Reconciliation is important to God. At a time when we were His enemies, God acted to repair our damaged relationship. At a time when sin separated us from Him, God set out to reconcile our estrangement. And in a world where we experience brokenness in our relationships with others, God expects us to make reconciliation as well.
“23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; 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 together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge…”
Jesus teaches us here just how important reconciliation is to God. If your brother or sister (Or cousin, or distant relative, or some guy down the street) has something against you, immediately go and make things right. Stop whatever you’re doing, whether you’re at the grocery store, at work, at church in the middle of worship or even at the temple with an offering – go and reconcile to them – then come back and finish what you were doing. Reconciliation is important to God and it needs to be taken care of now, not later.
Settle matters quickly with your adversary. Most people would assume this applies to civil matters, such as being sued – and it does, but I also see a deeper spiritual significance to it. If you have a matter that needs to be settled, handle it now in this life or it may be handed over to God, the ultimate judge. In the end God will settle all unsettled disputes. He will handle all unfinished business – but it’s best to handle it now and not let it get that far.
In addition to reconciliation, forgiveness is important to God.
At a time when we owed an immeasurably massive debt, God forgave us and paid the debt Himself.
At a time when sin was a millstone chained around our neck dragging us to our death, God set us free and carried our burden – He plunged into the death we rightfully deserved.
God took extreme measures to rectify our extreme sin. We were guilty of so much – an unfathomable debt that we would never have been able to pay – yet God covered it all in His blood so that we could be forgiven. We are that important to Him, just as forgiveness is that important to Him. As we have been forgiven, we are required to forgive. Jesus teaches us the importance of forgiveness in a parable.
23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Imagine that you owe a king over a million dollars and you have absolutely no way to pay the debt but out of compassion this king completely forgives you and says that you no longer owe him. Now you go out and find a neighbor who borrowed ten dollars from you many years ago and you demand that they pay up or you’ll have them thrown in prison.
You have been forgiven of so much yet you hold such a small amount against someone who owes you. Jesus says that when you refuse to forgive you are like this person who demands repayment of a petty debt even though you yourself have been forgiven of a massive debt – and when the King finds out, you will be thrown into prison and held accountable for every cent of the original amount you owed.
What a terrifying thought! If we don’t forgive, Jesus makes it clear that God will not forgive us.
Peter asks Jesus an excellent question concerning forgiveness.
21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
When someone hurts us; When someone wrongs us; When someone sins against us – How many times should we forgive them? Seven times? No! Jesus says seventy times seven! What Jesus was getting at was don’t keep track! As often as you are wronged, forgive! As many times as someone sins against you, forgive! Don’t keep track, don’t keep score, don’t keep record – just forgive!
And finally Jesus says it plainly.
14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Forgive freely. Forgive openly. Forgive constantly.
Because to refuse to forgive is to cast yourself into hell.