So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.(Matthew 5:23–24, ESV)
The key to understanding what Jesus is saying here is in understanding the context. He is speaking about being angry with your brother. He is teaching his followers about relationships. The preceding verses say:
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.”But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.(Matthew 5:21-22a, NIV)
In verses 23 and 24, Jesus picks out two elements and describes them in their proper order. The two elements are worship and reconciliation. He says reconciliation comes first and then worship can happen.
Why would he say that reconciliation comes before worship? Is it because bitterness, unforgiveness, and anger will interrupt worship? I think so, because John makes this clear throughout 1st John. Here is one example:
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20, ESV)
Don’t be deceived. You cannot and will not have a close relationship with God while you’re bitter toward another Christian. It is spiritually impossible. God has clearly stated that we need to forgive (see Eph. 4:32). Some people respond, “But they don’t want to reconcile. Does that mean I can’t worship God?” Well, the answer is found in Romans 12:18: If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all(ESV).
Is there someone you’ve been refusing to reconcile with? First, go to God and ask for his forgiveness. Second, being led by the Holy Spirit, go to the other person and attempt to be reconciled. If they will not reconcile with you at this time, don’t close the door to future reconciliation with them, because it isn’t always possible to be reconciled to everyone right away. Keep the door open to them. Leave the light on for them. Always be ready to reconcile.
Lord, help me to reconcile with my friend. I want to let go of all my unforgiveness, hurt, and bitterness, even if this issue stays unresolved for awhile. I want to be free to worship you. . . . Continue praying.