The Worship-Reconciliation Dialectic1
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
- Matthew 5:23-24
Worship leads us to reconciliation and reconciliation sends us back to worship. Can you see this movement in this passage?
Jesus wants us to have an integration of our vertical and horizontal relationships. He doesn’t want us to compartmentalize, deconstruct or sever those relationships. He wants us to experience reconciliation in every sphere of life, reconciliation that spills over into more and more reconciliation until all things are reconciled and at peace.
Our desire to worship opens us up to conviction about our specific relationships that need restoration. As we move toward right relationships with our brothers and sisters, this compels us back to worship our Lord. This dialectical process leads to truer and deeper and more meaningful relationships with God and other people.
The initial God-ward movement we see in this week’s passage stands as a good and necessary impulse. So many of our friends and neighbors hope for healthy relationships without any sort of involvement from God. But when our initiative of reconciliation starts before God’s altar, we approach our brothers and sisters with a necessary and deep humility. We’re offering gifts at the altar because we know we need (and will receive) God’s forgiveness. Apart from this humility, reconciliation efforts are troubled from the start.
But this challenge also presents a challenge to us. Purely religious activity is not enough. God will, at times, drive us away from his altar, toward our brothers and sisters, for our good and for theirs. He does this because he loves us all. And he does this because he knows that driving us toward reconciliation with our brothers and sisters will ultimately drive us back to the worship of him as he really is, in ways that please him and bless us.
Let’s refuse to choose between worship and reconciliation. Let’s embrace the genius of God’s “And.” Let’s say “Yes and Yes and Yes.”
“Yes” to worship
“Yes” to reconciliation
“Yes” to connection to God and to each other.