GETTING DOWN TO THE NITTY GRITTY
There is a passage in Matthew that has always intrigued me because it seems unfair.
23 So if when you are offering your gift at the altar you there remember that your brother has any [grievance] against you, 24 Leave your gift at the altar and go. First make peace with your brother, and then come back and present your gift.
– Matthew 5:23-24Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
Read it slowly because at first glance it may not mean what you think it does. Incredibly, it is the person who realizes that someone is offended with him, whether he did anything wrong or not, who is to leave the altar and go ask forgiveness.
If you missed any part of this series, Servanthood to Each Other, click on one of the available links below to check them out from the beginning.
- SERVANTHOOD IN PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS: TO EACH OTHER
- Servanthood to Each Other – Part II “The Last Supper: Sinky Feet”
- Servanthood to Each Other – Part III “Daily Living with Prickly People”
It sounds crazy but after all he is the only one whose heart is soft enough towards the Lord who is able to have the mercy to forgive. He was not to wait until the offended brother should come to him; he was to go and seek him out, and be reconciled.
Jesus explained that those who come into God’s Presence to Worship must come with pure hearts, not hindered by broken relationships that they had the power to mend. Interestingly, this verses focuses not on the worshiper’s anger, but on the anger someone else feels toward the worshiper. Jesus explained that if the worshiper remembered someone’s anger against him or her, that person should leave the gift and go immediately to be reconciled to the offended brother or sister. Then he should come back to Worship and offer his or her gift…Jesus said that even such a solemn occasion as Worship in the inner courts of the temple should be interrupted in order to bring reconciliation among believers. (Life Application Study Bible)
There is another side to this topic of forgiveness and it is a most sober one:
25 But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”
– Mark 11:25 New Living Translation (NLT)
Just as you are to do everything to assure reconciliation with your brother at all times, so too are you to constantly guard yourself against bearing grudges. How can the Father forgive you, if you have not forgiven another?
A grudge is a persistent feeling of ill will or resentment resulting from a past insult or injury. It involves bitterness or resentment and will gnaw away at you until it finally destroys your relationship with a person. I’m assuming that, since we’ve come this far in our talk about forgiveness, you realize that holding a grudge is not the Lord’s will. Yet, there’s another side to this problem.
What are you to do if you have tried every means possible to reconcile with your friend but she cannot let it go? She won’t talk to you and doesn’t answer your calls. What do you do? It may happen that your friendship requires your complete surrender to her point of view. Yet, that may not be possible. What do you do when her pouting is unreasonable?
It is time to bring your worries to God in prayer. In relationships where nothing looks hopeful, where every contact digs the hole deeper, try prayer. Pray for your friend daily – for her happiness, recovery, and immediate needs. Time is a healer and miracles can happy. If you have tried every avenue of reconciliation you believe God has shown you; truly have asked the Lord to search your heart for any hidden sin in this troubled relationship and still the friction is there, there is only one recourse. Leave it up to the Lord. There can come a time when you have to lovingly remove yourself from a prickly situation after you have tried everything yet the other person is not ready for reconciliation. Leave her in God’s hands. Love her in prayer. Love her in hugs. Yet leave the situation in His hands.
Remember three important verses from Romans 12. The first one is verse 18:
Insofar as it is with you, be at peace with one another.
Just you be at peace with the other person, and that will create a lovable relationship. Don’t concern yourself with other people’s actions; just concern yourself with your own. If you act peaceably, God will honor that and bless the situation and relationship.
The following two verses in Romans 12, verses 19 and 20, give even more guidance yet must be read carefully for full understanding:
19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave the way open for [God’s] wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.
20 But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.
– Romans 12:19-20 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
“Heap burning coals upon his head” – a rather incongruous phrase with everything else we’re learning about forgiveness isn’t it? Not at all! A little investigating leads us to this explanation:
This is not to be understood as a revengeful act, intended to embarrass its victim, but just the opposite. The picture is that of the high priest (Lev 16:12), who on the Day of Atonement took his censer and filled it with “coals of fire” from off the altar of burnt offering, and then put on them incense for a pleasing, sweet-smelling fragrance. The cloud of it covered the mercy-seat and was acceptable to God for atonement. Samuel Wesley. (Footnote Proverbs 25:21-22).
The Lastly, there is a method of “washing each other’s feet” that Jesus refers to in Ephesians 5: 25 – 27 that washes off sin, refreshes, encourages, blesses, edifies and restores and so much more:
25 … as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
26 So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word,
27 That He might present the church to Himself in glorious splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such things [that she might be holy and faultless].
– Ephesians 5:25-27 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
Wash each other with the Word of God. When your brethren are hungry for solid truth, share the meat of the epistles. When people are thirsty because they’re discouraged, encourage them with Psalms. When they are feeling weak, read them the stories in the Old Testament of the mighty heroes. That’s how you wash them clean of everything unclean in the world. Your compassion as to their needs demonstrates your servant’s heart. Be like Jesus. Read them the gospels so they can hear more and more about the One Who loves them eternally.
AN UNBELIEVABLE ENDING FOR A SERVANT
When I first read this verse, I had to read and re-read it. Surely it cannot mean what it says. Can The Servant – Jesus Himself – truly mean that He will perform His ministry of The Last Supper again even on such as us? Read what He says in Luke 12:37-38 to those who eagerly await His Second Coming and are preparing themselves for that day:
37 Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.
– Luke 12:37 New King James Version (NKJV)
To look down at that blessed head that once wore a crown of thorns. To see the sword-pierced side as He stoops over in His role as the humblest of servants. Dear Lord can this be? For this would You cause me to walk as the servant You are and be a servant to those You died for? Please, Lord. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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I would like to thank my fellow consultants for all their assistance in getting this blog published: Michelle Arrington, Hannah Hall, Ariel Mcgarry, Carol White, Tracy Yoder, and J.P.Wilhelm. Their encouragement and patience have been invaluable to me.
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 – 1669 “The Return of the Prodigal Son” (1642). drawing with pen and brush (19 × 23 cm) — ca. 1642 Teylers Museum, Haarlem. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Prodigal_son_by_Rembrandt_(drawing,_1642).jpg Marked as public domain.