LID#17 – Reconciliation Part I
This is Dr. Ed Hoskins welcoming you to Lessons in Discipleship, a series designed to help new believers become established in their Christian faith. Today’s session is on Reconciliation Part I.
First, let me tell you a little about myself. I’m a retired physician and spent 34 years in family medicine and student health. I became a Christian 50 years ago and was helped early in my faith by the Navigators, a non-denominational international Christian organization whose stated goal is “To Know Christ and to Make Him Known.”
Lessons in Discipleship is a compilation of what I learned at that time from the Bible and under the direction of the Navigators. What I learned then I now pass on to you. Today’s session is Reconciliation – Part I – When I Have Offended Another Person.
Jesus knew that whenever two or more people interact, misunderstandings are bound to occur. For that reason, this topic of reconciliation is addressed by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, chapters 5-7. In fact, healing damaged relationships is so important to Jesus that he told those involved not to even bother worshipping God until those relational challenges were fixed.
Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)
Well, there are always two sides to this coin of ‘hurt.’ First, there’s the perspective of the person offended, the one who feels the hurt.
There is also the person who caused the offense – who started it all.
Well, from a reconciliation standpoint, we cover the first person’s side , the one who was offended, in today’s lesson Part 1. In the next session we deal with Part 2 – the person who caused the offence. In both parts 1 an d 2, the underlying principle is the same and is seen in Hebrews 12:14, “Make every effort to live at peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Note how holiness is connected with reconciliation and the importance God places upon making relationships right.
Well, one question immediately comes to my mind and possibly to yours too. If I sense there’s a problem relating to another person, a brother or sister in Christ, whose responsibility is it to make the first move, mine or theirs? Is it my responsibility, if I am the one who caused the offence, or is it the responsibility of the one who got offended?
Actually, according to Jesus, it doesn’t really matter. It’s always my move first. We’ve already seen from Matthew 5:23-24 that if I have offended someone else, it’s my responsibility to go first and make it right. Here’s the other side of that coin. Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault.” (Matthew 18:15) Therefore, it’s always my responsibility to go first to help repair broken relationships.
So how do I know if I have offended or hurt another person? Usually it’s the spirit of God who reveals this. Sometimes I notice that a friend is now avoiding me. Maybe my friend speaks angrily to me or negatively about me to others. At other times I simply notice a coolness in that relationship. Whenever I notice something wrong, I should start by asking God to reveal any relational problems to me. Then I can go and ask that person, or another friend, if anything wrong is going on. If God makes it clear that I am in the wrong, I must take full responsibility and speak directly with the person I’ve offended. I need to meaningfully say, “I’m sorry, please forgive me.” My personal recommendation is not to do this in writing. There are times in the past when I’ve done that in writing and that can be misunderstood and misused. In a handwritten note we don’t have the benefit of the non-verbal cues of communication. It’s best to do that in person or at least speak to them by phone. In some cultures, it’s appropriate to have a mutual, trusted friend act as a mediator.
But whatever the situation, be specific. Ask for their forgiveness. Something like “My friend, I am truly sorry for what I did or said. I know that it hurt you. It was wrong of me. Will you forgive me?”
Sometimes something physical like money needs to be corrected. Be willing to do it and make things right. Let me tell you a personal experience. When I was a very young believer, I’d been in medical school and needed to sell my microscope. I had bought it new for $140.00. But now I was only selling it ‘used’ for $90.00. So I advertised it. An incoming medical student wanted to buy it. But, unfortunately, he didn’t have the money right with him. He asked me to wait on selling it until he could come back with the money. I agreed. Immediately after this first person left, another student showed up, opened his wallet, and said and he had the money in his hand ready to buy the microscope. Not being sure if the first person would come back with the money or not, I decided to accept the second offer. I gave this second person the microscope. When I took the money I felt a little guilty. I didn’t think about it until later when the first medical student came by with the money and wanted to buy the microscope. The microscope was gone and this first person got really angry – rightly so since I had promised to wait. Well, as a Christian, what should I do? I prayed. Well, God touched my heart that I needed to be willing to make it right. So I went to that first person and offered to pay them the difference in cash, that extra $50 that they would have to spend in order to buy a brand new microscope. That first person refused. But later, it turned into a wonderful opportunity for reconciliation. The point is that I offered to pay that extra money for the microscope on the spot, even though that decision would really hurt me financially. It was the right thing to do. It’s important to be willing to make things right, even if it hurts.
I also recommend against making an ‘anemic’ apology. That’s what I call weak in general, such as the following: “If I have said anything or done anything to offend you, please forgive me.” That’s really just me trying to look okay. It’s putting the responsibility back on the other person. If I do that I’m not really apologizing. Make any apology specific and take full responsibility for your actions.
Also, in many situations the fault lies with both people, at least to some extent. Be willing to focus on the part where you have been wrong, even if you are only 5-10% wrong and the other person (in my opinion) is 90-95% wrong. Basically, it’s a decision to leave that other part in God’s hands to work in the heart of the other person.
Let’s summarize what we’ve learned in this brief presentation. First, relational problems are bound to occur. But God wants us to work at making things right. This allows us to live at peace with all men whenever possible. That brings glory to God. Second, whenever there’s a relationship problem, it is always my responsibility to make the first move, whether I have done the offending or if I have been the one offended. The person I’m relating to is a child of God and precious in God’s sight. Third, I must take full responsibility for my own actions and be willing to make the situation right, even being willing to make any necessary financial restitution. Fourth, in any apology, be specific and not general. Do this face-to-face if possible. I can trust God to be at work in the other person’s heart.
We will see you next time when we cover Lesson 18 of Lessons in Discipleship when our topic will be Reconciliation Part 2 – When I Have Been Offended by Another Person. That wraps up today’s session. Thanks for being a part. Until next time, keep following Jesus. He’s worth it!