The Joy of Reconciliation

As I sat to reflect and pray, the phone buzzed signaling a text message.  I picked it up thinking it was a notification from a repair tech scheduled to visit the church.  My eyes took in words that instantly made my heart sing. A person from whom I had been separated by misunderstanding reached out and asked to restore our relationship.

We are often advised to just ‘move on,’  dropping people with whom we have had difference from our lives. Some may think that possible, but I am convinced that unresolved conflicts create a kind of soul wound that never really goes away.  It was my deep joy to return the text, to ask for forgiveness for my part, and to anticipate a time when full restoration of our relationship in Christ is complete!

Do you know the joy of forgiving and being forgiven?
Are you prepared to seek and to give this gift of grace?

Jesus tells us that answered prayer is connected to keeping whole relationships, where it is possible. He said “When you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” (Mark 11:25, NLT)  In another passage He says that hanging onto old resentment is antithetical to living as a forgiven child of God. We are forgiven by God.  How could we decide to refuse forgiveness?

In Matthew 18 we read the story of His answer to Peter’s question about forgiveness. Peter suggests that an offending person should be forgiven seven times, thinking that a generous response. Jesus tells him he has it wrong! “No!” Jesus replied, “seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:22, NLT)   

He told a teaching story about a man who owed the king a huge debt, who came and pled his case before being tossed into debtor’s prison. The king mercifully released the man who promptly left the court and found a man who owed him a little money. He grabbed the man and threatened him with destruction if he did not pay up.

The injustice was too much for those who witnessed this and they reported it to the king who then said, “Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison until he had paid every penny.” (Matthew 18:32-34, NLT)  Jesus concluded by telling His disciples that this was a model for their forgiveness.

God saved us from eternal destruction, released us at His expense from the penalty of our sinfulness. Now, He desires that we are merciful. Our world desperately needs people of grace and mercy today.  Our nation is tore up by strife. We are ready to ‘cancel’ those whose words offend. We hurl insults at those with whom we disagree. My friend, this ought not be true of Christians. We must pray for tender hearts, asking the Spirit of God to make our first impulse one of mercy.   

I do not mean to imply that forgiveness is a simple thing or that the impulse of grace erases all justice.  Forgiveness, in a godly sense, is never just ‘forgive and forget,’ as if that was even possible. Forgiveness is a process of releasing the offense to God, of processing our emotions in prayer, of asking for His perspective on our pain. It is sometimes very hard! But, it is always possible for us to forgive in a way that leaves the ‘debt’ in the hands of God.  Forgiveness is our personal choice. Reconciliation, the next step, requires two and thus, may sometimes not happen regardless of our own desire.

We must not be too quick to conclude that one prayer will heal us, that one conversation can clear up the fog of misunderstanding and/or offense. Healing of a relationship is similar to healing a physical wound. We must cleanse and care for that cut on our skin as the body heals. We cover the wound, taking care not to further harm it. I love this word:  “Continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8, NLT)  

Wounds of the heart also need time and active care for healing to take place.  The Gospel is sometimes presented in a way that makes it seem that one quick prayer magically wipes out years of pain or regret. It is true that the Cross of Christ is completely sufficient. We are made right with God – completely – by faith.  We gain an unshakeable assurance of eternal life, a gift that is provided fully by His death and resurrection. Our healing, however, is a process.

The value and power of forgiveness cannot be overstated. Jesus taught us to pray “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. ” (Luke 11:4, NIV)  He reminds us that our own reconciliation to God requires our willingness to forgive others. Even on the Cross, He showed the way when He cried, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”   

Do old wounds still hurt?
Is the way you live today too often shaped by pain from yesterday?

There is healing in forgiving and being forgiven.  The scars may persist but the pain can be erased. When I was 9, I crashed through a glass door, slicing my wrist deeply, creating a bloody wound. 55 years later I can look still on the marks in my skin that remind me of that frightening blood-soaked experience, but the pain is long gone. 

Ah, Christian, have you received God’s forgiveness and healed? Are you forgiving others and seeking forgiveness where needed?  These are keys to a whole heart.

Here is a word from the Word. “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. 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.” (Hebrews 12:12-15, NIV)

This Is Amazing Grace (sing with Phil Wickman)

Who breaks the power of sin and darkness
Whose love is mighty and so much stronger
The King of Glory the King above all kings
Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder
And leaves us breathless in awe and wonder
The King of Glory the King above all kings

(Yeah) (Oh) This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
ou laid down Your life
That I would be set free
Oh Jesus I sing for all that You’ve done for me

Who brings our chaos back into order
Who makes the orphan a son and daughter
The King of Glory the King of Glory
Who rules the nations with truth and justice
Shines like the sun in all of its brilliance
The King of Glory the King above all kings

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Worthy is the King who conquered the grave
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Worthy is the King who conquered the grave
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Worthy is the King who conquered the grave
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Worthy worthy worthy

Phil Wickham © 2012 Phil Wickham Music (Admin. by BMG Rights Management [c/o Music Services, Inc.])

Seems Like Music (Admin. by BMG Rights Management [c/o Music Services, Inc.]) CCLI License # 810055

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