For the follower of Christ, what is the significance of reconciliation?
We talk mostly of forgiveness, but what is that based on?
This is a review from Scripture and an attempt at an example using postcards.
To forgive a sin, the cost of the sin must first be paid. The cost is taken on by the sinner, or the victim.
Exodus 22:1-4 ● ESV ● Restitution
In cases like theft or damage, as seen in Exodus 22, restitution is made by returning more than what was stolen to compensate the victim bringing reconciliation of value. Since the victim should now have no monetary loss, there should be no barrier for forgiveness from the heart.
Leviticus 24:17-23 ● ESV ● An Eye for an Eye
If the victim is injured, it is not as simple because you have essentially taken away part of someone’s life. Leviticus 24 gives us the “eye for an eye” passage which is interpreted in many ways. One aspect, that is in general agreement, is that there is a limit on the retaliation. In other words if someone knocked out your tooth, you do not have the right to poke out his eye.
Matthew 5:38-42 ● ESV ● Retaliation
Jesus picks this up the Leviticus 24 passage in Matthew 5, but does not directly address physical retaliation but retaliation in the heart as seen in deed.
What is stated is that you as the victim are to take on the cost yourself and still offer yourself all the more. You are paying the price of the sin committed against you, and like the additional payment given by a thief, you as the victim are making that extra payment. The event is reconciled by the victim. There is nothing left on the table and the victim can fully forgive the sinner.
Why would Jesus give us this model as it surely does not seem fair. Clearly isn’t fair, but a demonstration of grace. The price Jesus paid on the cross was not fair to Him, but an act of grace. We cannot pay the same price, but to a lessor degree we must follow His model and take on the cost of sin against us to show a bit of the grace we receive from the Lord.
Offering grace for injury or theft is very hard and not a light matter. Offering grace for anger can be just as hard. A few verses earlier Jesus addresses this clearly.
Matthew 5:21-24 ● ESV ● Anger
We see anger or insult analogized to murder. While this too is not seen uniformly by all, the general idea that anger is not trivial is clear. But Jesus goes on to address reconciliation.
Several things should be considered. First that the situation is if your brother has something against you, not that you have something against your brother. It is not that you sinned and have to reconcile. Where a sin occurs is not addressed. The issue is for whatever reason, your brother has something against you and you know it.
Then there is the priority of the matter. In a very real sense it is much easier to offer a gift then to reconcile. Jesus makes it abundantly clear that reconciliation far outweighs an offering or gift.
Then there is the timing. Perhaps the issue has come up recently or long in the past. If it has come to mind, you remember it, then the time is now to change focus and purposely pursue reconciliation.
An idea of “it is not my fault” has no relevance. It is not the event, or who is at fault, but your brother that is of the utmost value and priority.
What if you are the brother who has something against another? Perhaps it is a serious offense. What are your options.
1st Corinthians 6:1-8 ● ESV ● Lawsuits Against Believers
First we can easily see what not to do in 1st Corinthians 6. We must never turn to the state for regress of grievances as this is a defeat. We are called to suffer loss or rather be defrauded than turn to the state. This is consistent with the retaliation passage in Matthew 5. The turning to the state option is simply out of the question.
Matthew 18:15-17 ● ESV ● If Your Brother Sins Against You
For the follower of Christ Matthew 18 is the typical starting point. Our start is to simply tell our brother. Where love is foremost in both, the matter would be quickly settled between just the two brothers.
If not, then there are the progressive steps of bringing in others and then to “tell it to the church.” It needs to be clear that this is not a backroom meeting with institutional church leadership, but the “church” or “ekklēsia”, which is the assembly or congregation. In other words, you go public. And Scripture gives us a remarkable example of this as will be demonstrated.
1st Timothy 5:19-21 ● ESV ● Instructions for the Church
To emphasize the going public idea we should first look at 1st Timothy 5. We can see several things here starting with the seriousness of what is occurring.
A flippant charge is not to be made.
When the charge is against an elder, it must all the more have evidence. It should be noted that the “elder” or “presbuteros” is someone who is older, not an office in an institutional church. Someone who is older should have matured and is therefore due the respect of a mature person, irrespective of his position in life.
There is no partiality to be shown for anyone because of their history or stature. The issue is if the charge is true.
If the charge is true and there is no repentance, then rebuke is called for “in the presence of all”. In other words, you go public.
Galatians 2:11-14 ● ESV ● Paul Opposes Peter
Then there is the first part of a remarkable passage in Scripture found in Galatians 2. The Apostle Peter, also known as Cephas, was showing the joy of fellowship with all. But when those with traditions came, he withdrew from the open fellowship.
Paul states that Peter and others were acting hypocritically. They were professing faith in the Lord, but did not have the trust in the Lord to live it. Paul called them out on it “before them all”. In other words, Paul called them out publicly.
2nd Peter 3:14-18 ● ESV ● Final Words
Then comes the magnificence of grace. Some years later Peter wrote his second epistle, which was his final words in Scripture.
When he concludes with “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” it was not only for us but for him. During the time of the book of Galatians he did not show a fullness of grace. He was called out at that time as living like a fraud, which would offend or anger a man who has not grown in grace sufficiently. But Peter shows that grace by calling his accuser “our beloved brother Paul”.
This is evidence of the Lord’s grace to Paul and Peter. This is evidence of reconciliation. This should be our model. Is it yours?
I called this “Postcard Reconciliation”, so the question is why? I have five handwritten postcards that I will send out to three men and two institutional churches. The message is simple and public “Please, let’s reconcile”. There is also a link to this video.
2nd Timothy 3:1-9 ● ESV ● Godlessness in the Last Days
What will be the heart of the receivers? Will it be what is described in 2nd Timothy 3? When we read “last days” there are two basic interpretations. It refers to a short period of a few years before the return of Christ, or the first days are essentially Old Testament times and the last days are New Testament times. If the latter is fully or even partially true, then you can see the next part is often lived out in front of you.
“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”
Who would be “heartless”? Perhaps someone with a heart of stone?
What is it to be “treacherous”? The Greek word means a betrayer or traitor. Literally giving forward into someone’s hands. It is handing someone over to the state.
Does the institutional church have only an “appearance of godliness”?
It is easy to say that you love everyone, but what is your heart really like?
Can you look at someone particular in another part of the world enslaved and have an individual love for them as a human being created in the image of God?
Can you see the joy of a man celebrating a reconciled family who looks so different than you?
Can you see the passion to follow Christ in a man who lives out a passion you have?
Can you see in a man who does not speak your language, lost his family to the malicious acts of others, and call him your brother?
Can you look in the face of a man who seeks to reconcile with you and show love in deed?
In Matthew 5:23 we saw “there remember that your brother has something against you” which had no implication that it is only applicable to a recent issue. Perhaps the issue is over 8 years old, as it is in this case. The priority of reconciliation remains forefront.
There are so many who have something against someone else and go to their grave harboring that resentment. Then there are those, like Paul and Peter, who reconcile and celebrate a relationship where they can truly say “my beloved brother”.
Gentlemen, our day to enter the grave is coming. You have been addressed repeatedly and publicly. Your brother has something against you.
The Kozlowski Family ● An Attempt at Restoration ●