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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Taking Reconcilation Seriously

Over the past year, I have been blessed to see God redeem a really difficult conflict situation between a deeply loved close friend of mine and me. God has taught me so much about His heart for reconciliation through this situation.  The gospel is all about God reconciling us to Himself through Christ so that we can enjoy relationship with Him. God’s heart for His people is that, through Christ’s work of reconciliation on the cross, we get to participate in the glorious fellowship between Father and Son by the Spirit AND we get to have fellowship with one another.

For the longest time, I failed to see this second piece.  An important aspect of the good news of our salvation through Christ is that Christians get enjoy fellowship with one another and that we get to live out the gospel in relationship!  Our love for each other is: 1) a way we love and worship God; 2) a demonstration of our faith in God/the gospel; and 3) a testimony to the world and to the heavenly realms of the greatness of our God (there is so much Scriptural support for this—see John 13, the book of Ephesians, Mathew 5:23-24, for starters.).

We Christians can easily underestimate the importance and effects of our loving one another, serving one another, pursuing reconciliation with one another, being unified with one another, speaking truth with one another, etc. And yet, this is the heart of how we are called to live out the gospel in love.  This is a mark of what it is to be a Christian.  This is part of what we are "saved to". 

We Christians can easily forget that we have the best opportunities to live out the gospel in faith and worship when our relationships get difficult. It is easy to love when people are naturally easy to love, when we have affinity towards someone, when conflicts have not yet arisen, when circumstances have not become difficult or awkward, and when confrontation is not needed. Yet, these are the very times when we have the best opportunities to reflect the scandalous, sacrificial, other-worldly gospel love that our Savior shows us. This is precisely the kind of love that the world doesn’t understand.  Worldly love has no problem loving when the object of that love is meeting a need in the lover or is at the very least not hurting the lover in return (see Matthew 5:43-48).  But worldly love does not love in the face of reviling or when it becomes too inconvenient. Gospel love—the kind of love that returns reviling with blessing, the kind of love that perseveres even when circumstances are difficult and inconvenient, the kind of love that desires and pursues real relationship, the kind of love that looks after the good of the beloved—this is the very love of our Glorious God. This love stuns the world and heralds the worthiness of our God. We cannot love like this on our own. The closer we get to God, the more He graciously pours this love into our hearts, the more we are satisfied and delighted by God's love, and the more this love flows out from us to others. The more we ask God for the ability to love others with gospel love, the more God generously gives us His grace to love others like this.
I want to be clear here, we are called to pursue reconcilation with a sincere heart of love (see Romans 12).  This kind of love is humble, considers others more significant than ourselves, and looks to the interests of others (see Philippians 2).  But we are not called to pursue peace at all costs. We are called to live peaceably with others as far as it depends on us (see Romans 12). Scripture lays out processes for pursuing reconciliation with others when conflicts arise (for instance, see Matthew 5:23-24 & Matthew 18. These processes involve communicating directly with the person with whom we have conflict and also involves getting others involved if needed.) Sometimes despite our best efforts to pursue and reconcile, the ones we love simply will not want to be reconciled. Sometimes the one with whom we have conflict will not want to walk in the light, will not want to be humble, and will not want to be submitted to God's Word and His people. At that point, all we can do is to continue to pray and to leave the door open for reconciliation with a clear conscience. In the process of reconciliation, we are never called to compromise truth or righteousness in our pursuit of peace. This is not loving/honoring God nor is it loving others. God does not comprise truth or righteousness for the sake of peace. God loves His creation and desires that all men be reconciled to Him through faith in Christ. Yet, some men refuse to be reconciled. God does not alter the truth of His righteousness or the truth of man’s sinful state in order to accommodate the refusal of some men to be reconciled.
So what does this mean for us as Christians? What kind of heart questions can we ask ourselves to examine our commitment to reconcilation that stems from a heart of sincere gospel love? Here is a place to start:

  • What do our relationships look like? Do our relationships reflect gospel love (scandalous, pursuing, persevering, sacrificial, etc.)? Do our relationships reflect worldly love (conditional, only when convenient, primarily self-serving and self-preserving)?

  • Do we have un-reconciled relationships? (Think about relationships where we have unresolved sin against others, where others have unresolved sin against us, or where distance has crept in because of sin or awkwardness, etc.)

  • In what ways have we pursued reconciliation in these un-reconciled relationships? (See Romans 12—especially Romans 12:18 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”)

  • Do we have a clear conscience with regard to these un-reconciled relationships? (In answering this question sincerely…have we prayed about this? Have we consulted other Christians who are impartial in the matter and who can hold us accountable to obedience consistent with God’s Word in this?)

  • Who is God calling us to pursue, forgive, persevere with, pray for, etc.?

  • Do we have loved ones in the Body of Christ who are experiencing conflict? How have we been loving these parties? Do we have an opportunity to be an agent of reconciliation in these situations and are we praying about any role that God would have us play in bringing about reconcilation? Are we obeying in love for God and others?  Are we praying for the conflicted parties?

  • In our own un-reconciled relationships and in the un-reconciled relationships that we see in the Body of Christ, are we being motivated by love & conviction, or by self interest & convenience? Are we willing to pursue reconciliation even when it will cost us something?  Does our heart and behavior in these situations reflect the kind of love that we have been shown by God?

  • What is our motive in our desires and efforts toward reconcilation?  Is it love (for God and others)?
I appreciated this devotional I received today from PeaceMakers Ministries through their E-mail Newsletter called “PeaceMeal”.  Here is their website:

The Other Great Commission

If you learn that someone has something against you, God wants you to take the initiative in seeking peace--even if you do not believe you have done anything wrong. If you believe that another person's complaints against you are unfounded or that the misunderstanding is entirely the other person's fault, you may naturally conclude that you have no responsibility to take the initiative in restoring peace. This is a common conclusion, but it is false, for it is contrary to Jesus' specific teaching in Matthew 5:23-24: "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."

Food for Thought

Do you recall the "Great Commission?" This was Jesus' command to his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20 to "Go and make disciples of all nations."
Think about Matthew 5:23-24 as "The Other Great Commission"-- and it may be even more challenging for us to fulfill. Going to reconcile with someone who has a complaint about us involves humility ("Why should I go to them if they're the one who's upset?"), empathy (attempting to see the situation from someone else's perspective), and obedience (we go because Jesus commands us, not because we want to or even because we feel that reconciliation is possible). Are there any people in your life to whom you need to "go" today in order to reconcile? Maybe there is a long-standing feud between you and a family member or former friend that God is inviting you to begin to address today through this reminder.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Kristian's Preaching

I love hearing my "ex-atheist" husband preach the gospel.  God is so good.

Here is the audio:

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Hugawugs Learning Board Books and Soft Plush Play Set

My talented and brilliant friend Kristen has been working on a series of learning products for little ones.   Here is their website:

Their Hugawugs Learning Board Books and Soft Plush Play Set is available today at 54% off at  Check it out: