No single topic impacts our relationship with God and others more than reconciliation. Biblical reconciliation may be defined as addressing the sin that caused the divide to bond together in a shared commitment to Jesus Christ. Every person who has, is, or ever will live needs to be reconciled to God and, due to relational challenges, will need to be reconciled to others.
Sin separates people from God. We can’t offer anything to overcome the sin gap. The good news is that Christ has reconciled us to God (Rom 5:10; 2 Cor 5:18; Col 1:20-21). The fact that we need to be reconciled means that our relationship with God was broken. Our sin alienated us from Him. This was our dilemma. God’s solution was sending His one and only Son.
John 3:16 offers us the gospel in a nutshell. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God gave His Son by sending Him into the world and by giving Him over to death. Jesus died for our sins on the cross. When we place our faith in Christ, we receive abundant life in the here and now and will spend eternity with Him in the never-ending future. Christ has reconciled us to God, as Romans 5:10 declares. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” When Christ died on the cross, He paid the price for our sin that separated us from God. We find peace with our Lord.
Our reconciliation with God provides us the grace and power, by His Spirit, to reconcile with others. You don’t need me to tell you that we live in a messy world. In this fallen world, none of us are immune to messy relationships. Yes, the believer is reconciled with God and becoming Christlike, but they are still a work in progress. If holiness is growing from one degree of Christlikeness to a greater degree of Christlikeness, it is also growing from one degree of messy to a lesser degree of messy. Yet, messy we will be until we see Christ face-to-face.
Reconciling with another means restoring friendly relations. Such restoration demonstrates the peace and unity we have in Christ. Jesus said a crucial element in our witness to the world of Christ’s love and message is that we love one another (John 13:34-35; John 15:12). The Bible teaches us that reconciliation should occur as soon as possible (Matthew 5:21-25). Matthew 18:15-20 provides us with a picture of reconciliation. Reconciliation ought to be kept as private as possible. The rule of thumb is that if someone is not part of the problem or part of the solution, bringing them in is no more than gossip. If the other person refuses to reconcile or discuss the issue, we are to take one or two others to serve to steer the conversation to bring about reconciliation. Here it is kept between the three or four directly involved. If there is still no reconciliation, it is to be brought to the church. If this does not work, church discipline is deemed necessary for the sake of encouraging reconciliation.
Obviously, if the other person is not a believer, the process as a whole does not make sense. However, going to them in private is a good starting point. If that doesn’t work, bringing one or two to help is a good strategy. But, bringing in the church is problematic if the person hasn’t received Christ as Savior and Lord nor accepts the authority of Christ’s church.
It is essential to keep in mind that we are reconciled to God because of Christ’s great act of love. It is by the power of His Spirit, following His selfless example, that we meekly seek reconciliation with another. When we are the one who has been wronged, we remember the forgiveness God has given us and by the power of His Spirit and following His example forgive others (Matthew 6:12; Colossians 3:13). Let me share a word of clarity and explanation. Forgiveness means you are letting go of the negativity you have been holding on to and not requiring them to feel the same pain you have endured. It does not mean allowing yourself to be put into a situation where you can be harmed. It doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship will be as it was before. Reconciliation is the process of restoring friendly relationships, not always close ones. We can’t force it, but we can do our due diligence, then find our peace in God.
The good news is that Christ has done the work to make us reconciled to God. We receive it by receiving Him as Savior and Lord. He is our example and provides the power and leading to pursue reconciliation with others. Ultimately, we find our peace in Him and are empowered to be ambassadors of His peace and reconciliation to the world around us. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!