Required to Reconcile

MP3 Audio: WS330368_Dn-Joseph_Required-to-Reconcile.mp3

This homily was preached on Sunday morning, July 27, 2014,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.

Transcription by Maria Powell of Dormition Text Services.

~

Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:20-26

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. God is One.

Those of you who are parents, have you ever had a day when each of your children gave you a hug in the morning and said, “I love you,” but then they proceeded to fight with each other? There is nothing that so grieves the heart of a father as having children who are at odds with one another. A good father, a good mother, desires peace in the family and peace in the home.

Likewise, there is nothing that so grieves our Heavenly Father’s heart as having children who fight with one another. God knows that sibling rivalry is what led to the very first murder, when out of envy, Cain killed his brother Abel. And throughout history, every murder, every war, and every act of violence has happened for the same reason: as God’s children, we are not loving one another and reconciling with one another.

To harbor anger in a relationship is to harbor the seed of murder. That is why Jesus includes His command for reconciliation in His passage where he speaks about murder. If lust is equivalent to adultery, then illicit anger is equivalent to murder. Whether you are the one who did wrong, or whether you are the one who has been wronged, Jesus says it is your responsibility to urgently seek reconciliation with your brother.

We all know that Scripture says this. Yet, so often, this command is not obeyed. Why is that? What reasons do people give for not obeying this clear command of Christ?

Confrontation

Some people simply respond by saying,

“I don’t like confrontation. It makes me uncomfortable.”

Yet God commands it! Saying, “I don’t like confrontation” is comparable to saying, “I don’t like honesty. I don’t like chastity. I don’t like being faithful to my wife.” Christians obey Christ. They do not determine the course of action based on what they don’t like.

Futility

Another reason people give for not obeying Christ is:

“It won’t work. You don’t know my family like I know my family. You don’t know my friends like I know my friends. Jesus gave a good command here, but in this case, I already know it won’t work. So I won’t do it.”

God knows all things, and He commands you to do it. You know few things and have determined that his commands don’t work?

I remember one time I sat down to talk with someone about something that they had against me. I suspected ahead of time that it might not go very well. Indeed, much of the conversation did not go well. I sat and listened as they got angry, raised their voice, accused me of doing horrible things, and even threatened to kick me out of their home. I did not respond in anger. I listened. I explained reasons why I was not guilty of doing the things they accused me of. Eventually, they cooled down. They said they were not upset with me, that everything was okay between us. They even promised to talk directly with me in the future if they were ever upset with me again.

Here’s the point: Even if you go into it thinking that it will not work out well, you may be wrong. You are not God, so you are not as good at predicting the future as you might think you are. Even if the person you confront responds with anger initially, everything still may work out well in the end. Even more importantly, you need to do what God commands you to do, regardless of the results. Christians do not base their actions on what they think will work. Christians base their actions on the commands of Christ.

Pride

Another reason people do not obey this command is probably not a reason that they will verbalize to you out loud, not something they will say. But inside, they will say,

“I don’t want to admit that I was wrong.”

You may realize that the other person has the right to be angry at you, because you are the one who is guilty of wrongdoing. But if you are unwilling to repent of your sin, and you are unwilling to ask your brother to forgive you, then how can you expect God to forgive you? If you are willing to repent of your sin, but you just can’t bring yourself to tell your brother that you were wrong, then pride is getting in the way.

There is nothing that repulses God more than pride. If you want to have a close relationship with Jesus, then you are going to have to humble yourself, not only before God, but also before your brother. Have the humility and the courage to look your brother or your sister in the face and say, “I was wrong.”

Delayed Obedience

“I don’t like confrontation” is no excuse, because followers of Christ do not base their actions on what they like. Instead, they obey what Christ has commanded.

“It won’t work” is no excuse, because followers of Christ do not base their actions on predicted results. Instead, they obey what Christ has commanded.

“I don’t want to admit I was wrong” is no excuse, because followers of Christ do not avoid repentance, and followers of Christ do not harbor pride. Instead, they obey what Christ has commanded.

After considering all this, we may finally admit,

“Yes, I need to sit down and talk to that person and seek reconciliation. I just don’t have time for it right now. In a few weeks, when the time is right, then I’ll do it.”

This is where we need to remember that delayed obedience is disobedience. If Dad tells you to clean your room, you are not being obedient if you say, “I’ll do it later.”

To be obedient to God, you must not only do what He tells you. You must also do it when He tells you. In regard to reconciliation, Jesus says it is extremely urgent. You must do it now. You must do it immediately.

Prior to the death and resurrection of Christ, people worshiped God with animal sacrifices. They’d bring their sacrifice to the altar, confess their sins in the presence of the priest, and then a blood sacrifice would be offered to God. This pointed forward to the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Jesus said that reconciliation was so urgent that you should actually interrupt your worship of God just to make sure your brother doesn’t have anything against you.

Jesus did not say, “go ahead and offer your sacrifice, and then reconcile with your brother as soon as it is convenient for you.” Instead, Jesus said to leave your gift at the altar, go reconcile with your brother, and then return to the altar to complete your sacrifice to God. The point here is that God will not accept your worship if you are at odds with your brother, and you are refusing to reconcile.

After the death and resurrection of Christ, we have the Eucharist. We feast upon the Body and Blood of Jesus Himself. The Eucharist has taken the place of the Old Testament blood sacrifices. If reconciliation with your brother was a requirement in order for God to accept your animal sacrifices, then how much more reconciliation is a requirement now, in order for God to welcome you to His table to take the Eucharist? Jesus is teaching us that reconciliation is so urgent that we must do that first, before we take the Eucharist.

Imagine a church community where every person is so diligently seeking reconciliation, that even when the smallest tensions arise in relationships, there are multiple house visits and phone calls throughout the week as each and every person urgently rushes to make sure all of their relationships are entirely at peace, before they dare to partake of the Eucharist on Sunday morning. This is not some far-off ideal. This is not just a church that would be nice to have. This is the only kind of church that is being faithful to Christ!

If you are a Christian, then being content with broken relationships is not an option. If you claim to follow Christ, then you must seek reconciliation with your brothers and sisters in Christ. This is what God requires. To avoid reconciliation is to avoid being a Christian.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. God is One.

~

This homily was preached on Sunday morning, July 27, 2014,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.

Transcription by Maria Powell of Dormition Text Services. Dormition Text Services offers full-service secretarial support, including transcription and publishing services, to Orthodox clergy and communities. 

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About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
This entry was posted in 2014 Homilies, Fr. Joseph Gleason, Matthew 5:21-26, Orthodox Homilies, Reconciliation, Spiritual Living. Bookmark the permalink.

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