“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” -Eph. 4:32
Deep down, we all love seeing relationships healed. It’s in our DNA. We love seeing marriages, families and individuals find peace.
It’s called Reconciliation. And seeing people reconciled is a beautiful thing, between each other, but mostly to God.
It seems we love watching movies and reading stories about reconciliation. Who doesn’t love the Hallmark channel? Okay, there are a few grouches out there. But every story is about couples coming together and families finding peace.
Actually living out reconciliation in our lives is a huge challenge!
Paul wrote about reconciling in 2 Cor. 5:18. He refers to the Ministry of Reconciliation. Paul is referring to ultimately reconciling to God. Having right relationships during this brief life we live on earth means little if we haven’t reconciled to God for eternity.
But, of course, our friendships, marriages and relationships down here are meant to compliment our standing with God. Our earthy marriages and families and friendships are meant to usher us to a stronger, healthier relationship with our Heavenly Father.
That’s what Jesus had in mind when he addressed the disciples in Matthew Chapter 5.
He starts out with the Beatitudes; then He reminds us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world; that we are to let our light shine before men, that people might see good works; and that our lives must surpass that of the Pharisees. Wow!
Then comes Matthew 5:21-48. Not enough space to write it here, but please take a minute and read it. It is a thorough discourse and it’s all on relationships. Why? Jesus knew that the areas of relationships, forgiveness and reconciliation were where the light would shine the brightest (or be the dimmest) to a lost world. This is the area that people watch the most.
Jesus gives us seven challenges:
1. Don’t harbor anger towards a brother (5:21-22)
The Pharisees taught that murder was taking someone’s life. But Jesus taught that it’s not just about the act but the heart behind the act. The anger behind the knife is just as wrong. Also anger behind assuming a position of superiority to someone is also wrong. It indicates a sinful heart.
2. Remain at peace with all men (5:23-26)
Wrongful attitudes need to be dealt with and made right. Reconciliation must be accomplished, whether the “innocent” or the “offending” party takes the first step.
3. Keep the heart clean (5:27-30)
Heart surgery is necessary to really change. Inward change is what matters. And only Christ can accomplish that through us.
4. Advocate healthy marriages (5:31-32)
God hates divorce. So do people. I’ve never worked with a divorcee who thought it was a good thing. Divorce does happen and life moves on, but maintenance of the marriage is a lot less costly than ending the marriage.
5. Be a person of integrity and truth (5:33-37)
Be a person of truth. Be a person people can trust. Have integrity before God.
6. Be a bond-slave to all people (5:38-42)
Be willing to give away what was never really yours to begin with, God’s gifts to us.
7. Love your enemies (5:43-48)
Be a cheerleader for reconciliation. We can’t make everything perfect. Paul wrote in Romans 12:18, “as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” We are all called to be peacemakers. We are all called to practice and teach love. Don’t let a single opportunity pass you by.
I read a story about two brothers. They lived on adjoining farms, but they had a deep quarrel. They had often shared their resources, but that practice stopped; and there was nothing left but bitterness. One morning one of the brothers answered a knock at his door. It was a carpenter. The carpenter asked if there was any work to do.
John said that there was something he could do. He took the carpenter to where the two properties met and showed him how the other brother had taken a bulldozer and created a creek where the meadow used to be. John said, “I know he did this to make me angry. I want you to help me get even by building a big fence, so I won’t have to see him or his property ever again.”
So the carpenter worked hard all day. When he reported back to John, John noticed there was no fence. The carpenter had used his skill and built a bridge over the creek instead of a fence. John’s brother saw the bridge and was quite moved that his brother would do such a thing. The two brothers met in the middle and embraced. They saw the carpenter packing his tools and asked him to stay a while and do more work. The carpenter replied, “I’m sorry, but I have other bridges to build.”
Be a bridge builder in your own life and in the lives of the people of around you. Be a reconciler. Pursue Christ and pursue love.
And experience the true peace that only God can give.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©
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