There is a quote by Eugene Cho that says: “Everyone loves the idea of reconciliation… UNTIL it involves truth telling, confessing, repenting, dismantling, forgiving and peacemaking.” It’s from a book called Drop the Stones by Carlos Rodrigues, if you wanted to check that out.
Powerful statement right there. This blog is a little meatier than my others. I am just going to talk about some stuff I have been pondering a bit. I hope it is not too intense. That would not be my intention. But I think true grace is often discovered when we see the absence of it like there aren’t GOOD news if we do not understand the BAD ones. So… let’s go there shall we?
As a Christian I have heard great message after even greater message on forgiveness that were especially revolutionary in the beginning of my journey with God and continue to be great reminders to live a lifestyle of forgiveness. I extend that forgiveness to myself (often) and in that same way to others too. (Just as often!)
What I haven’t heard so much about are great messages on justice and reconciliation in church. Some, especially in my own study of the subject, but not many. And I struggled often after having done so much “heart work” with the lack of reconciliation. Turns out many of us have not learnt to reconcile. Probably because it is hard work, like setting and keeping boundaries, speaking up, confrontation and managing ones own emotions. And often when there has been a history of offence or a very traumatic offence it is not a one-time conversation either. The decision to reconcile is but only the beginning of working it all out and working through new ways of relating. And that my friends is even more work! Keeping short accounts with God and people help. But it requires great humility and the willingness to take responsibility for our own hearts as well as our actions. Constantly.
Sadly, I have listened and ministered to people as they were ignored, belittled or encouraged to “just move on” and not talk about their pain, shame and hurt anymore. This whole “sweeping things under the carpet” – mentality will never restore and is hostile to true connection. That is when forgiveness is used to mask an issue that needs addressing. And that gives me a rash! I hate it!
Vulnerability, connection, reconciliation, owning our parts a 100% and all that talk… It seems so costly, only because we do not understand how costly it is to not live that talk. We do not understand that resisting this process will grow our hearts cold and hard. (1. Timothy 4:2). And that is a danger for any society, small and big, now and eternally.
I work really hard to keep relationships because I am an INFJ personality and I need true heart connection. Some people like to connect over information or while doing things. I like to be known on a deep level. What I am not so good at are large groups and systems in generally because there just aren’t so many INFJ’s around. Feeling called to communicate to the church as a whole is quite ironic in this way. So naturally any closed group is a hazard for my relationships. And I have found that especially when I have come into a new nation, city, group, system, church, even a new understanding, revelation or season in my life etc. it has only been a matter of time when, unwillingly, someone got offended by me. Suffice to say, I am not writing from a victim point of you. I totally know what it is to UNWILLINGLY or UNKNOWINGLY offend someone! And how sometimes my freedom or internal growth challenges them, especially as I am still working through stuff and struggle to articulate it or while I hide and shut everyone out. Their confusion can come out in offence or upset. Still I take responsibility for how my actions and words MIGHT have affect that person. Even if my part looks like 5% in a whole mess of things versus another’s 95%. I still take whatever offense I have caused seriously. We all fall short some days. That is good to remember. Victim or Offender.
But whatever side I have stood on, either being the offender or the victim of an offender (and sometimes it can happen simultaneously!), it is good to remember to really acknowledge my feelings, their feelings and be focused on reconciliation not a blame game of sorts.
As we acknowledge our pain, even our own part (however small or big) and forgive our offenders, we become free and naturally long for reconciliation. Sometimes we even gain the courage to confront our offender IN ORDER to be reconciled. The reality is, it is often long lasting or trusted friendships or family relationships that go bust. It is those relationships that we have entered into in the first place because we trusted, liked and often loved or because we are related to them, that are often at stake. Therefore it is so natural to not only want to forgive them but also to long to reconcile again.
Forgiveness, is a choice and does not have to require the other person acceptance but reconciliation takes both parties to agree on what went down. And that is often where things break down. Reconciliation requires the acknowledgement of and the agreeing with wrongful behavior. And for it to be true, there has to be a change of action from this day onward.
We are powerful people, and we have effect on others. Of course that is a lot more exciting to say when we effect positive change. But that is where we might have some blinders on here. We are powerful and we effect change whether it is positive or negative and we have to realise that our words and actions matter and that we all have fallen short, and all mess up sometimes.
Jesus has forgiven ALL when he died on the cross for any offence anyone committed or ever will commit, whether they receive that forgiveness or not! But only those that RECEIVE Jesus and everything that he stands for, become children of God (John1:12).
It is those that feel the sorrowful conviction of their sinful (even unknowingly) actions (lack of connection with God) and accept the soul crushing yet life giving offer from Jesus, who died for us, that become family. Those will benefit from a close connection likened to but far superior than one would have between a child and a loving Father. Just as a reminder… Jesus has not been 100% successful to reconcile all mankind to himself, even though it is his desire to. The simple reason is that it takes two to tango. It takes two parties to agree on the truth presented to be reconciled. The offender has to take responsibility for their offences and acts. If not, how can they be reconciled?
I have forgiven people that I have not (yet) been able to reconcile with, simply because it involves like I quoted in the beginning of this blog …”truth telling, confessing, repenting, dismantling, forgiving and peacemaking.”
And so sometimes we cannot reconcile in the way we desire because there is a lack of humility or willingness to go the mile. And what do we do then? The bible is clear in that it says “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18. And sometimes that means to accept the other person doesn’t want to go as deep into working on connection as You might want to. Or you might feel like the person is unrepentant or the offence was so severe that there has to be a great boundary placed around that relationship, or even a court to be involved because it is dangerous or destructive even still.
So much more to say. I might keep that for a book. But I am trying to say something….
Justice is a thing with Jesus, heaven and the bible! But justice is also mercy and gets served always with love for all. It serves to protect and makes it possible for us ALL to have freedom. And that means boundaries, consequences and yes justice for being wronged. Let’s consider others higher than ourselves… for real! I know I am challenged higher still as I remain aware of so much heartache that goes around, especially to those marginalised in any group – christian or not. It is for us to speak up and stand up!
Are you challenged by this? Maybe you feel someone has let you down in this area of justice? Maybe you just get what I am talking about, because you have walked through this? Let us know in the comments. I always love to hear from you xx
Much love always. Let’s move towards a better day for everyone. Together.