Thursday, July 24, 2014

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

I've been thinking a bit about forgiveness and reconciliation, and I have come to the conclusion that it is one of the biggest problems in our relationships with others, both in and out of the church. I also believe that very few of us really understand what it means to forgive and be reconciled. There are times when I struggle with this myself.

I believe that forgiveness goes much deeper than most of us know. So often, we see forgiveness as the kind of thing where we simply don't hold something against another. And, there may be times when that is the case, such as when the other person has died. For those of us who follow Jesus, forgiveness also carries the idea of reconciliation. Again, there will be instances where that simply is not possible.

When Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who sins against him, Jesus replied that he was to forgive 49 or 490 times. The number is not really the issue. Jesus is telling us that we are to forgive others, especially our family in Christ, as many times as necessary. That presupposes a relationship with that person. That's where reconciliation comes in.

In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus tells us that being reconciled with a brother or sister in Christ is a higher priority than worship. If there is something in the way of our relationship with another, we are to get that right before we come present our worship to God. I believe Scripture goes even farther. In 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, Paul tells us that Christ has reconciled us to God. When we come to Jesus and become a member of God's family, he doesn't say to us, "Well, you're forgiven and all that, so I won't punish you. But, I don't really want you around. I forgive you, but I don't want to have a relationship with you, so stay away." On the contrary, God welcomes us into a close relationship with him. He is pleased to be called our Father. As our Father pursues us and reconciles us to himself, so his children should pursue reconciliation with our brothers and sisters.

Beyond the family relationship, in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul tells us that we are all members of the same body. He even goes so far as to say that we are members of one another! I don't totally understand what all that means, but is seems that our relationships with our fellow followers of Jesus are pretty important. Jesus said that the world would know that we belong to him by our love for one another. I fear that what the world sees is a lot of infighting, anger, bitterness, and a lack of forgiveness. Can we expect those outside to want what we have when it doesn't seem to make much difference in what are our most important relationships?

God help us to seek reconciliation and show the love of Christ to a watching world.

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