In part 1 of Reconciliation we saw that the Bible viewed us in our natural state as enemies of God. But we who trust in Jesus have now been reconciled to God through the death of his Son. God took the initiative to bring us back into right relationship with himself. We also saw that we must now love our fellow Christians. This means that when another Christian hurts me I must forgive them as the Lord forgave me (Col 3:13; Eph 4:32). When another Christian offends, we must forgive. If we become estranged from one another, we will need to be reconciled.
I was reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ sermons on The Sermon on the Mount some time back. When I got to Matthew 5:21-26 about anger and conflict with others, I was convicted by Dr Lloyd-Jones to do something about my own situation. I was angry with several Christians who had caused me considerable hurt. I was estranged from them. But I was convicted that I needed to make the first move towards reconciliation.
There were four such Christians from my past and present (at the time). I wrote to each of them. I acknowledged what I had done wrong and asked their forgiveness. This was my first step towards reconciliation. There were three men I wrote to and one woman. By far the best response came from the woman (no surprises there?). She lives far away from me. She contacted me saying that she accepted my apology. However she also apologised for what she had done. We were instantly reconciled. Easy! We didn’t have to say much to each other. My apology was all she needed. Her apology was all I needed. I spelled out my grievances and she understood and apologised. I also apologised for my own part in the conflict. I have no doubt that if we see each other again that we will smile and be in good fellowship. Our relationship is restored. All is forgiven. That’s how it should be! I was very pleasantly surprised to see how easy it could be for two estranged Christians to be reconciled.
Then there were the three Christian men. One of the Christian men I contacted immediately arranged to fly into my city and meet with me. I met him at the airport and we spoke and were reconciled. There were disappointments here – the reconciliation was not perfect. There was no apology from his side or recognition of the hurt he had caused. Nevertheless he accepted my apology and we were reconciled. We left past hurts in the past.
Another of the Christian man I sought reconciliation with arranged to see me when he was in my city later that year. We met for dinner and were reconciled. This too was not a perfect reconciliation. However he did acknowledge for his part some hurt he had caused. Yet he seemed unwilling to speak about the past and did not seem to show much understanding of what had happened. Nevertheless we were reconciled. Three out of three!
The fourth of the Christian men I contacted was always going to be the hardest. The reason I say this is that the previous three involved conflict from the past, whereas this man was part of a present conflict. Sadly, my attempts to be reconciled failed. I believe that a third party mediator would have been of great benefit in our case. And I still grieve that reconciliation has not been possible.
There have also been other cases of conflict for me (of a lesser nature in my mind compared to the above four) where one party has refused to speak to me. Reconciliation then is of course impossible.
I believe the gospel requires that I take the first step. It doesn’t matter how much someone else has hurt me, it will be an exceedingly rare day that I can say that I for my part have done nothing wrong. As the Lord has forgiven me, I must forgive them. I can offer my apologies for what I have done wrong and ask for their forgiveness. Hopefully, if they have likewise been transformed by the gospel and have some sensitivity, they will reciprocate by apologising for their part. This may be all that is needed for a complete reconciliation.
We know what the Bible says on this subject, don’t we? We know that Christians should love one another, and not be estranged and in conflict. Should I not take the first step towards reconciliation as God did with me?
Perhaps the next step is up to us…