One author who has often caused me to stop and think more often than most has to be Watchman Nee. This morning was no different. He wrote,
“What does this astonishing statement mean? Jacob, who had seen God face to face at Peniel, now describes his meeting with Esau as if he were again seeing the face of God! It may have been mere flattery, an evidence that Jacob still retained something of his earlier scheming nature. It may also have been a kind of confession that all his elaborately planned arrangement of his family and possessions had been a waste of time. In Esau’s welcome he may have recognized that deliverance had come to him, not through his own clever artifice but through the overruling of God. But there is one more possible meaning, and this is a universal spiritual fact. It is that those whom we have wronged will always represent God to us. When we meet them, it is as though we are meeting God. It can be in judgment. Thank God if, when this is so, our hearts are truly humbled before Him. It also can mean mercy and reconciliation. ‘First be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.’”
Why did this have such a profound effect on me today? Maybe because it suddenly hit me how many times over the years I’ve “seen the face God” myself in the faces of those brothers and sisters I have wronged in one way or another. I’ve never quite thought of it that way before. Wow!
I think that the “judgment” part that Nee was referring to is none other than our coming to the realization that, just as God is a God of love, we fail to be on the same page with God when we don’t respond in like fashion. It is not a case of God judging me as much as it is a case of me judging by discerning for myself that I am not walking where deep down inside I know that I need to be.
I know the truth and importance of Jesus’ words when He said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5: 23-24; NIV). Though I know it, I also still stumble over that one.
I guess the bottom line for me in Watchman Nee’s little devotional (and something I’ve often mused over) is that all worship, spiritual wrestling, gift giving, piety – and whatever other religious activity we may want to include – ultimately really isn’t worth the paper it’s written on without first having a right relationship with our fellow man; especially those whose paths cross ours on a day to day basis.
If there is tension between a brother or sister and myself, and if I do not make it a priority to correct that problem, then not only is my worship essentially worthless, but that brother or sister will always be the “face of God” to me until peace and harmony is restored in the relationship.
“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar” (1 John 4:20; NIV).
How many times have you seen the “face of God” lately? Hmm. Something to think about. Peace.