When a topic you never normally think about comes up 3 times in a week, it’s probably worth paying attention, don’t you think? For me last week the topic was ‘Reconciliation’.
It was mentioned fairly briefly at the women’s day I went to on Saturday, was one of the topics (and one which I thought deserved far more attention) in Welcome to Thebes last Monday, and earlier that day I had read an e-mail containing the outline of a sermon on it given by a friend of mine on Sunday.
I’ve included part of his outline below, but a line that stood out to me was this:
[R]ecognize that pride and her cousin shame are major obstacles to reconciliation.
Isn’t that amazing? Two seemingly-opposite impulses are equally likely to prevent us from even considering reconciliation much of the time. We may be too ashamed of our own wrongdoing (or of the length of time we’ve held the grudge) to approach the person, admit our guilt, and seek forgiveness, or we could be so sure we’re right and they’re wrong that we refuse to make the first move, wanting them to approach us. Either way, the burden of broken relationship hangs heavily around our necks.
The Bible, of course, doesn’t let us off the hook. It doesn’t just tell us to forgive someone if he comes to us and asks. It commands us:
If you … remember that your brother has something against you, … go and be reconciled to your brother.
‘If he’s got something against you’ covers both wrongs you have actually committed against you brother (who, in this context, includes every fellow-believer), and the things he’s holding against you that you’ve never even done, or his antagonism towards you for no apparent reason. Whatever the cause, the onus to reconcile is on you!
This demands levels of humility and vulnerability and trust that are almost un-achievable without God’s help. To go to someone who has hurt you in the past, take responsibility for your part of the wrongdoing (maybe it was poor communication that led them to misinterpret your words or actions, maybe it’s just your avoidance of the issue so far), ask for forgiveness and seek the opportunity to point out (lovingly) where they have hurt you leaves you wide open for further onslaughts.
In the world’s eyes, that’s craziness; in God’s eyes, it’s the only way you can make your worship to him acceptable (see Matthew 5:23-24).
As Christians we have to model this kind of counter-cultural humility, otherwise how can we ask the world to do it? How can we expect nations to live at peace with one another, or gangs on our streets, if we can’t do it within our family?
I believe that if we boldly model this kind of sacrificial, loving forgiveness and repentance among our brothers and sisters, we can offer hope to our culture.
As one of the Theban characters said:
If I cannot reconcile, what hope is there for us?
How we reconcile.
- We resolve that we will reconcile!
- We pray and ask God to give us wisdom and help to reconcile.
- We recognize that Satan does not want us to reconcile! It will be a battle!
- We recognize that pride and her cousin shame are major obstacles to reconciliation.
- We’re willing to ask for help to reconcile.
- We recognize that the ‘real’ issues may be ‘below the surface’.
- We listen well and help others to listen well to gain understanding.
- We keep the situation in the context of the bigger picture.
- We extend the grace to others that we have received from God