"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Week 36: Go and Be Reconciled

"[I]f you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift." ~ Matt 5:23-24

Jesus came so that we could get right with God. He also came so that we could get right with one another. Reconciliation takes one party seeking repentance and the other party forgiving through the power of the cross. Way back in Week Two, I struggled with the command to forgive. This is the other side of things.

What should we do when we have wrongfully hurt another? "Go and be reconciled to them!" This command is a call to humble ourselves, reach out to those who we have hurt, and to repent. This is such a high priority to Jesus that he says we should take care of reconciliation before making our offerings to God.

I've been struggling with this one for a couple weeks. At first, I knew exactly what God was calling me to do, and I didn't want to do it. And, then, I did it and didn't know how to write about it without betraying another person's confidence and privacy. Back when I was dealing with repentance and confession in Weeks 3 and 6, the Spirit brought to my mind an old sin I had committed about twenty years ago against a person who was close to me at the time. It was not the end our relationship, but, looking back, it was probably the beginning of us drifting apart. We haven't talked at all in several years. When I went through the process of repentance and confession, I felt that God was calling me to reach out to this person and to apologize. I've been putting it off, dreading it. I finally made the phone call this week. To be honest, it was a rather awkward conversation, but I think it was ultimately a healing and freeing conversation for both of us.

Then, the other day, I yelled at my wife, Christina. She said something to me, which I took offense at and got angry. It had been an awful day at work, and I chose to take it out on Christina. I yelled at her in front of the boys. I think it's the first time I've ever done that. I knew right away that I had really blown it. And, it still took me about 24 hours before I apologized to her. I apologized to the boys, too. I explained to them that what I had done was wrong and that I had already apologized to Mommy. My seven year old, God bless him, said, "Yeah, Dad, I was thinking that you shouldn't talk to Mommy like that." Ugh. How low do you think that made me feel?

I can't sugar coat it. It's a terribly humbling thing to stand in front of somebody and say, "I messed up. What I did was wrong. There's no excuse for it. I know I hurt you. I'm sorry." It's a frightful thing to stand before someone you've hurt, make yourself vulnerable to them, and then hope for mercy. That is, however, exactly what God calls us to. Whether we are the wrongdoer or the one who has been wrongfully hurt, our Lord calls us to take the lead in seeking reconciliation.

Doesn't it make sense that reconciliation should be difficult and painful? Sin is a serious thing. It can't be dealt with flippantly. Jesus suffered and died so that we could be reconciled to God. The cross also gives us believers the power to be reconciled to one another. When it happens the right way, when there is humble repentance on one side and forgiveness on the other, God is glorified, and wounds are healed.