“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. (NIV)
This is one of the many sayings of Jesus that can be misapplied if taken too literally. Jesus, using very dramatic and blunt language, is telling us to seek to maintain healthy relationships with others. Don’t let conflict and misunderstanding linger.
He first warns against us trying to cover up our problems with someone else by immersing ourselves in religious activity. We might mistakenly think that we can come to church regularly focusing on our relationship with God while all the time neglecting relationships with other people. It won’t work.
Not that we might literally have to leave a church gathering as described, though in a few cases that might apply. Rather, we recognise that we need to get things right with others as far as it depends on us in order to go on being right with God. Resolve to act on that wrong relationship at the first opportunity.
A point spelt out in Jesus’ second illustration. Putting things off means things get worse. A variation of Paul’s teaching that we must not let the sun go down on our anger. We deal with broken relationships as soon as we can, even as we recognise that it takes two to properly heal a relationship. We do what we can.
Our seeking a healthy relationship with God involves similarly seeking a healthy relationship with others. We can’t have one without the other.