23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

Matt 5:23-26 (NIV)

In our verses for today, Jesus tells us - when we find ourselves faced with troubles and conflict concerning fellow believers or even our foes and adversaries – it is part of our high calling and privilege to do our best to make things right. Harmony with others may not always be achievable yet as Christians we should not be the culprits – the ones responsible for the lack of relationship or peace. Paul tells us in Romans 12:

18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18 (NIV)

As Christians we are to bring peace, love and forgiveness into all our relationships with fellow believers in spite of all of our differences – no matter how ornery or difficult they (or we) may be! It is simply not about us! This is part of the dying to self. It behooves us to remember that forgiveness is for the forgiver. When we harbor ill will for another it does nothing but poison us. Forgiveness on the other hand, breathes life into our souls. Sin always destroys while obedience brings life in abundance.

“Forgiveness saves us the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits.” Hannah More

“Peacemakers are people who breathe grace. They draw continually on the goodness and power of Jesus Christ, and then they bring His love, mercy, forgiveness, strength and wisdom to the conflicts of daily life. God delights to breathe His grace through peacemakers and use them to dissipate anger, improve understanding, promote justice and encourage repentance and restoration.” Ken Sande

We are to labor for reconciliation whenever a breach has occurred in any relationship but particularly with fellow believers. I cannot believe God applauds the splits in His Body, the Church. In our verses for today Jesus states we are unfit for communion with God when we harbor ill will against our brothers and sisters in Christ. Love and forgiveness is better than burnt offerings – our humble attempts at reconciliation will always be a sweet smelling sacrifice to the Father. It is His desire for us to be a quickly forgiving people – those who are slow to become angry and quick to forgive and forget. We are not to be a people who harbor, smolder and seethe seeking revenge rather than forgiveness. It is the Way our Lord demonstrated – even as He hung on the cross:

34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. Luke 23:33-34 (NIV)

“Consider Christ. He was of a meek and quiet spirit, and of a most long-suffering behavior...He was very much the object of bitter contempt and reproach, and slights and despised as of but little account. Though he as the Lord of glory, yet he was set at naught, and rejected...He was the object of the spit and malice and bitter reviling of the very ones he came to save...He was called a deceiver of people, and oftentimes he was said to be mad, and possessed with the devil...He was charged with being a wicked blasphemer, and one that deserved death on that account. They hated him with morbid hatred, and wished he was dead, and from time to time tried to murder him...His life was an annoyance to them, and they hated him so they could not bear that he should live... Yet Christ meekly bored all these injuries without resentment or one word of reproach, and with heavenly quietness of spirit pass through them all...On the contrary, he prayed for his murderers, that they might be forgiven, even when they were nailing him to the cross; and not only prayed for them, but pleaded in their behalf with His Father, that they knew not what they were doing.” Jonathan Edwards

Do we find ourselves in the unenviable position whereby we are being crucified by Christians? It is both the teaching and example of Scripture that we are to forgive – difficult as that may seem. Yet with God, nothing is impossible and He never calls us to obedience without equipping us for the task. He is the ever ready supply of grace sufficient to meet our need. Jesus addresses forgiveness later in Matthew stating no limits should be set on how often we are to be merciful forgivers:

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matt 18:21-22 (NIV)

“Make me into a rock which swallows up the waves of wrong in its great caverns and never throws them back to swell the commotion of the angry sea from whence they came. Ah! To annihilate wrong in this way – to say, ‘It shall not be wrong against me, so utterly do I forgive it!’” George MacDonald

“You never touch the ocean of God’s love as when you forgive and love your enemies.” Corrie ten Boom

What I Glean

  • As a believer it is my high calling and privilege to forgive. “The glory of Christianity is to conquer by forgiveness.” William Blake
  • Jesus forgave me and I am to forgive others. “The man who is truly forgiven and knows it is a man who forgives.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • Jesus does not limit forgiveness.