Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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“So, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother
has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go your way;
first be reconciled to your brother and then come offer your gift.”
What this person was offering to God on His altar was a gift; it was not a sacrifice for sin. Gifts were optional. They did not have to be brought. Sacrifices for sin, however, were required of those who hoped to be saved from the coming wrath. What, then, does it tell us that the person in Jesus’ parable was bringing a gift to God? It tells us that he was there to worship God simply because he wanted to be there, not because he needed forgiveness for some sin. At some point in the past, he had already made things right with God and was now bringing an offering out of gratitude and joy.
But notice what Jesus said God wanted such a worshipper to do: “Leave your gift there before the altar and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother and then come offer your gift.” Did you notice that Jesus did not tell the worshipper to take the gift away with him? In other words, God wanted the gift! He was not rejecting it! God wanted the worshipper to come back and enjoy the sweet communion of worship with Him! At the same time, He loves all His children and couldn’t accept worship from one who had not made things right with others. As long as there remained someone who had been wronged by the worshipper and was still hurt by it, God could not rejoice with that worshipper as He would have liked to. God wants us all — together — to enjoy communion with Him, but that cannot happen if are there are things still dividing us such as wrongs that have not been dealt with.
The worshipper in Jesus’ parable had been forgiven, but it is precisely because he had been forgiven that God told him to go heal his brother’s heart. Before he was forgiven, before he himself was right with God, he was unable to do the good work that God now asked him to do. Now was his opportunity to demonstrate that he had a renewed mind, a right spirit, and a heart of love for others, like God. God was not condemning him when he told him to leave his gift at the altar; He would have gone with him as his Helper and Guide. With the demand to go be reconciled with a wronged brother, God was showing him a new way to think and live, a way that considered others before oneself, as God does.
My aunt “Onie” was in a prayer meeting one night when she saw a visitor there whom she knew. It was Mr. Grady, the owner of a local furniture store, to whom she and her husband owed money and had not been making their agree-upon payments. Aunt Onie knew that if she worshipped God with the saints that night, it would trouble the man she and her husband had not been treating right. So, she held herself back and sat still throughout the service. After the meeting was over, my father went to his beloved sister, Onie, and asked her why she had been so quiet that night. She explained the situation and then added that the next morning, she intended to go see Mr. Grady and humbly apologize, and to start making payments again, immediately. True to her word, the next day she went to Mr. Grady and asked his forgiveness, and then she and her husband began fulfilling their obligation to him. The next night when the saints came together for a meeting, Aunt Onie rejoiced with them as she normally did, and she would have been glad if Mr. Grady had been there to see her do it. She had left her gift at the altar, taken care of the business that she needed to take care of, and then came and offered her gift of worship to God, who, I feel sure, accepted it gladly.
God was glad that worshipper had brought an offering to Him. But He was willing to postpone His joy a little while until others could partake of it with Him and the worshipper. He was showing the forgiven worshipper how to be like Him! God would humbly wait for His gift, and He wanted the forgiven worshipper to wait to give it, until everyone in the body could rejoice with them.