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23 “Therefore, if you are offering
your gift at the altar
and there remember that your
brother has something against you,
24 leave your gift there
in front of the altar.
First go and be reconciled
to your brother;
then come and offer your gift.
Yesterday's message at church titled Anger and Conflict gave some steps for the process of reconciliation. You can hear that sermon and many others by Pastor Rob Bryceson on our web site. http://www.fccspokane.org/category/sermons/
I wanted to share some of the part about the steps for reconciliation along to you with the link to hear the sermon for yourself.
One part that stood out to me was to realize that total reconciliation is not always possible. Even if two people are able to work through forgiveness, and repentance for the wrongs done to one another it may not be possible to go any further in the process of reconciliation. Reconciliation requires that both parties to want to do the work to have it. Even so it may not be desirable, or reasonable or possible to have full restoration of a relationship that has been broken even though forgiveness and repentance have taken place. To much time and life may have taken place and the circumstances of both may have changed. It is good that the repentance and forgiveness has happened but it is a mark of maturity to care enough about each other to know that further restoration would cause others in the lives of each side hurt and damage. Here are some of my notes on the steps to reconciliation.
1. Repentance: Without the level of repentance from the wrong doer who is willing to take responsibility and admit the hurt that has been caused to the other party as a result of the wrong that was done reconciliation is not possible. (It may not be possible to actually repent to the person you have wronged. In some cases the person is dead or you don't even know how to contact them. Repent to God or tell your story to a friend and share your heart of repentance with them.) It may not be possible to go back to the person you wronged but you can put the memories away clean before God.
You do not need to remain tormented by guilt and shame. You can work through repentance and forgiveness and stand clean before God. If it is possible you should go to the person you have wronged and do what you can to admit and see the brokenness you have caused. Rob in his sermon talked about making restitution. If I smashed up your car and just tell you I'm sorry its not good enough. I need to be willing to pay to repair or replace what I have broken. How that works in the case of broken hearts, or lost childhoods I can't say for sure. You have to pray and be led by the Holy Spirit. There is something important about going beyond a genuine repentant" I'm sorry" in seeing how your actions have affected the other party and doing something to make restitution. You may need to pray about what you can do that would help or bless the other party. It may be that all you can do is pray for them. Prayer is a tremendous gift. I think that the "I'm sorry" alone may not be enough to release one from the feelings of guilt or shame but one must be somehow responsible to help heal or repair what has been damaged.
2. Forgiveness: I release you and offer genuine forgiveness. I no longer hold this thing against you.
It may not be possible to go back to the actual parties involved. Sometimes you just have to go before God or share your story with a neutral party. That neutral person may be able to say that you were truly wronged but they may also see some things that you may have done that you need to repent of. Sometimes we are so focused on the wrong done to us that we can't see the part we played and the hurt or damage we may have also caused. When possible go back and make things right with the people who were involved. Forgiving and repenting and getting yourself to a place where you can stand before God having done what you could. It is important to put the memories away clean. It does not mean you will forget but they won't come up with the rage, the anger, the pain. It is no longer a rotting untended wound but one that has been healed though the scars remain. Pray very specifically about the hurt you feel. Sometimes we don't know why we hurt and we need to dig beyond the surface to the root of the real pain. We can do a lot of things to mask the real pain. Sometimes there are many layers of stuff that we must deal with before we get to the real pain. Do something to bless the person who you are forgiving as a sign of your forgiveness. I think much like in the part of repentance - must also have some act of restitution. So in forgiveness one must do something to show that forgiveness in a tangible way. Pray and seek God about what you can do to bless the people God lays on your heart to forgive.
3. Restitution. - Something mut be done to fix what has been broken. You've been robbed or have robbed someone of something. There are somethings that only God can give back. It is important to know that how you feel may not have changed. Your desire to do what is right before God is what is important. I have to be willing to forgive even when I may not feel it. It may take praying every day for that other person or giving it to God everyday for a long while before the feelings pain, hurt and sorrow begins to lessen. Sometimes there is a grieving process that one must go through. It takes time - its ok. I know for myself there have been things that I have lost that I wanted very badly, things I know won't ever happen. I have had to specifically grieve those lost hopes and dreams, I've had to forgive and repent and accept not only the condition of my heart but the directions my life has taken. It is a journey and some restoration that may not be possible today may in time become possible. For my own part I need to have done what I can do to make things right. In the Old Testament when one had sinned they would offer a sheep or an ox to atone the sin. When Jesus came along He kind of raised the bar a bit with today's verse. The blood of dead animal is not enough. We need to do what we can to make things right.
4. Reconciliation: There are people who want to just start fresh but don't want to do the work of getting to reconciliation. There are others who are willing to do the work of repenting and forgiving only to find to much has happened, life has gone on to far in other directions to fully reconcile the relationship. While reconciliation may be desired, it may not be possible. Sometimes one dream is traded for another and there is no going back to the relationship that has been lost. Even if one is able to pick up and walk in full reconciliation with someone there is a span of time that can never be regained and things that happened during that time that will have changed both parties. It may be possible to go forward as a result a reconciliation but it needs to becomes a new relationship not an old patched up one. There is a cute movie called 17 Again where the guy gets a "do over". He gets to be 17 again but not in the past but in the present. We may as a result of working through forgiveness and repentance and restitution be able to have a type of "do over" but we can't go back in time. There are healed scars that will remain on ones heart and life that may fade some with time but they are reminders or memorials of what was lost or broken. Many of those things have caused us to become who we are today. They in a sense shape and define us.
I guess what I hope to convey is that it is really important to work through your part of forgiveness and repentance. We must as Christians follow Jesus by forgiving those who have wronged us. We must be responsible and repent for the wrongs we ourselves have done to others. I think the part of taking things a step further and doing something to bless the other party that is an act of our repentance or a sign of our forgiveness is something that I will be praying about this week. We were asked at the end of the service to pray and allow God to bring up a name. I realized that the names that came to mind for me were all ones that the forgiveness and repentance part has happened. In one case directly with that person, in the others before God I have forgiven and repented of my part. I guess I want to encourage you that it is a process. I can think I've gotten through it all and some thing will surface and I find that I must walk through the process of repenting and forgiving once again. I say both forgiveness and repentance, because in most situations even those that we have been wronged by another, there are things if we are honest that we could have done better. You may no be able to go directly go through the process to repent or forgive but before God we must be responsible to own our part.
Help us to work through the process of repenting for those things we have done that have hurt or harmed others. Help us to forgive those people who have hurt or harmed us. Lead us in both cases to find the next step of restitution and or the sign of forgiveness by some act of blessing on our part. Where it is possible bring restoration where it is not bring acceptance and peace.