23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought 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.
25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing. – Matthew 5:21-26
This scripture reminds me of something Paul the Apostle said in 1 Corinthians 13:1-2
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
I think it can be easy for us to look at our service to the Lord and think that we are pleasing to Him, even to the exclusion of loving our Christian brethren and pursuing peace. I think Jesus and Paul say the things they say to help us understand what matters most.
Who are our brethren?
This does not only extend to our brethren of the same Christian sect, though, if we attend a church it does seem like a good idea to be at peace with the people there first and foremost. Nonetheless, if we are a Lutheran, we should strive to be at peace with a Catholic. If we are a Pentecostal, we should strive to be at peace with a Baptist. And so on.
“We all see in part in know in part,” and though we can disagree and have much liberty by the grace of God to gather together and praise Him according to our conscience and the measure of Him we are given to know in Christ, I strongly believe that it is fitting to do so in humility and love of one another–and for the most part we do–as is evidenced by the fact that we allow a variety of Christian sects within our nation.
Yet, at the same time, there is a lot of accusations, slander, and division among us. Though the last thing we need is another denomination or structure, on a personal level, each individual can strive to be at peace with all Christians. Debate secondary issues. Hear one another. Perhaps have your understanding changed and built up by someone with a different perspective. Agree to disagree at times.
We cannot forget that Jesus is Lord and not our denominations or favored secondary doctrines, and our Lord is One that desires peace in His house–a Spiritual house not built with hands but by the Holy Spirit–a house for which Jesus is the cornerstone and the teachings of the Apostles are the foundation–a house that will not be divided nor overrun by this world.
The other houses are not so. We must in some way know that all that we have built in His name is temporary. The only thing that will remain is that we loved one another and were faithful to Jesus. All else will be tried to see what sort it is, and all that is proven to be useful will make its way into His house, even the everlasting and holy city: New Jerusalem.
And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life. — Revelation 21:27
As for our works being tried, I get this from Paul’s writing to the Corinthians:
10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. – 1 Corinthians 2:10-17
We need to remember and expect to face things that we got wrong. However, we also know that we are dealing with an extremely merciful and gracious God, so we also expect gracious judgment.
All of this is to say that none of our works are above scrutiny and none of them are more important than peace with our brethren.
If we have a conflict with our Christian brethren, settling the conflict should be our priority before we invest time in anything else. If there is something we need to do to make things right, then we should.
None of us are above the justice of God or repaying what we owe. If we have done wrong to someone, it does not matter how important we think we are because of our Christian service, we are accountable.
Jesus truly weighs things rightly. How easy can it be for people among the faith to view their forms of Christian service so highly that they place that above taking the time to deal with small matters that aren’t so big and important in the eyes of man? How easy can it be for people among the faith to view themselves as so important as to be above the law, so to speak, as one who does not have to right a wrong, restore what they owe, and so forth?
We aren’t that important.
Jesus told those who boasted about being the children of Abraham that He could make children of Abraham out of rocks.
Yet, God loved us enough to send Jesus to die for us. If anyone had a cause against His brethren, it was Him. We have all sinned against God, and not only did He forgive us, He died to do so.
How much more should we value restoring relationships with our brethren?
What value is all of our service if we neglect what Jesus values most—what He died for—to forgive us and make a way for many sons of God to come into fellowship with Himself?
The point of all of our sacrifices and service is not to please ourselves, but to please God—and what pleases God is that we should obey Him and love one another. Doing so often requires sacrificing self in favor of what is best for another, showing mercy, and praising Jesus for what He did and will do for us.
We also sacrifice our pride as we bear the shame of the unbelieving world in hopes that some might repent and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We should strive to get along with all, as much as it is possible without sacrificing the truth as laid out by the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles.
The forgiveness of Christ is beautiful and having received it, seeking reconciliation with everyone as much as is possible should be priority for us. We are good at finding reasons not to take the time and effort into rebuilding broken relationships. It can be uncomfortable and difficult. We might rather blame the other person or assume that they don’t want reconciliation. We might think that we are somehow excused because of some other service that we do for the Lord and our brethren.
Jesus can heal all things if He wills it, and it does seem as though He wills peace for those who are called by His Name. We should do our upmost to seek that out. If not, we might find ourselves delivered into troublesome times, and we “will not come out until thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.”
This article is part of a series that considers the Parables of Jesus. Right now, we are looking at the statements Jesus made during His Sermon on the Mount, to which He referenced in His Parable of the Building on Rock and Sand. Visit the link for quick access to all articles written within this series. Subscribe for notifications of future posts.