How to Seek Reconciliation
Possibly the single most damaging obstacle to the work of God and the peace of his children is an unforgiving spirit. This attitude prevents reconciliation. Many faithful Christians have carried this burden for years. Now is the time to be free of it. This may be the most important step in your life of victory and in the salvation of those in your concentric circles of influence.
The Bible gives clear commands and instructions on how to be reconciled. Follow this step-by-step guide to reconciliation.
- Your responsibility is to seek peace. “Try to be at peace with everyone” (Heb. 12:14, GNB)
- Seek reconciliation with anyone you dislike, have offended, or have not forgiven.
- Try to be reconciled with anyone who has something against you whether you are wrong or not.
- Try to be reconciled with anyone who has wronged you.
- Seek to maintain peace among Christians.
- Your responsibility is to be pure and holy (Heb. 12:14-15)
- Seek personal cleansing from the Lord before you attempt to be reconciled with anyone.
- Seek to have pure relationships with others lest they fail to experience God’s grace and be forgiven (Heb. 12:15)
- Look diligently for opportunities to make peace rather than spread gossip or enjoy talking about others.
- Your responsibility is to prevent bitterness and resentment (Heb. 12:15)
- Unforgiven sin puts down roots of bitterness that yield evil fruit and cause many people to be defiled (contaminated) (Heb. 12:15)
- Unreconciled relationships develop roots of bitterness that make a relationship continually grow worse.
- Forgiveness of God (Matt. 18:21-35)
- God has forgiven you of a greater sin than anyone has ever committed against you. Your sin sent his Son to the cross.
- You can afford to forgive others because you have been forgiven. They may not be able to forgive if they are not experiencing the grace, love, and joy you are experiencing (Matt. 18:23-35)
- Fellowship with God (1 John 1)
- Walk openly and honestly with God in the light as Jesus did. Do not try to hide anything from God.
- Walk openly and honestly with others in the light. This means to confess your sins to other believers as well as to God (Jas. 5:16).
- God wants us to experience fellowship fully with him and with others. Confessing your sins to God opens your relationship with him. Confessing your sins to others opens your relationship with them.
- The Holy Spirit has impressed you with a need, and you may be sure that he also is at work in the other person. Or he wants to use you to help the other person to become aware of the convicting of the Holy Spirit.
- Attempt reconciliation privately. Find a place where you can talk together alone and uninterrupted.
- Confess your own shortcomings.
- The right way to confess:
- Say “I’ve been thinking a lot about our relationship, and the Lord has convicted me of my __(wrong attitude)__ toward you and (if it applies) what I have done when I _____(wrong actions)_____.”
Some possible wrong attitudes are an unforgiving spirit, bitterness, resentment, pride, judgmental attitude, and so on. Some possible wrong actions are ignoring you; avoiding you; talking about you; criticizing you; arguing with you; trying to tear you down; embarrassing you; teasing, annoying, provoking you; tempting you; and so on.
Do not qualify your request at this point by saying, “Perhaps I have…”or, “If I have…” You are confessing a sin that the Holy Spirit has convicted you of, and you should not try to lessen the conviction by getting the other person to minimize your sin or to dismiss it. The other person may have wronged you; but if you reacted wrongly in attitude or in action, you should confess your sin and let the Holy Spirit convict the other person of his or her sin.
- Continue by saying: “I have asked God to forgive me, and I believe he has. Now I would like to ask you to forgive me.”
Use the word forgive and urge the other person to say that he/she forgives you if he/she does. The other person usually will try to play down your wrong instead of taking the responsibility to forgive you. For example, the other person will say something like: “Oh, it’s nothing.” Or, “I’ve done the same thing.” Or, “Never mind.”
Say something such as this, “Well I don’t know how it looks to you, but it is important for me to know you forgive me and for me to hear you say so. If you can forgive me, please say so.” If that person does not want to forgive you, then say, “I’m sorry for what I’ve done, and I hope someday you can forgive me.”
2. The wrong way to confess: to blame the other person or to minimize your sin, such as:
- I just can’t seem to relate to you.
- I acted wrong; but you had done so and so, and I…(you are saying the other person is really at fault.)
Note: You may not be convicted of any sin, and you may not know what the problem is. If the Holy Spirit does not convict you of anything, skip step 2 and move to step 3.
- Ask if you have offended the person in any way.
1. If that person says yes, then ask him/her to tell you in what way. Be sure to listen and to try to see the situation from the other person’s point of view.
- If the assessment of the situation is accurate, ask the person to forgive you.
- If it is not true, state the truth as objectively as you can.
- If the facts are stated accurately but the motive that the other person interpreted in you action is not accurate, tell him/her that you did not intend to leave that impression or had never viewed the situation like that. Promise to be more careful about you actions in the future. Assure the person that you are acting from the best motives.
- If the person says no, ask why he/she thinks your relationship has not been the best.
Some underlying problems may be revealed.
The person may feel that no problem exists. If so, accept that opinion and pledge to love and help each other.
- If another Christian has sinned against you, express your feelings to that one in a spirit of love (Matt. 18:15-17; Gal. 6:1)
- Do not ignore the problem. The tendency is to let it go. If you ignore the problem, you are not “looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God” (Heb. 12:15). By facing the problem, you may help the other person to seek God’s forgiveness. That person may not even be aware of the problem or may not know anyone else is aware of it.
- If your private appeal does not effect reconciliation, ask two or more understanding, mature, compassionate Christians to help you to seek reconciliation.
- If the matter still cannot be resolved, there is a possibility that the congregation should be involved in the attempt to bring about reconciliation. Even this final effort may fail, and alienation may still be a reality. It may be necessary for you and the congregation. However, the Scripture is clear that your attitude should continue to be one of deep concern, love, and a desire for reconciliation.
- You should always bear in mind that it is reconciliation you seek—not just justification or vindication. This process that has been outlined is valid only when you follow it because of a sincere, loving desire to restore fellowship between you and a Christian brother or sister.
- Pray together that God will help you both to walk in his light and have pure, honest relationship in the future.
- Examine prayerfully all the relationships in your concentric circles of influence (MasterLife I, p. 159)
- Make a list of all the people with whom you need to seek reconciliation.
- Use this guide to bring about reconciliation with the most difficult one first. It is usually better to start with the most difficult situation and solve it and then move on to the others which will be much easier.
- Continue to make reconciliation until you fulfill God’s command. “If possible, do so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Rom. 12:18, NASB)
Seek reconciliation—“In order that no root of resentment (rancor, bitterness, or hatred) shoot forth and cause trouble and bitter torment, and the many become contaminated and defiled by it.” (Heb. 12:15, AMP)
From MasterLife by Avery Willis