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
“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
“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.