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.”
“Leave Your Gift . . . , and Go Away”
“Leave your gift there in front of the altar,” Jesus explains, “and go away.” Why? What could be more important at that moment than offering up a sacrifice to Jehovah? “First make your peace with your brother,” Jesus further explains, “and then, when you have come back, offer up your gift.” So the worshiper leaves his offering alive at the altar of burnt offering and goes off to search for his offended brother.
Since it is a festival, the offended brother is no doubt among the pilgrims who have flocked to Jerusalem. With narrow streets and houses crowded closely together, Jerusalem has a sizable population. But this is a festival, and the city is packed with visitors.*
Even if people from the same town traveled and camped together, getting through the crowded city to find someone would take some effort. For example, during the Festival of Booths, visitors set up booths all over the city and in the roads and gardens around Jerusalem. (Leviticus 23:34, 42, 43) Nevertheless, the Jewish worshiper is to search for his offended brother until he finds him. Then what?
“Make your peace with your brother,” says Jesus. The Greek expression rendered “make your peace” comes from a verb (di·al·lasʹso) that means “‘to effect an alteration, to exchange,’ and hence, ‘to reconcile.’” Having gone to considerable effort to find his offended brother, the Jewish worshiper seeks to make peace with him. Then, says Jesus, he may return to the temple and offer up his gift, for now God will accept it.
Jesus’ words at Matthew 5:23, 24 thus teach a crucial lesson: Reconciliation, or peace, comes before sacrifice. The way we treat fellow worshipers has a direct bearing on our relationship with God.—1 John 4:20.
What to Do When You Offend Others
What, then, if you find yourself in the situation described at the beginning of this article—you sense that you have offended a fellow worshiper? What should you do?
Applying Jesus’ counsel, take the initiative to approach your brother. With what objective? To convince him that he has no reason to feel offended? Absolutely not! The problem may be more than a simple misunderstanding. “Make your peace,” said Jesus. Remove, if possible, ill will from his heart. (Romans 14:19) To that end, you may need to acknowledge, not deny, his hurt feelings. You may also need to ask, ‘What can I do to make amends?’ Often, a sincere apology is all that is needed. In some cases, however, the offended person may need some time to resolve his feelings.
What, though, if despite repeated efforts you are not able to effect a reconciliation? Romans 12:18 says: “If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.” You can thus be confident that once you have expended yourself to make peace, Jehovah will be pleased to accept your worship.