Peninsula Community Church
The Process of Reconciliation
February 26, 2012
2 Corinthians 5:18-20 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Editorial note: Much of my notes in this message come from Everett Washington’s book entitled “Forgiving and Reconciling: Bridges to Wholeness and Hope” published by InterVarsity Press.
As we look at the subject of reconciliation we must realize that there is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. As we have seen already in our study of forgiveness, forgiveness is internal. While it is great to have the other person involve forgiveness is a one way experience and does not require the other person to be involved although it is beneficial to have both people included in the process.
Secondly, we will see over the next couple of weeks that reconciliation on the other hand is interpersonal. To come to a place of reconciliation there is a requirement to have both parties involved. Two people who have been hurt must meet together to begin the process of healing and restoration.
In the process of reconciliation we realize that reconciliation is restoring trust in a relationship in which trust has been damaged. As in forgiveness this may take time but it begins with a decision and it begins with a spirit of forgiveness.
The fact is, one can forgive and never be reconciled or one can reconcile without forgiving. In the first case, the individual can be at peace with themselves and can release the other person from the penalty of their sin or the wrong they have committed but still not have a healed relationship. In some cases, this may be because the other person may have passed away. It may be because they have moved on and can’t be reached. It is also possible that the other person is not in a position to reconcile or that they would even want to begin the process.
It is also possible to reconcile with a person even though there has not been a real act of forgiveness. In this case, the problem is that no real healing has occurred and in many ways there is no real reconciliation. The issue at hand is that if real forgiveness has not occurred, the issues will arise again. It may be in different ways or with different people but it will come to the surface. And, sometimes this happens when we least expect it.
A second understanding must be that through reconciliation it is possible to either resolve or dissolve the relationship. While the goal is to resolve the issues, it is possible that there will be no reconciliation and there will be a choice to dissolve the relationship. We see this is in the story of Paul and Mark (Acts 15:15-38). We are not sure what occurred but they had a falling out and they went their separate ways. In this case, there was no reconciliation. For a season the relationship dissolved but the miracle is that Barnabus came along side of Mark and later in life we see the relationship healed.
To understand reconciliation, we must understand that we were born to be in relationship with God and with others. From the beginning of time God created mankind for fellowship, We see this in the fact that God would walk in the cool of the day to be in fellowship with Adam and Eve. Secondly, God created man and woman to be in relationship with each other as modeled by the marriage relationship. And thirdly, he has called us as believers into a relationship with one another. He has called us to join together in a community of believers that are willing to walk in forgiveness and in the healing that comes in forgiving and reconciling relationships.
In our text, we see that God has called us to be reconciled in Him and that we are to be ministers of reconciliation. This means that we draw people to God and the best way to do that is to be reconciled first with Him. It is my belief and I believe this can be born out in scripture that when we walk in forgiveness and in reconciliation the world takes notice. They will want to experience what we have experienced when it is a real and authentic experience.
We also see the need for interpersonal forgiveness and reconciliation in:
- Ephesians 2:16 where Paul says that men are to be reconciled together before God.
- Matthew 5 where Jesus admonishes those who come before the altar to offer their gifts and remember that their brother has something against them that they should leave their gift and then go and be reconciled. The lesson is that when we recognize wrong that we make the initiative to reconcile.
The goal is to build bridges that lead to reconciliation. John Paul Lederac has stated that “You cannot build a bridge by starting in the middle. Bridge builders begin from the side they are on.”
But, how do we build a bridge toward reconciliation? I submit to you that there are at least four steps that brings onto a path that leads to reconciliation.
First, we must make a decision to face each other. Notice that here again is the concept of making a decision. The fact is that many times our emotions are not ready or in the place to affect a positive move toward a life of reconciliation so we must make the decision to take this step as nerve racking or risky this may seem.
Secondly, we must begin to dialogue about the issues. It is here that we deal with the truth and we dialogue about the real issues that have caused the separation and division in the relationship. Sometimes, when we are a standstill we will need a respected third party to get involved to mediate the process.
Thirdly, we must begin to look for ways to detoxify the relationship. We bring forgiveness into the relationship. We drop our right to be hurt. We let go of the pain and we take steps to see the other person healed.
And finally, we devote ourselves to rebuilding the relationship. We don’t give up easily. We don’t give up when things get rough because sometimes issues rise to the surface that can hurt the relationship if we allow them to do that.
As we have noted before one of the themes that runs throughout the Bible is the theme of forgiveness and reconciliation. In the Old Testament there are two examples that best illustrate positive and negative reconciliation.
The first of these stories is David and Saul. If you remember the story you will remember that Saul had been appointed King over Israel. But on his journey in life, he made some poor decisions that led to a life of bitterness and hatred. Remember that Saul offered the sacrifice that was to be only sacrificed by the high prelist. He became impatient and stepped in where he was not called (1 Sam. 13).
We also see that Saul rejected God’s will and plan by disobeying God’s plan for destroying all of the Amalekites and not taken any spoils from the battle. But Saul listened to the people and took animals to sacrifice and also took the king of the Amalekites alive. When Samuel arrived, he scolded Saul (1 Sam. 15).
But, rather than deal with his issues he became angry at David who was getting accolades and praise for his many fetes as the leader of the armies of Saul. In fact, if you read the story on a number of occasions Saul tried to kill David but he was never successful. In many ways we see David walk in forgiveness as he had many opportunities to kill Saul but he refused because he was guided by the spirit of the Lord.
A second illustration is found in the story of Jacob and Esau. What a dysfunctional family we see. We talked about this before but we see that Jacob and Esau best illustrate this idea of the bridge of reconciliation. They both made a decision to approach one another. This was not an easy decision but one that was required so that true healing was realized. They met each another and dealt with the issues of the past which began to detoxify the relationship. We do not know all that happened to them after the event that brought healing to them but we certainly have the story of reconciliation and healing (Gen. 32-33).
Is reconciliation easy? NO! Is it possible? Yes! Can we do it by ourselves? NO! But we have God on our side!