Worship is Contingent on Peace with Your Brother.
As Christians, we often talk about forgiving others. But to me, this is a very dangerous ground to live on. The constant talk of forgiving others assumes that we are usually the victims, the ones in need of granting mercy. But as Christians, as peacemakers, we have to offer just as much time and space for the discipline of apologizing. We must be in the habit of brewing on how to live in peace rather than just nurturing thoughts of how we've been misused and abused.
The time spent of feeling like we got "screwed" by so and so should be spent seeking to make amends to those we've "screwed", knowing and trusting that if we've truly been "screwed" or mistreated, God will be the one to judge, correct, and make right.
So, I'd like to offer some thoughts on how to ask for forgiveness.
First and foremost, here's a question for you.
"Do you feel like you're usually in the right?"
Then you can be sure that you are probably almost always in the wrong... at least in attitude and posture (heart).
The humble, Scripture states, are able to draw near to God.
God is attracted to humility.
People are also moved towards you when you exhibit (true) humility.
The best way to move closer to God and to others is to take humble steps.
Our relationships matter to God. So much so that it affects our relationship with God. If we do not live in harmony, the best we can, we end up wasting God's time and our time.
It takes three (3) days to get back to Galilee (where most of Jesus’ audience lived) from the Temple. Jesus knows this and says it’s worth the trek back because God will not accept your worship. The worshipper would have bought an animal for sacrifice and traveled days to get to the Temple to offer their worship to God. But Jesus basically says, "you wasted your money, time, energy. Your worship is in vain because you have not sought reconciliation and peace with your brother."
Thought 3 (How to)
So, let's make a habit of seeking reconciliation, let's make it a practice to say "sorry" rather than simply look for those who've offended us, looking for folks to "forgive". Below are Five Languages of Apology by Gary Chapman + Jennifer Thomas. I believe these are simple and clear ways to seek amends. May we be just as good at apologizing as we are in extending forgiveness.
1 Express Regret | Sincerity not only verbally, but also through body language
Communicate that you’re sorry. A heart-felt “I’m Sorry”.
No excuses, no deflection, just a simple sorry with deep regret in your heart for hurting them.
2 Accept Responsibility | Admit It
“I am and was wrong.” Accepting and claiming the responsibility. Not only am “I sorry”, but it was “my fault.”
3 Make Restitution | Some Need to “See” your Efforts to Make Amends
“I will correct and right the wrongs I did.” “Restitution” Apology seeks to make amends.
4 Genuinely Repent | Some Need to See Gradual Change in Behavior
“I will modify, change, my behavior from this point on.”
Changes in lifestyle, behavior, actions.
But to Genuinely Repent, We Must Get a Revelation of the Ugliness of our Sin
"Strange as it may sound, genuine repentance (real apologies) seems more difficult than forgiveness. This should not surprise those who have pondered the gravity and power of human sin. Its most notable feature is that it unfailingly refuses to be sin (we refuse to own up to it and call it wrong). We not only refuse to admit the wrongdoing and to accept the guilt but seem neither to detest nor feel sorry about the sin committed... repentance before God is possible only through the work of the Holy Spirit. The same may well be true of repentance before human beings. (It’s going to take God to convict us and to get us to truly feel sorry for hurting others. This is why we need the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives!)" - Miroslav Volf / "Against the Tide" (171-172)
5 Request Forgiveness | Give the Right and Power to Forgive to the Other
“Can and will you forgive me?” Some need to hear you ask for Forgiveness specifically.
This is the art of relinquishing control as well as accepting whatever outcome and consequences.
“Demanding forgiveness takes away the sincerity of asking for it.” - Dr. Chapman
6 It Takes Faith and Courage to Ask for Forgiveness
“The person who asks forgiveness is a person who has renounced the privilege of being right or safe; he has acknowledged that he is hungry for healing, for the bread of acceptance and restoration to relationship. But equally the person who forgives has renounced the safety of being locked into the position of the offended victim; he has decided to take the risk of creating afresh a relationship known to be dangerous, known to be capable of causing hurt. Both the giver and the receiver of forgiveness have moved out of the safety zone; they have begun to ask how to receive their humanity as a gift."
- Archbishop Rowan Williams / Address at the “11th Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation”
6 Who do you owe an apology to?
Try apologizing today.