The entire Bible teaches clearly that our relationship with God is the most important thing. You could say God always comes first. Even so, Jesus isn’t contradicting this when He tells us to make sure our human relationships are right before we come to worship God.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.
“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” - Matthew 5:21-24
When Jesus says brother here, He means our brothers and sisters in Christ, other believers. You can’t have faith while skipping or ignoring relationships with other believers. Worshiping, living for, and serving Christ is meant to happen in community. And Jesus expected the occasional disagreement and even wrong to happen between His followers. Still, the fifth and sixth beatitudes teach us that anger has no place to live in a disciple’s heart, only love. Jesus expects you to go the extra mile and try to heal the relationship, even when it’s someone else who is blaming you, unfairly or not. It takes Christ-like humility to do this.
This should go in the other direction as well. In Mark 11:25, He tells us to reconcile with a brother or sister we blame for something. And if we get stuck in a disagreement, Jesus gives us a clear way to not gossip about the person or the problem, but to carefully and respectfully get help from local church leaders to resolve the situation in Matthew 18:15-17.
The religious leaders taught that as long as you did not murder or injure your brother, God was fine with that relationship. Jesus has a better way for us to live. He teaches that anger and feelings of disgust toward our brothers or sisters must be addressed if we want to have the relationship with our fellow believer that is acceptable to God. He shows us how to take the pride at the root of those feelings and replace it with humility, forgiveness, and love.
Examine your relationships. Do you have a relationship that hinders your worship? If so, what steps can you take to resolve it?
Take a moment to pray, thanking God that He seeks a strong, loving relationship with you and that He wants to help you have strong, loving relationships with others. Ask Him to heal any broken relationships you have with other believers and to help you forgive, ask for forgiveness, and take any other necessary steps to reconcile with them.
This post is adapted from a lesson of the Mini Bible College, an online study of the whole Bible. We highly recommend their audio resources and written materials, available in many languages, to anyone who wants a stronger understanding of the Bible.