23 "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5)
What do you do if you’re a Chinese business man who hasn’t spoken to his father and former business partner for several years following a disagreement several years ago? And what do you do after a recent attempt at reconciliation that involved the bearing of gifts ended with you getting the door slammed in your face? It’s probably a good idea to call The Tianjin Apology and Gift Center. After all, their slogan is “We say sorry for you.” According to a recent NY Times article, that’s exactly what one Mr. Song did.
By the admission of all the Chinese people interviewed for the article, apologies don’t come easily for their culture. As one Chinese sociologist said, “It's much easier for a Westerner to say “sorry” than compared with a Chinese -- I mean they're always saying ‘excuse me’ and ‘sorry.’” But for the Chinese it is a thing rarely offered and just as rarely accepted.
That’s why, for a fee of $2.50 per apology, you can have a professional do it for you. The founder of the company is a former lawyer whose interest in psychology led to his latest inspiration. The Apology and Gift center hires only well-educated men and women with “excellent verbal ability” to offer apologies on behalf of its clients. In addition, the apologizers are given training in counseling.
It took “five difficult visits,” but Mr. Song was finally reconciled to his father. He was just one of nearly one hundred people who sought the services of the company in its first few months. Still, most acknowledge that, whenever possible, a personal apology is best.
I think Jesus would agree that a personal apology is best. But I also think he would appreciate the lengths that people are willing to go in order to achieve reconciliation. One thing is clear from our text this morning. Jesus feels that a fractured relationship calls for urgent and immediate action.
Let this be my first challenge to you. If you have a problem with a brother or sister, today is the day to make things right. I hope you’ll prayerfully think about what you can do this morning. We who are reconciled to God through Christ owe it to ourselves and to others to exercise the same mercy that we have been shown.