Gathered in the fireside room of the sizeable church, were a friendly and engaging group of people. As we assembled, our pastor lifted prayers before our Father, many in the group shared memories and funny stories, special music provided honor, and our pastor read scripture and extended an invitation to salvation in Jesus Christ. The occasion was the memorial service for my mother-in-law, but despite all the perfect details, something was still wrong. One major player was missing. One of my mother-in-law’s daughters and that daughter’s family did not attend. Now it was too late.
The rift began many years prior, the details of which are now inconsequential. There was never any forgiveness or reconciliation on either side, and the years only deepened the wound and the separation.
Right the wrongs, before it’s too late.
Scripture has much to say about the necessity of reconciliation and I believe the following three steps are instrumental in this process.
The Bible admonishes us to humble ourselves in 1 Peter 5:5b-6 (NIV): “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” According to Merriam-Webster.com, humbling yourself involves acting in a manner “not proud or haughty; and reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission.” In short, act like an adult—someone will need to. Often thinking our integrity is at stake, we waste countless words and efforts defending ourselves. Words we need to convey to our heavenly Father, not the other person involved.
Don’t let a lot of time pass before reconciling. “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold,” is our instruction in Ephesians 4:26b-27 (NIV). If we do not get rid of all malice and anger causing the divisiveness, we hinder ourselves from maturing in our salvation (see 1 Peter 2:1-2). The devil will grab and sustain a foothold which will keep you stagnant in your Christian walk. Phew—what a stinky mess you’ve created—similar to a mucky, algae-covered pond with no drainage or fresh supply of water.
Ask forgiveness. I recognize there are tragic incidences of past abuse and wrongdoing which necessitate professional intervention and assistance and require a healing process, but I’m addressing the more prevalent challenges we face. It’s difficult letting go of past real or perceived hurts, but what purpose does it serve clinging to them? You’re not edifying the other person and it certainly isn’t building you up. John 13:34-35 (NIV): “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” When we move forward in love and forgiveness, we build up Christ’s body (the church) and others see Christ in us. The alternative is we lose our Christian witness, as the world and other Christians will be unable to see us as His disciples. We cannot harbor resentment, as it will continue to grow.
God forgave us everything when he sent his son, Jesus, to become sin and to die on the cross for our sins. Scripture instructs us to forgive others for offenses that pale in comparison. Matthew 18:21-35 (NIV) tells the parable of the unmerciful servant whose large debt was forgiven, yet he failed to forgive a smaller debt someone owed him. Verse 35 concludes with an angry master declaring the servant wicked, turning him over to be tortured, while exclaiming, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
Take time for people and right the wrongs, as we never know what may happen. Years ago, parked in front of a vast warehouse-shopping site, taking time out of my busy schedule, I stopped everything, and pulled out my cell phone to call a dear friend. This was a solid relationship, but we had been missing each other lately, and I didn’t want her to think I’d been avoiding her. We had much to catch up on, and talked for quite a while. I thank Jesus for nudging me to take time for her. A week later she passed away unexpectedly. It could have been too late.
Father God, Forgive me for entertaining unforgiveness in my heart. It’s like poison, spreading and slowing your life in me. Enable me to humble myself, forgive, and reconcile my relationships before it’s too late. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Matthew 5:23-25a (NIV): “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court.”
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.”
Ephesians 4:32 (NIV): “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Hebrews 12:14-15 (NIV): “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
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