Verse: Matthew 5:23-24
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

I first met Josh Robinson in 2008, and immediately managed to offend him. Then I offended him some more. Later on, I kept offending him. Actually I’m pretty sure I was an expert in offending and annoying him, probably due to practicing it daily. I’m also positive that I was his least favorite friend for quite some time, which is an accomplishment that I’m proud of nowadays.

I’ve offended everybody in my life. I regularly make comments that people are offended by or are hurtful. I’m selfish and I hurt those around me by my action or inaction, and make them resent me. I’m sure it’s even more frequent than I actually know about.

What if, instead of hashing out these resentments and offenses, I just went outside and lit a smelly candle? Would that repair my relationship with Josh? Would he have promoted me from least favorite friend all the way up to second least favorite? Of course not, but this is often the way that we think about how to make recompense for offending or hurting somebody, if we even think of it at all.

Most religions, and most humans, have internalized a concept of karma, or merit, tit-for-tat, or some way to pay off a sin through ritual. Jesus in this passage is really clear how he wants people to treat each other though. Other people, who he calls his children, are way more important than us performing some kind of a ritual or checking a box (like lighting a smelly candle).

This is so against what we naturally want to believe. Making up with somebody is way harder than some impersonalized ritual where we feel clean afterwards, but that’s what God wants from us. He wants us to treat his other children excellently, and to make amends with them by directly resolving and reconciling whatever issues we’ve created for them. No need for making some kind of a sacrifice, or burning incense, or saying Hail Mary; none of those things are critical or important to God like actually taking care of our relationships and loving on the people around us, aka God’s other children.

Thankfully, over the years, my friends have been gracious enough to allow me to make it up to them and to reconcile. This has made for some difficult conversations, especially when I’ve been held accountable for mean words or actions, but it’s also deep into my relationships with my friends and family and allowed me to become a better person along the way. I think the reason that Jesus requires this of us is because it trains us to be better people who are more Christ-like.

Think about someone you’ve offended, and work towards reconciliation with them this week. Even if it doesn’t feel good, it’s still the right thing to do.

Author: Jordan Ambra