Matthew 5:23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
I don’t like to apologize to people. I don’t like the sudden knot-in-my-stomach feeling I get when I realize that I have done something wrong. I dislike it even more when it takes me too long to recognize my folly. I hate that I can be so selfish and so self-serving that I miss when I misstep and then I have to make amends.
I still have to deal with that. God still recalls to my mind people that I have hurt. And it has a lot of instances where I didn’t realize that what I was doing was hurtful. And a good many of times the things that I said/did weren’t inherently wrong, but they still hurt someone. And I know that it is exactly what Paul is talking about when he tells us not to use our freedom to become a stumbling block for other people.
And I hate it. I hate it. I hate being wrong. I would rather crawl into a cave or let someone pelt me rocks than have to form the words of a sincere apology in my mouth. And I think it is because apologies humble you. If you are making an apology that comes from the very truest center of your being, then you cannot be proud in the midst of doing it.
You have to humble yourself before someone else in order to make amends. And that is a scary place to be. Because there’s no guarantee that your apology is going to be met with open arms. The way that you feel when you walk away from the apology is almost contingent on their response. Are you going to walk away feeling relieved? Or are you going to walk away feeling defeated because your apology doesn’t mean reconciliation?
And that’s the thing. God isn’t saying that you have to go and make it so that it never happened. He isn’t saying that you have to pay some penance in order to make the person love you all over again. What is commanded, though, is that we go and do everything within our power, as so long as it doesn’t destroy the other person in the process to bring back up old memories, to make amends. And that is terrifying.
I try to avoid it. I look for loopholes. Then I recall the imagery of sacrifices in the Old Testament at the altar. God wasn’t pleased with anything that was defective. In essence, my sacrifice at the altar, when tainted with the active knowledge that I have avoided reconciliation, is like taking a lamb that is spotted and with defect to the altar. It isn’t a perfect sacrifice because it isn’t a pure one.
How can my sacrifices at the altar be pure if I am making it hard for someone else to worship knowing that they probably have a grudge built up against me? My carelessness could be hindering someone else’s sacrifice. And I want that to break my heart. I want that to really sink in, because Jesus wasn’t lightly saying that with a flippant attitude. That isn’t an exaggeration of what He expects of us. It is real. It is a command.
And I don’t want to be found lacking when I get to heaven, as someone who intentionally ignored commands given. How about you?