We have all been hurt by a friend or a family member. Sometimes our families do things to us that are so deliberate and malicious that it seems like we would be justified to refuse contact with them and never talk to them again. It seems like God should be OK with us writing that person off and never forgiving them.
But He’s not. God does not like it when we refuse to be reconciled with someone else who has sinned against us. We cannot worship the one true, loving, God in our heart if we are unwilling to give them a chance to mend fences with us. Jesus made it very clear that we must attempt to deal with these personal situations if possible almost immediately, BEFORE we attend the next worship service. Listen to what Jesus told His disciples:
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:24-25 NIV)
Jesus is saying here that you must at least attempt to reconcile with your friend/family member before attending to formal worship, so that you worship does not become an act of hypocrisy. In Jesus’ day one would conduct formal worship by giving God a gift in the temple; in our day we worship God in our churches. The contemporary application is that you should forgive your friend before you come into church to sing praise to God or to partake in communion etc. WORSHIPPING GOD WHILE YOU ARE STILL ANGRY AT YOUR BROTHER WILL HAVE LITTLE IF ANY SPIRITUAL BENEFIT. IN FACT IT MAY BE A NET NEGATIVE, SINCE GOD IS DISGUSTED WITH YOUR HYPOCRISY.
Those who are self-righteous will sometimes falsely claim to be exempted from the verse above. They will say that Jesus only commands reconciliation if you have committed sin against someone else, but not if you are the victim. However, refusal to give forgiveness is in and of itself a horrible sin. If your friend has harmed you and you refuse to forgive him for his sin, then you are simply harming him in return. This is wrong. Jesus made it clear how many times we are to forgive our friend/brother:
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
True believers, that is born again Christians, have no right to refuse to forgive others, since they themselves have received abundant forgiveness from God. If you are born of God you will love others, even though they are sinners:
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (I John 4:20-21)
In light of this verse I think it is quite impossible for us to worship God in our hearts while we are seething with anger against another person. Unfortunately, many so-called Christians go for months or even years on end refusing to talk to or make up with their brother, sister, mom, Dad, etc. In many cases this means that they are going for a very long time without really worshipping God in our heart. It breaks my heart to see Christian kids who are unwilling to talk to their parents, or vice versa. Where did they get the idea that this is OK? It’s not OK. This is wrong and it needs to stop.
May God give us all the grace to see through our own hard-heartedness.