In our scripture reading for this coming Sunday, we read from the familiar Sermon on the Mount about the power of reconciliation as a prelude to our participation in the Eucharist. (Matthew 5:23-26)
“Come to terms quickly with your accuser.” Actually Jesus talks more about the negative impact on one’s life if one doesn’t reconcile. Your accuser may take you to court, and the judge may throw you into prison!
In the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, imbedded in the 12 Steps, there is also an urgent concern for reconciliation. If you want to stay sober, live at peace insofar as possible with your brothers and sisters. Otherwise you may relapse and you will be thrown back into the prison of your addiction. The 12 Steps call it “making amends,” and it is incumbent upon the addict who wishes to recover to make amends on a regular basis to the people one has harmed. The authors of the 12 Steps back in the late 1930’s were keenly aware of the penalty for being continuously at odds with one another. They agree with Jesus. The penalty is prison!
Why is making amends so important to the Christian life, or to the sober life? Why does it take chronological precedence over participation in the Eucharist, which is the most foundational and life-giving action on the Christian journey?
I believe the answer to this question about why reconciliation is so vital lies in twospiritual concepts.
Reconciliation is what Jesus is all about. If we are followers of Jesus, we are reconciled to God and to one another. For the Christian, a lack of unity is scandalous. We must do our part to reflect the unity of the triune God in our relations with one another. “I and the Father are one,” says Jesus, and “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
And secondly, a psychological insight into our lives helps us to realize that disunity eats away at our moral foundation. From the alcoholic’s perspective, enmity among us leads to resentment, which leads in time to relapse. You are building your house upon the sand, as Jesus says in his summation statement to the Sermon on the Mount. Failure to reconcile is just plain foolish.
So there is a theological as well as a practical reason to make amends and reconcile with those you have harmed with your thoughts or your actions. If you want to reflect the glory of God in your everyday witness, then reconcile. If you want to prosper in your life, then don’t weigh yourself down with resentment and bitterness. They will only serve to imprison you.
Reflect the love and unity of God in all your relationships, and you will have the exhilarating experience of freedom.