“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation,” 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.
Forgiveness is a hard thing, don't you agree? It's that one thing we all know we should do and the one thing we all want from others, but when it's our turn to actually bestow it... well, it's so tough! And I'm not sure why. Pride? Probably. Fear? Definitely. Uncertainty? Absolutely!
When we're faced with a situation that has broken our hearts or harmed our trust, forgiving is so hard to do because it requires us to surrender our right to justice and revenge. And when I say revenge, I don't necessarily mean hurting the other person, but maybe punishing them? Showing them their faults and holding them hostage under the weight of our hurt and disappointment. We all do it. We've all done it. And though we love the slogan to "love her from a distance", I've been convicted of the notion that perhaps it's not so much the forgiveness that's the true challenge. Maybe, it's reconciliation.
When we look at the love of Christ, we see God drawing us back to Himself. We see our holy and loving Savior bridging the gap between our brokenness and God's goodness so that we can be in right relationship with Him. That's the love of God and the message of the Gospel. So when we declare that we want to love like Jesus, I am faced with the perspective that forgiveness and a willingness for reconciliation must go hand in hand.
I think so many of us are so ready to move on from breakups, from fall outs and from wounds caused by other people that in our attempts to heal and move on, we discard the person. Maybe we have a conversation for closure. Maybe we even lift them up in genuine prayer. But how often are we willing to continue on with the relationship? How desperate are we to not only forgive, but to also reconcile?
Maybe you are one who has no problem letting by-gones be by-gones. Maybe you are one who is able to let go without allowing the shadows of the past to creep back in. But I am quite confident that so many of us miss the point of forgiveness. It's not just to free ourselves of wounds; it's also to free ourselves to keep on loving. Again, that is the message of the Gospel.
God loves us, died for us and is continually at work to reconcile His creation to Himself. But if God stoped at forgiveness alone, without reconciliation, we'd have no hope for relationship with Him. We'd have no opportunity to hear His voice, be strengthened by His Spirit or to enjoy His presence and partake in the purpose and calling He has for each of us.
No, if God only forgave and never reconciled, we would never know Him and we would have no message of grace to share, because the message Christ has called us to carry often results out of our greatest pain and brokenness: places where we need to forgive others; places where we might need to forgive ourselves.
There are definitely situations where we may never have the opportunity to reconcile. There are moments in our past and people that flow in and out of our lives that may not be open to reconciling with us. This is where we must rely on the Holy Spirit. Some situations aren't healthy for us. They just aren't. And some people are destructive. They just are. But I do believe that if we are unwilling to allow reconciliation to take place in moments when God makes it clear to do so, then we cannot claim to love like Jesus. It's not so much that reconciliation must happen, but that we are at least willing and open to it, should it be possible.
"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." -Romans 12:18
Reconciliation is scarier than forgiveness. It's reopening a close door, as opposed to just cracking a window. It's saying, 'I know you broke it, but God has put it back together and I want you to hold it with me."
Gosh, that is so difficult! Even now, as I am typing to you, I feel conviction over a relationship that I'm so uncomfortable addressing. In this moment, the other person is not interested in reconciliation and that's though. But I'm left with the challenge of allowing the Lord to keep my heart tender so that if they are ever in a place where they are ready to move forward with me, I will be willing, as well. I want to be willing. I want to learn how to let go of a problem without throwing away the person.
I know you do, too.
God is love and He demonstrates His love for us, not only on the cross by the forgiveness of sin, but also in the every day as He calls us to Himself and actively invites us to have a relationship with Him. That exact same Spirit is alive in you as well! With God, all things are possible, even the impossible and as we allow the Lord to minister to us, we find that we begin to not only live more like Him, but also love more like Him, as well!
Lord Jesus, forgiveness is a tough thing for us. We don't always know how to do it effectively. We try to give our hurts to you, but sometimes, the memory of our wounding moments inhibit us from truly setting people free. Lord help us to love the way you do- always willing to forgive and willing to reconcile. Not every situation is healthy for us, so please give us wisdom and discernment. Please protect our hearts from growing cold toward others. Please give us more grace in this area so that we can share that same grace with others. Lord, we invite you into the mess of our frustration, disappointment, skepticism and uncertainty. Show us how we can be lights in this dark world and remind us always that this world is not our home... you are our home and you have our hearts. Thank you, Lord, for your unconditional love and we celebrate our Salvation in you, as you continue to cultivate your Spirit within us.
Bless those who have hurt us and equip us to do the same.
In Jesus name,
* This past week, my newest podcast interview aired with Behind The Bliss! If you have a moment, travel over to their site and take a listen here! They will be giving away two of my books, Beyond Being Good: Seeking Christ's Perfection for Our Imperfect Hearts, so be sure to stay tuned for that!