Saturday, April 06, 2013

Reconciliation or retaliation

What do you do when someone offends you? There are few things I find more frustrating as a pastor than to discover that I have offended someone… and the person didn't tell me about it. Of course sometimes it's not a big deal and they just get over it, understanding that these things happen (to all of us). However, more times than I wish, the offended person will stew in silence, then pull back from the church; or the worst case scenario is that they will tell everyone BUT the person they have the problem with. This then almost always results in even more pain and suffering by people who otherwise would not need to be involved. Wouldn't it be nice if we in the church could be more inclined toward reconciliation rather than retaliation?

Scripture does call us to a “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5). We are even told to “reconcile one to another” before offering ourselves to God (Matthew 5:23-24). And as Romans 12:18 reminds us, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." That is hard to do when we don't communicate with one another. We cannot force anyone to reconcile with us, but what we can do is ask ourselves if we are working towards reconciliation or if we are actually more interested in retaliation.

For reconciliation to take place there needs to be a willingness to be open and honest with one another. Often the offending party isn't even aware of what they have done. I am always thankful for those who are willing to let me know, and I believe our relationships have grown stronger as a result.

The opposite is true of those situations where one person is more interested in 'getting back' at the offender. Certainly it is a natural tendency when we are hurt to want to retaliate; to want to 'even the score'; to make someone 'pay for our pain.' The beauty of living "in Christ" is that Jesus has already paid that price for us. So by keeping the offending party 'in the dark' - not allowing them to know what they have done - we are actually working for the 'prince of darkness' who delights in sowing seeds of discord and disruption, rather than our calling from Christ to be about reconciliation, brotherly love, and unity.

I believe any time we are involved in a disagreement or have been offended there are two basic questions to consider:
  1. Am I more interested in reconciling with this person or retaliating against this person?
  2. Are my actions promoting unity in the church, or protection for myself (which usually works towards keeping unity from happening)?
Matthew 18:15 reminds us... "If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over."

Winning a friend is always better than getting back at one. Wouldn't it be great to see the church work like this? Lord, have mercy.