"Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift" (Matthew 5:23-24).
When approaching God through the Lord Jesus Christ, we are received wholly and solely upon His merits and working on our behalf.
"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10:19-22).
As the old hymn beautifully declares, "Nothing in my hand I bring, only to Thy cross I cling." Thus may we come, we may always come to the throne of Heaven so long as come by the Christ of Heaven. However, when approaching God by this blessed way of grace, the Holy Spirit may grant remembrance of a wrong we have committed against someone near to us. In such times, our Heavenly Father would have us leave our gift at the altar (in full expectation that it will ultimately be offered), and seek to restore the horizontal relationship of the human before fully enjoying the vertical relationship with the Divine. In essence, God would have us give a gift to our brother before we make our offering to Him.
That gift involves the humility whereby we confess, "I was wrong, inexcusably wrong, and I am sorry." It may also include the sacrifice of restitution in some cases. This is a hard way for our flesh, which can devise countless excuses, rationalizations and reasons for avoiding God's will in this most vital of matters. It is a blessed way for our spirit, however, wherein we so "delight in the law of God" that opportunities for humility and self sacrifice are seen as offering the deepest peace and joy we can ever know (Romans 7:22). This we must believe, that regardless of how much our flesh may lust against making matters right with our brother, our Christ-inhabited spirits ever flow with the current of loving God by loving people.
Grace springs forth at the altar of the Lord Jesus, grace given, grace received, and grace expressed. Indeed, when we return to offer our gifts of praise, thanksgiving, adoration and devotion after having reconciled with our brother, "joy unspeakable and full of glory" awaits us (I Peter 1:8). We find a Father pleased by the humility of His beloved Son revealed in us, and we find our own hearts graced with a peace beyond understanding or description. It is the peace of devoting ourselves to the centrality of establishing and maintaining good relationships, first with God, and then with people. Or, as both Old Testament and New declare to be the most important calling of our lives...
"Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."