Connecting the Dots

connecting the dotsConnecting the Dots: An observation, a Gospel Reading, a pastoral experience, and a word from the fourth century.

An Observation: Christianity is hurt more by the inconsistent behavior of Christians than the abhorrent behavior of non-Christians. Take, as one example, the number of professing Christians who refuse to seek reconciliation with fellow Christians, even fellowship Christians who are members of their nuclear families. Each Sunday, a brother and sister gather for worship with their respective congregations wherein they often find themselves in leadership positions. Yet, in the days and hours between services, they fail to take steps to reconcile their fractured relationship. Instead, they allow bitterness and resentment to grow like weeds in the gardens of their souls.

A Gospel Reading: And Jesus said, “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. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. “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. (Matthew 5:21-24 NIV)

A Pastoral Experience: On two occasions I have invited a fellow pastor to join me in seeking reconciliation between an active member of his congregation and an active member of my congregation. On both occasions, these active members filled leadership roles in their churches. On both occasions, they were members of the same family: one a brother and a sister, the other a father and a son. On both occasions, my fellow pastor refused to get involved.

A Word from the Fourth Century: “If, then, you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there at the altar. Go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” How, then, are we permitted to be annoyed with our brother even until sundown – not to mention for several days – when, if he has something against us, we are not allowed to offer our prayers to God? We are commanded by the Apostle: “Pray without ceasing” (I Thess 5:18). And: “In every place lifting up pure hands without anger and dissension” (I Tim 2:8). It follows, therefore, that either we keep this kind of position in our hearts and never pray, thus disobeying the apostolic and gospel precept by which we are commanded to pray ceaselessly and everywhere, or, if we deceives ourselves and dare to make prayer contrary to his prohibition, we realize that it is not prayer that we are offering to the Lord but a stubborn and rebellious spirit. (John Cassian, translated by Boniface Ramsey, The Institutes, Book Eight: XIII.

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