The Didache is the oldest theological document outside the New Testament. It gives us good advice: “Love those that hate you, and you will have no enemy” (1:3). Ask God’s help, and it will be yours.
Who has made you angry this week?
Make things right today (vs. 23-24)
Now, how do we reconcile your relationship with this person? Jesus will tell us: “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” (Matthew 5:23-24).
“Offering your gift at the altar” describes the holiest moment a Galilean peasant might ever experience. Very rarely were non-priests allowed before the altar at the Temple in Jerusalem, and only when they were bringing animal sacrifice for a very special occasion. Some would prepare for years or all their lives for this moment. This is something akin to baptism for us.
There you “remember that your brother has something against you”—not just that you have something against him. “Something” is anything. There is no distinction here as to whether this is just or not, whether you are wrong or wronged. If anyone has anything against you today, you qualify.
Leave your gift. Don’t give it to the priest, but leave it where it is. Despite the holiness and significance of this moment. The person comes first: “go and be reconciled.” Take the initiative to make things right. Only then can you give your gift to God. You cannot be right with me if you are wrong with one of my children. Our heavenly Father feels the same way.
How do we attempt this reconciliation? I recently read an article in Psychology Today entitled “Making Amends.” It suggests that a meaningful apology requires three steps:
Regret: recognize that your action or inaction hurt this person, whether you intended such pain or not. Empathize with the pain they feel.
Responsibility: accept total responsibility for your actions or inactions.
Remedy: offer restitution or a promise to take action so that you do not repeat this behavior. Find a way to resolve the situation and restore the relationship.
Take the initiative to reconcile with your brother.
Go to the person directly: “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” (Matthew 18:15). Don’t talk about the person, but to him. Do it now.
The poet Edwin Markham lost everything when an unscrupulous banker betrayed his business confidence. He hated that man. And he could not write poetry, but doodled circles on paper for hours. Finally he realized he must forgive the man or die. He said aloud, “I forgive him.” For the first time in months, words began to flow. Looking at the circles on his paper, he wrote:
He drew a circle that shut me out,
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win.
We drew a circle that took him in.
Start your circle today.
Refuse to hate and hurt. Initiate reconciliation with your brother. Not easy words to hear or easy things to do. So why pay this price? Because our relationships are our legacy. Not our possessions, achievements, or status. One day all that will be gone. Our belongings will belong to someone else. The cheers will die out, the crowds will disperse, life will go on without us. And the marks which will last eternally will be those we made on the eternal souls of the people we know today.
Whose life has made the greatest mark on you? Billy Graham finished the Metroplex Mission last Sunday evening by speaking to the largest crowd he has ever addressed in North America, and received the largest single collection in his ministry’s history. But his legacy will be the souls changed by God through his words. When Texas Stadium is gone and his ministry just a memory in history books, those souls’ eternities will have just begun.
Like him, you and I exist to help people follow Jesus. To love Jesus, and love our neighbor to Jesus. But we cannot be right with our Father unless we are right with his children.
Many stories have been told about the painting of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. One of my favorites is that da Vinci made the face of Judas similar in appearance to a personal enemy. As the artist thought of how much he disliked this man, it was easy to paint him as the traitor of our Lord. However, when he turned to paint the face of Jesus, he could not. His eyes wandered to the face of his enemy, creating thoughts within his heart which made it impossible to concentrate on the beauty and purity of Jesus. He painted the face of Christ only after he painted out the face of Judas and reconciled himself with his enemy.
To paint the face of Christ tomorrow, whose face must you change today?