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Leave Your Gift at the Altar and “Text”?

Submitted by on October 9, 2013 – 12:38 pm2 Comments

TextingOver the last year or so, I have heard from several pastors in my travels as well as from a few parishioners whom I serve as interim pastor at St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church that the current computer technology should be renamed in light of reconciliation as: “forgiveness technology.”

My conversations couldn’t help but remind me of what Jesus said in Matthew 5:23-24 (ESV):

23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.

Any sin committed against a brother or sister in Christ or against you must be healed through forgiveness, in gentleness and humility and, preferably face-to-face. Pastors have shared with me that they and those whom they serve who are struggling with reconciliation issues are using “texting,” “tweeting,” “Facebooking” and “emailing” as “the way” to handle reconciliation. These computer technologies are becoming “theological escape pods.” Is this the “new norm” in handling one-on-one reconciliation?

Oh, but one might say, “They have moved away or they won’t talk to me. Therefore, my only alternative is to text, tweet, Facebook, or email. At least I am doing something.” How about making a phone call to those who have angered you or those whom you have angered or sinned against and try to set up a meeting? If they constantly refuse, then you have to “shake off the dirt from your feet,” all the while praying continually that God’s Spirit would change their heart.

Computer technology is a great gift from God, but it isn’t there to replace “leaving your gift at the altar and to go those whom you have sinned against or to those who have sinned against you.” Healing between those who have sinned against each other doesn’t begin with computer technology, but with forgiveness, one-on-one. “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.”  Reconciliation with a brother or sister in Christ should be approached with gentleness and humility, and with the urgency that knows that true reconciliation happens face-to-face. As Dr. Jeffery Gibbs states in his Matthew 1:1—11:1 commentary:

The believer cannot pretend that the horizontal relationships with his fellows are independent of his relationship with God. His vertical relationship with God must affect his horizontal relationships with his brothers. If the horizontal relationship isn’t repaired and nourished, it can damage the vertical relationship. (284)

I know that this is easier said than done, but by the grace of God, all things are possible through Christ who strengthens us.

2 Comments »

  • […] Dr. Robert Wiese of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis shares his thoughts on this very difficult problem in this article. […]

  • Nathan Misch says:

    Great points, Dr. Weise.

    Just a thought with the distance question and phone calls, texts messages, and emails. Jesus is talking to people in northern Israel most likely, a three day journey from Jerusalem. The image Jesus presents–at its most extreme–is for this person to get out of the line for sacrifices in Jerusalem, travel the three days to Capernaum, make amends and then travel another three days back to Jerusalem; a week’s worth of expense and headache, inconvenience and frustration is not out of the question in order to make amends and to set things right.

    As you point out: “Reconciliation with a brother or sister in Christ should be approached with gentleness and humility, and with the urgency that knows that true reconciliation happens face-to-face.”

    Thanks for the thoughts.

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