When not to come to church

Two quick questions:

Are you angry with anyone right now?

As far as you know, is anyone upset with you?

If so, it’s probably bothering you. It might be hurting your productivity at work or your relationships at home. It might be causing stomach problems or sleepless nights. It’s distracting you.

It also might be making your Sunday worship nothing more than a couple of wasted hours.

Might as well leave your Bible in the church foyer, Jesus says, than to sing praises to God from a heart with resentment in it. Sounds drastic, doesn’t it?

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. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny (Matthew 5:23-26).

There’s a consistent theme in the Bible: God hates worship when it comes from people who aren’t getting along with—or treating fairly and kindly—the people around them. The vertical can’t replace the horizontal, and problems with people can make worship empty, ritualistic, and worthless.

So what’s Jesus saying? His words are set in a Jewish context, but we get the gist: Do everything you can to reconcile to fellow Christians every day. Especially before you worship.

If you’ve been around Christianity for long, you might’ve witnessed some ugly church fights—children of the same God treating each other poorly and refusing to reconcile.

God help us.

Help us obey Jesus. Help us take his words seriously. Help us do whatever we can do to get along with other Christians and, when problems arise, pursue reconciliation vigorously.

So before you come to church on Sunday, ask God to help you see if you’re at odds with anyone. If you are, do what you can to make things right, then you’ll be able to worship God with a clean heart.

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