“This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.
“Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won’t get out without a stiff fine. (THE MESSAGE)
Jesus often makes radical and even exaggerated statements to make an important point. This is one example. To put it in our context: it is not as if I need to literally leave a church gathering and be reconciled to someone with whom I have a problem. It simply may not be possible to reach that person, and in any case it takes two to be reconciled.
Jesus elsewhere speaks of taking radical action to remedy a problem: plucking out your eye or chopping off your hand, or leaving dead corpses to rot. To take it literally is not to take it seriously. Here the principle seems to be that we are not to let personal relationship problems to fester. And particularly, we are not to imagine we can ignore such problems by merely engaging in proper religious rituals.
Putting off dealing with such issues can make matters worse. Just as letting our anger remain unresolved can damage us and others. More practically, it is good for us when we gather for corporate worship to ensure we are right with others and if not then to commit ourselves to doing what we can to put them right. We take the initiative.
We can’t singlehandedly get right with others. We can, however, get things rolling. No amount of fervent prayer and worship to God will compensate for a bitter and resentful attitude to others.