Kingdom principle: human relationships require reconciliation…
Reconciliation requires forgiveness… which requires repentance…which requires confession… which requires Christ.
|Joshua 5:9-12||Psalm 32||2 Corinthians 5:16-21||Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32|
The statement weak in the knees is usually directed at a emotional response to a person or situation. Often forgiveness is left in this realm of this thinking as well. But when God choose to have Israel be weak in the knees – he used a knife. (read Joshua 5:1-8 to understand this context.) God want us to be fully aware of our need to trust in him and not in our own strength. This is at the heart of the season of Lent, and is carried forth every time we are reminded of the Passover; to deliver Israel from the rule of Pharaoh. Those who rely on their own strength will fall much harder than those who submit to the Lord.
This world teaches us that to be strong is to outlast our opponents – Jesus teaches us that the meek shall inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5) and the Apostle Paul tells us that in his weakness, hardships and difficulties , Jesus spoke to him saying “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ( 2 Cor. 12:9-10). We encounter our weakness most clearly in our wilderness experiences. There is no shortage of wilderness and weakness in the Bible in those whom had the greatest impact for the King. In fact God is calling us to have weak knees in his presence, which is to bow down and worship him. (The Hebrew word for worship means to bend our knees and prostrate ourselves before God.) God also reaches to us in our weakness to lift us up and grant us all authority and power here on earth. (Matt 28:18).
Jesus redefines – weakness as strength, in the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew 5-7. There Jesus gives us the command to “turn the other cheek”, to “give our shirt away” and to “love our enemies.” He is asking nothing short of us to be perfect. (Matthew 5:38-48) Jesus further directs us to forgive others of their sins and that if we don’t, our Father will not forgive our sins. (Matt. 6:14-15) None of this is possible outside of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. And it is the very grace of Jesus Christ that makes salvation possible and calls us to live, walking in the footsteps of Jesus. But what do we do, when we don’t “want” to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, but yet we want to enjoy salvation from this world. We are confronted with an impasse that reveals what we have called salvation is merely a false expectation and that Jesus is really calling us to “take up our cross and follow him”. (Matt 16:24-25)
For those who are wanting to take up their cross and follow Jesus, must remember that it begins by denying themselves. It is not about your rights, your expectations and your demands; it is about getting weak knees and finding strength in the provision, protection and peace of the King. God’s willingness and ability to forgive has no end. (Remember – forgiveness requires repentance.)There is no cost too great to prevent God from making a way for humanity to be forgiven. (John 3:16) Even while we were still sinners and enemies to God, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) It was not enough that God shall save us from death and separation from his Love, beyond that he chose to make it possible for us to come into relationship with Him(1 John 4:9-17), that we might be holy as he is holy. (1 Peter 1:13-16) For God – there is no forgiveness without reconciliation. Because he is perfect love and without fear, to be forgiven by Him is to be reconciled with him.(1 John 4:18-21) And this is the very call to which we have been given – To be ambassadors of this reconciliation.
Over the last few weeks we have covered that our confession is to be that “God is in control”. This declaration moves us into alignment with God through the act of “repentance”. All this possible only because of the life of Jesus Christ and in his death and resurrection we are offered justification and sanctification. Here we move from being made right with God – which done through justification & forgiveness – to the act of being “right” with others. While forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same or even simultaneous in this world, they are not to be separated from the vantage point of God. The reality of the separation is based on our sinfulness, yet in Christ that has been obliterated. (Romans 8) We must not allow our experience of this world to create a new norm of expectation. God’s message of reconciliation has been given to us, so that we might be in relationship with him and the world at the same time. While we may never arrive at this fully, may we not settle to never pursue it and fail to enjoy the life that God has called us to. (This post is longer, but it is also very important)
Let us begin with Forgiveness –
Forgiveness is an act. It is the action of releasing someone of their deserved punishments and obligations. This a complete and total removal of debt. In other words, the offender is pardoned.
in our lives –
Forgiveness is an act of the will (soul) to obey God through the power of the Holy Spirit by choosing to let go of resentments, hurts, debts and the right to retaliate or punish.
We have not truly forgiven someone if:
- The offense still causes us pain
- We wish to avoid the offender or have ill-will toward the offender
- We have on-going anger that the offense took place in our lives.
