2003-12-24 - Reconciliation
The Christmas season is fully upon us. Just what was God's plan in bringing about Christmas? Why did He decide to manifest Himself as a human being? Why did He provide this wonderful plan of mercy, grace and love that I often cannot begin to comprehend?
Jesus came to reconcile man to God.
Hebrews 2:17 (LB) And it was necessary for Jesus to be like us, his brothers, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God, a Priest who would be both merciful to us and faithful to God in dealing with the sins of the people.
He came also to reconcile us with each other. Throughout the Bible, we find examples set by Jesus and others, of reconciliation between individuals. Jesus must have thought that reconciliation should be a high priority in our lives. Nowhere else in the Bible can I find an instance where a teacher instructs someone to leave the church and make up with someone before giving an offering.
Matthew 5:23-24 (LB) So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and suddenly remember that a friend has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar and go and apologize and be reconciled to him, and then come and offer your sacrifice to God.
Esau and his brother Jacob were reconciled:
Genesis 33:4,11 (LB) And then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him affectionately and kissed him; and both of them were in tears! "Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need." And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it.
Luke tells about the reconciliation of Herod and Pilate:
Luke 23:12 (LB) That day Herod and Pilate became friends-before this they had been enemies.
This is hard stuff. It is difficult to do. But it is Biblical, and I have seen it work in both my own life and other people's lives. So let's just go through this next passage and see the steps Jesus lays out for us to take, when trying to restore a relationship.
Matthew 18:15-17 (NIV) If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Step One is the most difficult one. Jesus is saying for us to go to the person with whom we have a problem, share our feelings and do it in private. Our natural inclination is to go tell everyone we know, except the person that we feel has wronged us. Before long, the situation has been stirred and changed into something even worse than the original version. And more harmfully, the telling of others can turn into gossip.
I am not a very confrontational person. Therefore this first step is very difficult for me. I have written short notes to people, and at other times called them on the phone. I once came out and asked for a private meeting face-to-face. But in the few times that I have invoked the Matthew 18 principle, the dispute was settled after Step One. The dispute never went any farther. Please don't think that all this happened very quickly. One reconciliation took me ten years to complete. Often we become paralyzed with anger and can never take this initial step, but if we really want to live as fully-devoted followers of Christ, we must try.
The second step, if necessary, is to take one or two people along with you to serve as witnesses to the process. I am assuming that this other person or two would help mediate the matter and provide unbiased opinions of the situation, in order to help start a process of healing and understanding.
The conflicts that I have seen have been resolved with Step One, so hopefully the third step in this plan will not be necessary. When needed, its purpose is to shed light on the dispute. It serves as a way to reprimand the guilty party, while hopefully setting up a means to restore him back to fellowship with others and with Christ. I recently witnessed a successful example of this step in action.
The situation was somewhat different, as it involved a church member and a pastor. The pastor had committed a sin. Another pastor confronted the pastor, who denied the charge. The pastor and an elder of the church then confronted him. Though the evidence against the pastor was overwhelming, he was still unrepentant. However, he did resign. The church was told of the reason for the Pastor's resignation, and the healing has begun.
So there you have it -- a simple yet profound, three-step Biblical plan of reconciliation, given to us by none other than the great Reconciler himself, Jesus Christ. Now the question is: Are you ready to take the first step? Try it; it works. What better time than now, to start on a path of reconciliation with someone in your life?
Father-thank You for giving us such an amazing book, the Bible, which contains Your word and Your instructions for doing life right. Help us make this Christmas season a season of reconciliation. Just as You sent Your Son to reconcile us with Yourself, help us to follow His example. In Christ's name, Amen.