Matthew 5:23-24 23Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
Last week we looked at approaching those who have sinned against us. What about those we have sinned against? I contend that it is as hard (or even at times harder) to approach those we have sinned against as it is to approach those who have sinned against us. Reflecting on this passage, it would appear that we are out of sync or integrity with God when we do not approach those we have sinned against.
What keeps us from taking care of this piece of work in our lives? It could be one of several barriers; or even a combination of some. Here are some possible barriers. You may have others that come to mind as well.
First, I have been embarrassed by the way I sinned against my brother or sister. I am uncomfortable with how this makes me feel and I do not want to feel this way. By approaching him or her and owning my sin, I become vulnerable and open myself up to further discomfort. And…he/she may not forgive me. In this case, I do not have the other person’s best interest at heart. I am only worried about myself.
Second, I may be worried about how they feel about me. I have left myself open to judgment. I fear that if I approach them now it will plunge them into a further dislike of me. The pleasing part of me does not want to be disliked. I figure if I ignore the situation, it will fade and go away. Furthermore, I tend to bend over backwards to please this person in other ways as a way of “covering my sins”. This really does not help because, usually, subconsciously the other person can read this as fake.
Third, pride gets in the way. I do not want to admit I could be wrong. I perceive that to be wrong could point to a flaw in my character. A flaw in my character could mean there is something wrong with me. I do not want to admit that about myself.
Fourth, what if they do not forgive? What if it damages the relationship beyond repair? I figure if I leave it status quo, it will be safe. Again, I ignore it and hope for the best.
Finally, to approach someone and mention my sin against them could open up a wound for them. I do not want them to continue in pain, therefore, let’s ignore it and go on. This is really only fixing my discomfort with the situation. This in turn is purely selfish on my part.
So, what do we do? Like I mentioned last week…we approach. Jesus even says, “…leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Swallow pride, fear, and whatever else may be getting in the way and approach the one you have sinned against. At times, this takes courage and humility.
How do I approach? Approach the person with humility. If this is hard for you to do, admit that it is hard for you to do… “I don’t do this very well, but I know something is not right here. I am sure I have been the cause of this and I want to make this right. Your relationship is important to me.”
After the approach and conversation several things can happen. One, I have put my sin into the light where Jesus can take it and heal me (heal us both). There is a burden lifted from me at this point. Two, the relationship can grow stronger because of my humility and servant heart. Third, however, the person wronged may not be ready to forgive me yet, or even ever. Within my humble spirit of approach, I have to be prepared for this outcome. I must be patient, God will heal the wound. If, however, the other party is hard-hearted and cannot let go and forgive, I have done what Jesus has asked of me. I am released and now it is up to the other party. This is the hardest outcome, and the one I fear the most. Yet, this outcome does occur.
I challenge us not only to be bold and approach those who have sinned against us. I also call us to Jesus’ challenge to approach those we have sinned against. This is a form of love that Jesus calls us to show. Paraphrasing, Jesus told us that in order for the world to know we are His disciples, we must love one another.
1. Is there someone you need to approach whom you have sinned against? What is the situation?
2. What barrier or barriers have kept you from taking care of this situation?
3. What is your normal pattern or barrier to approach those you have sinned against? Explain why this is a barrier.
4. Over the next few days, seek out a person you have sinned against and approach him or her and humbly submit to his/her mercy. If you need to, practice the situation with a close confidant and gain some feedback around your approach.
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