10. The Desirability of Reconciliation (Matthew 5:23,24)
In attempting to get at the Scriptural teaching upon any
divine principle, the diligent student finds it useful to consider not only
those passages which bear on their face a direct relation to the subject, but
also those which contribute only an indirect emphasis.
The idea of reconciliation is quite pervasive in the teachings
of Christ. How else could it be for one in whom God was reconciling the world to
Himself (2 Cor. 5:19)? This is nowhere more evident than in that section of his
teachings known popularly as the Sermon on the Mount. Here, in rapid succession,
the Divine Master places his blessing upon the meek, the merciful, the pure in
heart, and the peacemakers — the reconcilers! The “Beatitudes”
are followed by the warning:
“Except your righteousness shall exceed the
righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the
kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20).
Jesus could not have meant that his listeners should follow a
more abundant “righteousness” than that of the Pharisees:
that would have been well nigh impossible at any rate. He must have meant a
“righteousness” of a different sort — leaving behind the
painstaking legal hair-splittings of washing and purifying; the wearisome
fretting about contamination and separateness in a ceremonial sense. The
righteousness that Jesus advocates is an earnest, loving consideration for
one’s brother, the principle rather than the appearance of righteousness,
a reaching forward and not a pulling back:
“Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be
liable to judgment” (v. 22, RSV).
We can well imagine the skeptic’s words: “Yes,
this is all well and good; but what does it have to do with
‘fellowship’?” The answer is found in the next two
“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and
there remember that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift
before the altar, and go thy way; FIRST BE RECONCILED to thy brother, and then
come and offer thy gift” (vv. 23,24).
The “gifts” we offer to God at this time, which
Christ must have had in mind, are prayers and praises (Psa. 141:2; Hos. 14:2).
The “altar” to which we now approach is Christ himself, in heaven at
the right hand of the Father, where he acts as priest and mediator also (Heb.
13:10; 1 John 2:1). The lesson is obvious, and has — it may now be seen
— a strong bearing upon our “fellowship”: Even if your
“lamb” or “gift” (i.e. your personal, individual worship
and service) is “without blemish”, you must still be reconciled
to your brother before God will be pleased to accept it! Only when
reconciliation is sought, and peace is made, and brethren dwell together in
unity (Psa. 133:1) — only then is the invitation extended: “Come
and offer thy gift.”
The Proverbs tell us there are seven abominable things, which
God hates. The seventh (the worst?) of these is “he that soweth discord
among brethren” (Prov. 6:19). If this is so, then the teaching by contrast
would be this: he whom God loves above all else, who is worthy of the seventh
(the greatest?) blessing, is the peacemaker and the reconciler —
‘’he who sows accord among brethren”.
“The command of Christ is, ‘BE RECONCILED.’ Jesus does not
discuss where the fault may lie. That is unimportant. The important part is
— Seek reconciliation, continually, always. Not just go through the
motions once or twice, like a technical Pharisee. He says — BE reconciled;
keep at it; never give up the effort. IF THESE COMMANDS WERE OBEYED, THERE COULD
BE NO ECCLESIAL PROBLEMS” (G.V. Growcott, “Be Ye Therefore
Perfect”, The Berean Christadelphian, Vol. 57, No. 2 — Feb.
1969 — p. 47).
“Brethren in Christ must PRACTICE reconciliation, atonement, and unity,
not seeking to expose sins but to recover the sinner. They have no authority
from Christ to mark up the failings of others and to make known from the
housetops their deviations and sins....We should be no wedge-drivers but
reconcilers, and not fall into the error of rejoicing more over the one sheep
that is lost than over the one that is found, over withdrawing fellowship rather
than restoring it” (The Committee of The Christadelphian,
“Fellowship — Its Spirit and Practice”, The
Christadelphian, Vol. 109, No. 1291 — Jan. 1972 — p.