Monday, November 12, 2012

If thy brother hast ought against thee

Sermon on the MountWe covered Christ’s teaching of the “Sermon on the Mount” in Sunday School last week. As I was preparing the lesson I kept being drawn to two verses in particular—Matt 5:23-24  which read:

23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought [anything] against thee;

24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

As I read this I could feel the Savior’s love for everyone. He says to us, that prior to reaching out to him we need to reconcile ourselves with those who have anything against us. Notice Christ did not say that we need to reach out to those we have wronged and repair our relationship, He says to those that have anything against us – justified or not! This means that if we know someone is unjustly angry with us we need to make the first step in repairing the damage. We may need to apologize for something we said or did in response to an unkind act. We may be required to resolve an issue created by someone’s misperception.

Why is repairing a relationship so important? Resentment towards another often blocks the ability to feel love and can start a vicious cycle of negative emotions. Christ wants us to help reverse this cycle and thus bless the life of others. Do you think it matters to Him that something we might have said or done was justified if it has a long-term negative impact on someone else’s life?

Here’s some related advice from one of my favorite authors, William George Jordan in his book, The Crown of Individuality.

If at the close of day we can think of even one human being whose sky has been darkened by our selfishness, one whose burden has been new-weighted by our unkindness, one whose pillow will be wet with sobs for our injustice, one whose faith in humanity has been weakened at a crucial moment by our bitterness or cruelty, let us make quick atonement. Let us write the letter our heart impels us to write, while foolish pride would stay the hand; let us speak the confession that will glorify the lips we fear it may humiliate; let us stretch out the hand of love in the darkness till it touches and inspires the faithful one that possibly never caused us real pain.

The world would be a better place if we followed Jordan’s practical advice; an even better place if we applied this advice, without regard to fault, as Christ suggests.

Note, I created a 2-page document (PDF, Word) which if printed on both sides of a sheet of cardstock paper (67 lb or greater) makes 6 cards that can be used as bookmarks or placed in a wallet as reminders of this lesson. On one side is Bloch’s painting of Christ delivering the Sermon on the Mount along with the text of Matt 5:23-24, on the other side is Jordan’s quote from above. 

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