I’ve said for decades that communication is a wonderful thing. So many misunderstandings can happen because people do not communicate their thoughts and feelings. I’ve also learned over the years that many misunderstandings happen when people communicate as well. Words can be encouraging, or they can be hurtful, and they don’t always come across as we intended. And then, of course, there are the times when hurt is intended. I can just imagine how disappointed Jesus is at times like this. Jesus very clearly tells us that the most important commandment is to love God, but the second most important is to love each other. (Mark 12:29-31) He sets a pretty high standard for us to live up to, and though we continually fail, we need to keep trying.
In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus tells His disciples that reconciling with your brother, which in our context means any Christ-follower of either gender, is more important than bringing your offering to God. In those days, a gift for God was a sacrifice on the altar of the temple. For us, that may mean an act of service or an act of worship. It may mean participating in communion. None of it is more important to God than following the second greatest commandment.
King Saul had been given instructions to strike down the Amalekites and to destroy everything they had. (1 Samuel 15:3) But he didn’t. He spared their king, and he kept some of the choice animals to offer as a sacrifice to God. God was not pleased. (I Samuel 15:11) Saul defended himself to Samuel, but Samuel’s response (I Samuel 15:22) was that obedience was more important than sacrifice.
God’s desire is the same now as it was then. He desires our obedience which includes living at peace with all people. (Romans 12:18) This is more important than what we see as our gifts to God, and we should never think that our acts of service or worship are a way to make up for not loving our neighbour. If you have done something to offend someone, take the time to make it right with them. Then come back to the altar and give your gift to God. (Matthew 5:24) The act of service or worship you present will then be a pleasing offering.