Seeking reconciliation

Therefore, if 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.  (Matthew 5:23-24)

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  (Ephesians 4:1-6)
 
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)
 
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  (James 5:16)
Over the past four days we have recognised that the main relationship at stake when we refuse to forgive others is actually the one between us and our Father God. It is for our own sake that we choose to forgive, even if the other person is not sorry or even aware that they have done anything to hurt us. Unless the person has sought our forgiveness, we don’t even need to tell them that they are forgiven. Indeed, in many cases that would be inadvisable.

But what if we become aware that we are the one in the wrong, that either through sin or ignorance we have caused pain to another? Well, then the Bible is clear that we mustn’t over-spiritualise our response. If it’s possible, we need to go to the person and seek their forgiveness. It’s important that we do this quickly and sincerely. Don’t offer excuses, “well I was tired”, or try to spread the blame – “…remember you’ve hurt me too”.  Our confession should be as straightforward and as honest as possible, “I did this and I shouldn’t have. I am truly sorry”.

Sometimes it might involve recompense, for example restoring the thing we took or going back to the people we have gossiped to in order to put the record straight. Regardless, it should lead to a clear request for forgiveness from the person that we have wronged. Of course, we can only act as far as it depends on us. Reconciliation is only going to happen if both sides are willing, but once we have genuinely done all that we can, we have discharged our responsibility and we can be at peace with God, even if the other person doesn’t reciprocate.

All our relationships are precious, and that is especially true of those within the Church, the beautiful Bride of Christ. Those relationships inevitably come under pressure as a result of our weakness, our sin and Satan’s scheming, as he tries to outwit us. But Jesus has taught us how to respond. So today, as far as it depends on us, let’s do all that we can to keep the oil of forgiveness and reconciliation flowing freely between us.
  1. How easy do you find it to recognise and genuinely apologise when you are in the wrong? If you find it hard, why do you think that is?
  2. Take some time to ask God whether there is anyone whose forgiveness you need to seek. Start by thinking of your family and closest friends where the accumulation of small hurts can often become the hardest barriers to overcome. Then move on to your wider circles of connection in the church, your workplace and neighbourhood.
  3. What steps towards reconciliation do you feel depend on you?
  4. If the issue is significant, or seeking reconciliation may place you at risk (for example in the case of an abusive parent or ex-partner) then talk things over carefully with a spiritually mature friend or Life Group Leader first.
Dear Heavenly Father, I confess that I have often been the cause of pain to others through my sin and thoughtlessness. I ask you to help me to be quick to apologise and to seek reconciliation. Thank you that the same power that reconciled me to you can also reconcile me with others. Please help me to embrace this good news today. Amen. 
Today’s Everyday Devotions were written by David Featherstone.

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