Bible Study Tools / Relationships

Regarding Reconcilliation

by Anthony Wasilkoff

Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone misses the mark. It is the human condition. When we find ourselves having made a significant error or breach of conduct, we need others to forgive us. In fact we expect others to forgive us, especially in the Christian community. To reach out for and receive forgiveness is a Christian reality. When others ask us for forgiveness, it is our duty and responsibility to grant it.

On the other hand, if we are the ones seeking forgiveness, what is our responsibility to help bring it to pass? Is there anything we are supposed to do or, perhaps, not do? Reconciliation is a process that requires co-operation from both sides. Through the years it seems our attention has focused on one side of the issue but not so much on the other.

When we have committed an infraction that has eroded a relationship, eventually we go about the task of mending those fences. This can be done in six not-so-easy but essential and practical steps.

1. Admit Fault

The first step is to admit and acknowledge that we have done wrong. You might call this the “confession component.” In Joshua chapter 7 verses 16 through 20, an admonition is given to “make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done.” It is a very rare thing indeed for a human being to admit that they have done wrong. It’s rarer still for a person, even a Christian person, to specify what they have done wrong. The first inclination of human nature is to deny, deny, deny.

In James 5:14-16, we read of how we are to confess our trespasses one to another. The human proclivity is to hide our trespasses from one another. Sin loves concealment. When caught, most human beings respond by denying that they have done what they have done. Eventually they may be willing to say something like, “If I have done anything wrong, then I…” Reconciliation can never come about under those circumstances. It is vitally necessary to acknowledge our wrong and to take ownership of our errors. We must be able to audibly say, “I have done wrong. I have done wrong in that I have…” and then we specify the wrong we have committed. This is the “confession component.”

2. Express Genuine Regret

Step number two is to express regret and remorse. It is possible to acknowledge our sin without actually expressing appropriate regret and appropriate remorse. When Daniel prayed his prayer of repentance, which is recorded in Daniel 9:1-7, he pleaded “but to us shame of face.” On behalf of himself and his countrymen, he explained how sorry he was – how ashamed he was. If regret and remorse are present and genuine, they will be appropriately and even repeatedly expressed. Romans 6:19- 21 refers to “the things of which you are now ashamed.” This connotes how the Christians in the Church of God at Rome deeply regretted their past misconduct and expressed it with visible emotion.

It’s important for the guilty party (we are all the guilty party from time to time), to say unequivocally, “I am sorry for what I did. I’m really, really sorry. I feel so badly for what happened. At times I even feel ashamed.” Regret and remorse must be expressed in this honest and open manner for reconciliation to occur.

3. Make Amends

Step number three is to show how you have already made and will continue to make amends. Once a person has acknowledged an error or sin and goes on to express remorse and regret for that error or sin, then they will of necessity follow through with making amends. If someone has borrowed your vacuum cleaner and in the process of using it has damaged it and then returns it to you, you would hope that they acknowledge straight away how it had been damaged while on loan. If your neighbour then followed up his confession with a statement of remorse “I’m really sorry I wrecked your Hoover,” you would believe his regret was the real thing if he insisted on repairing it. If he didn’t offer to make it right, you would probably doubt the depth and sincerity of his regret.

Exodus 22:1-5 teaches us about the important principle of making restitution: “He shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard.”

When Jesus Christ visited the tax collector Zacchaeus (Luke 19), the latter was so moved that he promised to demonstrate his repentance by restoring four-fold any funds that he had collected excessively. This would have gone a long way to reconcile him with those citizens that he defrauded through the years. You can be sure that the actions of Zacchaeus would have been the dominant topic of conversation in his part of Jericho for a long time. If someone cheats me and then repays me four times the amount he took from me, it is likely my dim view of him will change significantly. I will be far more likely to believe that that person is really trying to turn over a new leaf. Reconciliation cannot come about without appropriate and commensurate restitution.

4. Change Conduct

The fourth step to reconciliation requires us to show how we will do things differently from now on. In this step, we reassure the aggrieved party or parties that we have learned some profound lessons and are determined to conduct ourselves differently and have an actual plan by which to do so. I Timothy 6:9-11 tells us that certain temptations or situations have to be avoided by the conscientious Christian person. Suppose a husband has a serious drinking problem. In this step of reconciliation, he would tell his wife and children that he has joined a 12-step program in order to obtain and maintain his sobriety. We can get into trouble all by ourselves but we require the help of others to get out of it.

Hebrews 4:15-16 talks about the importance of receiving help in time of need. This help certainly must come from God above but it must also come through human agents and agencies. There are many resources available to a Christian in this day and age. Regrettably too many people are too proud to ask for help. Suppose a wife has a serious gambling problem. In this step, she would tell her husband that she has joined a self-help organization, has already attended some meetings and is determined to attend a meeting once or twice a week for a year or more if necessary.

5. Ask for Forgiveness

Step number five: Ask for forgiveness. Notice how this step comes later on in the list instead of at the beginning. Alot of groundwork has to be laid first. Of course, repentance before God occurs at the beginning. Reconciliation to fellow man takes a little bit longer.

In the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 we read the way the prodigal son sought to reconcile with his father by saying, “I have sinned against heaven and before you, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.” What a statement of contrition! Although he desperately wanted to be forgiven, he didn’t feel worthy of asking for it directly. Admirably, his father granted him forgiveness on the basis of his attitude, what he had been through and what it took for him to come back home.

Genesis 50:14-18 gives us an account of family members pleading their situation by saying, “I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin…now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” Forgiveness from our fellow man, even as from God, cannot be demanded. It can only be received. Occasionally a guilty party insists on being forgiven as if it were their right. You may hear something like, “Okay. So I made a few mistakes. Well, I’ve repented of them. Now it’s up to you to forgive me.” That is not how forgiveness and reconciliation come about.

6. Bear the Fruit

Step number six is to bear sustained fruit. Those who have been aggrieved need reassurance. This can only be done by bearing sustained fruit and doing so over a period of time thus indicating we have learned our lesson and are becoming a different person. Matthew 7:16-20 proclaims “you will know them by their fruits.” This statement is mentioned twice for added emphasis. The only way I can know if an apple tree is a quality tree is by observing the fruit it produces. This takes time. In the autumn of the year, the tree will yield a crop. If the apples are plentiful, tasty and attractive, then I know I’ve got a good quality tree. It may take more than just one growing season for a tree to properly identify itself.

John 15:16 contains the following wonderful decree of Jesus Christ: “You did not choose Me, but I have chosen you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain….” It is our task as Christians to produce visible and tangible fruit of the Christian life. Some folks do bear an array of fruit a while but then the crops diminish and disappear entirely. The fruit of a Christian life must endure a lifetime.

Remember that once others have been hurt or injured by our actions, it will take time for them to learn to trust again. They probably want to trust but it will take time for healing to occur in order for reconciliation to run its course. Reconciliation truly is a process and it cannot be rushed or fast-forwarded.

Forgiveness is a hallmark of the Church of God. Forgiveness is something that we all need from our Heavenly Father. Forgiveness is something that we all need from each other. Forgiveness must be sought. Forgiveness must be given. Only then can reconciliation be fully realized.

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