- Are unwilling to believe in the offender’s repentance
Forgiveness requires three basic actions (both of the offender & pardon giver)
(1) Confession and surrender of our right to get even.
This release is of the person and the offense to God.
The offender is responsible to God alone for their life and actions.
(2) Repentance of our own awareness of our sin and flesh nature.
In this movement we affirm the humanity of the offender and offended.
(3) Prayer for God’s blessings and grace in the offender’s life.
I imagine this seems like a lot of work for the pardon giver who has not done “anything” wrong – if so you are reading it right… and if you are reading it that way you are being confronting the older syndrome. But let’s first return to the offender for a moment – if an offender does not repent, forgiveness is not availed for them. Yet when there is offense, there is work to be done regardless. The “older brother” syndrome creeps into all who have become righteous in the church, – for if it is our judgment that another’s repentance is not “good” enough, we ourselves have fallen in sin. To grant Forgiveness is to release one’s rights of superiority and revenge. (Phil 2:5-11) So if you been offended… you have something to release… that begins with confession and repentance. But if someone does not repent and forgiveness is not given – it does not mean; it is our burden or right to retain the pain or offense, we must release (confess) unto God our pain, and return (repent) to Him surrendering our right to get even. (Luke 17:3-4, 15:11-32) This release is not forgiveness; it is blessedness (matt 5) which again moves us deeper in to His righteousness, rather than self-righteousness. This blessed state is the ministry of reconciliation. We cannot force another to repent – it is initiated by an act of God, but we must do everything possible to be ready to meet that person at the threshold of the doorway of forgiveness the moment they cry out to God.
Repentance is given from one party (the offender) to another (the pardon giver)
Repentance is a return of right-standing.
(Confession precedes repentance and it is a declaration of wrong-standing)
Forgiveness is given from one party (pardon given) to another (the offender)
Forgiveness is release of rights to get even or to punish
Reconciliation is act of unification between two the parties (the offender and pardon giver)
Reconciliation is an act of the heart (body, soul, spirit) being in submission to God and others. Reconciliation is experienced in a relationship where there has been a change from a state of enmity and fragmentation to one of harmony and fellowship.
Both the Younger brother and the Elder brother in the parable of the lost sons (Not –Prodigal Son – it is better titled the Prodigal God – read Tim Keller’s book) are in need for reconciliation. Both have experienced a fragmentation in their relationship with the Father. The elder brother is separated by his own self-righteousness and desire to be in control, while the younger brother has lost all righteousness and lived his life out of control. In the With book – we saw this as the war between the From & For postures with God. But this shall not be…
Returning to our relationship with others – God has demonstrated that he is willing to go reach toward all who are lost – whether that “lost” looks like a worldly sinner or a self-righteous saint to bring them into relationship with Him. We are called to this same ministry. How can this be? Only by our full awareness of our own desperation and need for Forgiveness and Grace. The church has been quick to label the younger son as needing more forgiveness because of more obvious sin. This is to miss the point of forgiveness… Forgiveness is the total and complete release from repayment and that we are all in debt.
Rather than working toward reconciliation… let’s work backward from the point of already receiving it. What I have found is that we usually begin by working to overcome our denial and anger in the hurt, slowly inching our way to muster the strength and desire to forgive. While in this act we declare it “must be from God” for it was not in us to do so…. but then after “proverbially” releasing the offender to God, we begin to work on our own hurt and pain…. then depending on the situation some continue to step back and evaluate if there is any possibility of a future relationship and often conclude it is better not to be – let’s just forgive (& forget) and move individually forward. This is not Forgiveness and it is nowhere near a ministry of Reconciliation. Let us begin with the desire of reconciliation and where it is lacking in our lives, and in the relationships around us… let us grieve, morn and wail for we have missed the great calling of our Lord and Savior. (James 4:7-10)This will motivate us to seek the Lord for our own lives and in repentance He will change our hearts. Therefore we are backing into to forgiveness of others based on the power of reconciliation that God makes possible with each one of us.
How do you experience reconciliation with God?
What does a ministry of reconciliation mean to you?
If there are people in your life you feel the desire to avoid, how might God begin to reconcile you to Him so that your heart will change toward them?