in these end times. Christ’s servant, sar

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