Go To Your Brother

Compare these two statements of Jesus, and think about what they have in common.

If you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. (Matthew 5:23-24)

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. (Matthew 18:15)

Both passages speak of conflict. In the first, my brother has a grievance against me. In the second, I have a grievance against him. But in each case, Jesus says, the solution begins with me. I need to go to my brother.

When something has disrupted our relationship with another person, what’s our first inclination? Often it is to plant our feet, fold our arms, and say, “He’s going to have to come to me!” But such stubbornness only compounds the problem. And it defies the commands of God.

In Matthew 5 Jesus says that when I have wounded another, I need to take the first step toward healing. “Go…be reconciled to your brother.” I may be tempted to ignore the matter, or dismiss the other person’s feelings, or just presume his forgiveness. But that’s not what my Lord tells me to do. Jesus even implies that unresolved enmity can hinder my worship, making it even more urgent for me to seek reconciliation.

In Matthew 18 Jesus tells me that when I’m the one who’s been wounded by another, I still need to take the first step toward healing. “Go and show him his fault in private.” I may be tempted to give him the silent treatment, to gossip or complain to others, to let resentment fester. But that would only pile my own sin on top of his.

And consider this: usually when there is personal strife, there’s plenty of blame to go around. Rarely is it all the other person’s fault. What’s more, many of our conflicts arise not from malice or ill will on someone’s part, but from mere carelessness, or pettiness, or misunderstanding. How can we sort it all out and restore harmony? By beginning with Jesus’ instruction: go talk to the other person.

Whether I am the offender or the offended (or some of both), Jesus tells me to summon the humility and courage to go to my brother. The humility to admit fault and the courage to ask forgiveness. The humility to seek another’s good and the courage to confront sin. Imagine if everyone did that!

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1). I wonder how many relationships right now remain crippled or even ruined from neglect of the Lord’s instruction. I wonder how many souls right now are lost because of it. I wonder how many marriages, how many families, how many friendships, how many churches could be transformed if people let go of pride and stubbornness and did what Jesus said.