I have three cats, Oliver, Periwinkle (Stinkle) and Phantom. We’ve had them for about five years and they are all indoor cats. They have been the best of friends (mostly) for the entire time. They played together, took 18 hour naps together, took turns lying in the middle of the hallway or stairs attempting to trip and ultimately kill us humans, I’m sure. However, Ever since we started moving our furniture into storage, and ever since an an incident that occurred outdoors, our cats have gone bat crazy. These cats hate each other now. Oliver and Phantom can’t be in the same room without fighting. Stinkle hates both of the boys. So currently, Cat Town USA is in all out war. Everytime they start fighting, I just wanna yell (and sometimes I do!) “Stop fighting each other!” They fight like they are complete strangers. Like we grabbed 3 feral cats off the streets and stuck them in a room. It’s heartbreaking because they used to be so close!
The interesting thing is that even though they hate each other, they act normally around me. Phantom lets me rub his belly, Oliver sleeps by my pillow every night. Stinkle comes and greets me in the morning by climbing on my stomach and purring. They don’t have a problem with me, they have a problem with each other for some instinctual/territorial thing only these cats understand. From my perspective, none of the fighting makes sense. It’s useless to me and I know in their little cat brains the fighting is a big deal. I don’t love them any differently, but when they do individually come to me and want me to pet them, I get irritated. I don’t know why this sweet cat turns into a monster whenever his brother and sister show up but gets all sweet around me. I know who he is, I know Oliver isn’t a monster, he’s a real sweet cat. I’d much rather this sweet cat go and be nice to his brother first, then come to me every day/night being sweet. And then ladies and gentlemen, at that moment as I pet my cat, Matthew 5:23-24 made a whole lot more sense.
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. Mt.5:23-24
I heard a sermon on these two verses and the pastor compared the situation to him and his kids. When his kids would get in a fight, they wouldn’t talk to each other, but they’d come up to him all day and say “i love you, daddy!” And he would respond “I love you too. But if you want to show me that you love me, go apologize to your brother. go make things right with your sister.” He said the same thing applies with God. I don’t have kids, but i have 3 furry animals who are turning on each other. And I hate it.I wonder how much God hates it when we fight. When we argue, insult each other, ignore each other, purposely leave each other out..I wonder how much it pains him to see us turn on each other, like it pains me to see my cats turn on each other. God is looking at you, with love and hurt in his eyes saying “I know you. You are not a monster. I love you and want you to love others too. Go make things right.”
I’m a certified and tested optimistic idealist. I would love for everyone to get along and be best friends all the time. Conflict makes me queasy. Though, I know that on this side of Heaven, relationships will always be messy. Because we’re messy people. I understand some relationships can be toxic. Some relationships have the nails on the coffin, and the coffin is buried. I get it. But, this verse is specifically referencing you and your actions. “your brother or sister has something against you…” Your actions, your responsibility. Christmas is tomorrow and odds are (if you’re not already) you’re going to be spending time with family. Hallmark and ABC Family paints this picture of a beautiful, drama free family reunion. Hands up if that describes your family reunion on holidays? No one? Okay, so we’re all in this together. Before we celebrate the manger, the coming of Christ in flesh, Emmanuel. Let’s lay our gift down at the altar and clear the air with relatives, friends, coworkers. You’ll breathe a lot better, I promise.
And when Christmas is over? Continue to love people. I read somewhere that “Jesus isn’t just the reason for the season. He is the reason for every day of our lives.” How true is that! So, let the Christmas spirit of love, forgiveness and joy ring true on the 26th, the 27th and all the way though the year.
Merry Christmas to you!