“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” (Matt. 5:23-24 NAS)
This scripture is amazing to me. Notice how it does not say “if you have something against your brother.” This would mean that if someone offends you, or makes you angry, then you need to go and deal with it. Instead, it says, “that your brother has something against you.” This means that you have offended someone or made someone angry. You may not have even intended to anger or offend anyone, but it happens. Sometimes, I notice that my words or actions have upset someone. My first thought is, “they can just get over it!” However, the Bible tells us that if we know that our words or actions have caused grief to someone else, we need to make it right. Our reconciliation with that person is more important to God than any gift we can bring to Him. We are told to make reconciliation first, then present the offering afterwards.
So, how do we bring about reconciliation? Most people will tell you that you need to apologize to the offended party. An apology is a good start, but there needs to be more. The dictionary definition for apology is, “an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret.” Simply owning up to the issue and expressing regret does not bring about reconciliation. We must seek forgiveness from that person.
The Bible talks a lot about the forgiveness that the Father has for us. It also tells us that we should forgive one another. However, this scripture makes it clear that we need to also seek forgiveness from others.
When you are the reason someone else is upset, you must ask for their forgiveness. When you do, you have fulfilled your duty to be reconciled with them. The onus is now on them to be reconciled. You have asked for forgiveness, but they must grant the forgiveness. If they accept your apology, and forgive you, then reconciliation has been achieved. However, if they refuse to forgive, you have still done your part, and may carry on with your worship of God. However, this is not the license you need to wash your hands of them. Sometimes forgiveness may take a while to achieve. Sometimes, it takes a long time, and sometimes, it never happens. All the same, you must continue to show the love of Christ to this person, and hopefully, they will come around and forgive you. If and when that happens, you must be ready to accept their forgiveness, even though it is late.
In the book of Romans, Paul tells us, “Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible.” (Rom. 12:18 NLT). We can’t force anyone to live in peace with us, but we can do our part. Other translations say, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” The part that depends on you is what you are responsible for. God will not hold us accountable for someone else’s thoughts or actions.
What do you think. What actions do you take if someone does not wish to forgive?