Peace with Others Essential for Happiness
AN INSPIRED poet of ancient times wrote: “Look! How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! . . . It is like the dew of Hermon that is descending upon the mountains of Zion. For there Jehovah commanded the blessing to be, even life to time indefinite.”—Ps. 133:1-3.
Peace with others is indeed essential for happiness. God sets a high value on peace. In order to have and enjoy such peace we must treat our neighbors in fairness. Those who profess to be Christians should, of all people, seek peace with others by dealing justly and in love.
Jesus Christ, when on earth, spoke to a crowd of the Jews about difficulties between individuals and went on to say: “If, then, you are bringing your gift to the altar and you there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, and go away; first make your peace with your brother, and then, when you have come back, offer up your gift.”—Matt. 5:23, 24.
HARMONY WITH EARLIER PRECEPTS
On this occasion Jesus undoubtedly had in mind the law of God at Leviticus 6:2-7, which reads:
“In case a soul sins in that he does behave unfaithfully toward Jehovah and does deceive his associate about something in his charge or a deposit in hand or a robbery or he does defraud his associate, or he does find something lost and is actually deceptive about it and does swear falsely over any of all the things that the man might do to sin by them; then it must occur that in case he sins and indeed becomes guilty, he must return the robbed thing which he has robbed or the extorted thing which he has taken by fraud or the thing in his charge which was put in his charge or the thing lost that he has found, or anything at all over which he might swear falsely, and he must make compensation for it in its full amount, and he will add to it a fifth of it. To the one whose it is he will give it on the day his guilt is proved. And as his guilt offering he will bring to Jehovah a sound ram from the flock according to the estimated value, for a guilt offering, to the priest. And the priest must make an atonement for him before Jehovah, and so it must be forgiven him regarding any of all the things that he might do resulting in guiltiness by it.”
In these cases mentioned in the Law, an Israelite had defrauded his associate in some way, quite seriously. He knew that his associate had something against him. It was not an imagined wrong, but a real one. Now, if the wrongdoer went to the temple to offer a sacrifice, claiming to perform worship and service to Jehovah, of what value would it be if he went before Jehovah as a thief, a liar or an extortioner? God would not view his offering with favor and bestow a blessing; as he later told King Saul through the prophet Samuel: “Does Jehovah have as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Look! To obey is better than a sacrifice, to pay attention than the fat of rams.”—1 Sam. 15:22.
Jesus roundly condemned the scribes and Pharisees on the same grounds, saying: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you give the tenth of the mint and the dill and the cummin, but you have disregarded the weightier matters of the Law, namely, justice and mercy and faithfulness.”—Matt. 23:23.
The law regarding the defrauded or extorted thing was actually a mercy on the part of God. It was for the benefit of the one defrauded but also of the person whose conscience beat him before the judges of the court and moved him to confess or make an admission of his guilt and correct his wrong. For if he had refused to do this, then there would be no divine forgiveness for him.—Ex. 22:1, 4, 7; Lev. 6:2-7.
The wholeheartedness required of the repentant offender was shown in the fact that, if the one offended had died in the meantime, his nearest relative would have to be paid the compensation.—Num. 5:7, 8.
KEEPING PEACE WITH FELLOW CHRISTIANS
Similarly, if a Christian today knows that his brother has something against him, a real—not an imagined—wrong (even though the defrauded brother himself is not aware of the wrong), he cannot expect God to accept his worship until, first, the wrong is straightened out with the brother. In Israel the amount of value defrauded or extorted had to be returned, with 20 percent added. This was partly because the one defrauded could have been making use of his property for gain to himself. Also, it served as a deterrent to further fraudulent acts on the part of the offender. Then a ram, which was quite a costly item to an Israelite, had to be offered, an added expense as a result of his sin.
So, in straightening out matters, the Christian today would rightly want to do it, not in a reluctant, begrudging way, but wholeheartedly, generously, humbly making full admission of his wrong. And, if it was in his power, he would settle it so that the victim suffered no loss because of having been deprived of the money or other valuable thing for a period of time. He would be happy that God had mercy on him in allowing him thus to right the wrong and would desire with all his soul that he get back into a right standing, primarily with God, and also with his neighbor. For, as the law pointed out, such a law violator had behaved unfaithfully, first, “toward Jehovah.”—Lev. 6:2.
Such a wholehearted attitude in setting matters straight would indicate real repentance for the serious wrong done and a renewed desire to do right.
The action on the part of a Christian in admitting and righting the wrong done to his brother is an evidence to both God and the Christian congregation that the person is sincerely repentant, and a merciful attitude is shown toward him. On the other hand, in a spirit similar to that under the Law, a thief or extortioner who tries to cover up his sin, but is exposed, puts himself in danger of being disfellowshiped from the congregation, if he does not confess or acknowledge his wrongdoing and is unwilling to make amends.—Ps. 32:5; Job 31:33.
After, first, the serious wrong is righted to the extent possible, then it is time for the Christian to present his offering of prayer and service to Jehovah. The important things in Jehovah’s eyes are justice, mercy and faithfulness, not mere lip service or outward show of righteousness. How can a person have peace with God if he is mistreating one of God’s servants? and how can he approach God with peace of mind and conscience? But if he has a guilty conscience, let him do what he can to right the wrong and to reestablish peace with his brother. Then God will love him and will hear his prayer. Moreover, ‘Jehovah will command the blessing’ to be on the unity of the congregation, with spiritual prosperity and the prospect of “life to time indefinite.”—Ps. 133:3.