Go and Be Reconciled
Matthew 5:23-26

Many of us have been here over the last three weeks to hear various points about Biblical Reconciliation or Peacemaking, others haven’t.  So today will I will begin with a bit of a summary of what we’ve heard over the last three weeks before I move on to the main focus for today - Go and Be Reconciled.

We began four weeks ago by discussing how in conflict we are given an opportunity to Glorify God by depending on him for forgiveness for ourselves and for other people, by drawing on him for wisdom and listening to his commands to love one another as he has first loved us.  That’s the starting point.

Then we talked about getting the log out of our own eye, to look at ourselves and realise that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God.  That we all struggle and to come to God and ask him to help us remove the log from our own eye before we go and point out to our neighbour the speck that they have in theirs.  We need to ask God to help us, to change our attitudes, to change the way that we live, so that we can then help others.

And last week we talked about gently restoring, how when we discover someone who is caught in sin that we should go and help them because just like a fish caught in a net it is very hard to get yourself out when you are trapped by sin.  When you can’t get out by yourself you need someone else to come and help you, to speak God’s forgiveness to you and help you free from that sin and to take that journey with you in unity and in love.

Today we come to “Go and be reconciled”, this is the tough bit, this is where we are called to go and do something.  We read in Matthew 5:
“So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”  When you remember that you have something against someone else.  That’s tough, Jesus is saying go and be reconciled, go and sort it out.  This is a passage that is talking about anger and follows a section that says if you don’t go and sort it out you will bring judgment on yourself.  This is a fairly difficult thing to reconcile with ourselves.  It is important to remember that we can’t change anyone else, but we can change ourselves, and so it starts within us, it starts by us recognising that we have a problem and that we can do something about it if we change our own attitude and if we go to God and ask for his forgiveness.

But what is this forgiving?  It is important to remember that we are called in several places throughout Scripture to first forgive as God has forgiven us.  As I was thinking this week, I was going through one of those rollercoaster week, where one minute you are rejoicing with someone and the next you are dealing with some kind of burden or illness with another.  Then rejoicing again, spending tim talking through issues, when you start talking about conflict, people start to hurt, they remember things, it brings things back to them which may have been avoided.

As I was contemplating these texts and these situations I was drawn to the Lord’s Prayer.  Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us is very familiar with us, we’ve changed it though to speak more to our modern language by changing trespass to sin, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.  Then I looked at the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible in Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer and it uses the word ‘debt’.  Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. 

When you think about debts how does it make you feel?  Some of you must have debts that are hanging over you, surely, a burden that you have to meet month by month or week by week depending on how it is set up.  It was brought home to me this week because I’ve been carrying a debt since about the second year at Australian Lutheran College when I had sold my four wheel drive and house and I could no longer maintain paying my fees and rent, so I had to negotiate a loan with the college to carry a debt for me for these last few years.  I can remember during final year hearing reports that some pastors of the church still owed the Seminary money up to five years after leaving, and at that stage I was horrified.  I’ve carried that burden for the last four years, trying to pay it off while paying school fees and Ice Hockey fees whenever I could. 

I received my tax return this week and finally it is enough to cover that debt.  I’m excited that I’m going to be able to take that debt and pay it off.  Finally there is enough in reserve to cover that debt.  Have any of you ever had that experience, where you’ve paid off a debt, does it feel good?  I know that we Lutherans don’t talk about feelings or experiences much, but life is about experience, it’s about feeling things.  When you’re hurting in a conflict do you feel something?  Does it rip your gut when you see someone that you’re involved in a conflict with, do you want to run the other way?  That’s what I did every time I got a letter in the mail with an Australian Lutheran College logo on the front for the last four years, because the only thing they wanted to talk to me about was paying off my debt.  It doesn’t feel good does it?  But compare that to how good it feels to receive one where the invoice reads $0.00 and that may take a while to come through but when it does arrive it will be a day of rejoicing in our household.

That’s what this is talking about, being able to come to God and know that your debts have been paid, and yes we all know that our debts were paid by Jesus on the cross, it cost US nothing.  Maybe that’s why we have trouble accepting it, it seems to cheap for us, we want it to cost us something, we want to carry our debts for a bit.  We feel comfortable that way, when someone owes us a debt there’s certain relationship that develops, we have control over them, but when that’s paid, when that person is set free, they rejoice, they have a chance to live their life in a different way.

Do you think it’s worth going and being reconciled?  It may hurt a bit, it might hurt our pride, and things may need to change in our lives.  It may hurt to go and make that step, to go and say that “your debt is gone; it has been wiped out, go and rejoice, be free, give glory to God in that, your sins have been set free.  The gift that God has given to us through his son, go and give it to someone else.

There is an analogy that I’ve used before and it’s a bit grotty, but I’m going to use it anyway because it makes a good point.  Carrying our debts is like getting around with stinking dead cats tied to our belts, they stink, they upset us, and they upset other people.  People don’t want to be around us when we stink of dead cats.  As you cut those debts or sins free, as you take one of those dead cats and put him in the recycle bin or wherever he should go suddenly you don’t smell as bad to yourself and other people aren’t so affected by it either.  When we cut loose all of our dead cats then we are free to go out, to evangelise, to spread the message of forgiveness both to our friends and our families or those who are not sitting in the pews next us because we may have offended them in the last twenty or so years, or in our lifetime.  Or to go out to the people around us and show them the joy that we have in living debt free.  How good does it feel to be debt free, to quote that old song, “Can you feel it?”  Can you actually feel in your heart, not just in your head, that God has forgiven you, has set you free, and has taken your debt upon his son?  Is that worth rejoicing about and then forgiving others as God has forgiven you?

It’s a joy that I hope you know, that I hope you feel and that you will share with others around you in these coming weeks and months as we work with God to reach out to those around us, those we love and those we care for, those whom we may have never met, as we build up the body of Christ as we move forward as a community reaching out in love and in grace and forgiving others as God has first forgiven us.