The Didache: Reconciliation Required

Jesus made a pretty big deal about being reconciled with others, which makes it even more surprising that in contemporary churches there is such apathy over reconciliation with each other. It seems that many are quite content to leave all that for heaven. This was not Jesus’ thinking, however. A forgiven people ought to be a forgiving people. A people reconciled to God should reconcile with each other.

This was so for the early Christians represented by The Didache. After laying out the criteria for authenticity, the text turns to the commands about their gathering on the Lord’s day. What is interesting to me, is that there are only two instructions: (1) break bread and give thanks (Eucharist) and (2) reconcile with each other before hand.

Chapter 14 says:
Now after gathering for the Lord’s own day, break bread and give thanks, having confessed your trespasses before hand, so that your sacrifice may be pure. But if anyone has a quarrel with his companion, let him not come together with you until they reconcile, in order that your sacrifice might not be defiled. For this is what was spoken by the Lord, “In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice because I am a great king,” says the Lord, “and my name is wonderful among the nations [Mal 1:14]. (Did 14:1-3 BB)

This is clearly an application of Jesus’ words from Matt 5:23-24, where Jesus addresses the command “You shall not murder.” Beyond literal murder, Jesus condemns anger, hatred, and conflict. Jesus says that if somebody is going to offer their sacrifice and realize that one of his brothers has something against him, he is to drop everything and reconcile before coming back to make the offering. Most people can say, “Well, I haven’t killed anybody.” Nobody can say, “Well, I have never been angry with anybody or been in conflict with anyone.” But these sins are just as severe in the mind of Jesus. Our relationship with each other was closely related to our relationship with God, such that Jesus could say if you do not forgive others, neither will your father forgive you. And these early Christians took this seriously. Confession and reconciliation had to happen before worship with the community would be allowed.

Can you even conceive of this taking place in today’s churches? What would it take to take this seriously? Do you think a commitment to this might be necessary for any kind of spiritual renewal to begin?

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