Choose Reconciliation“Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends you.”
It was not an amicable Parting of Ways. What had once been a sincere and trusted relationship had grown acrimonious at best. I’m not quite sure where and when things went wrong, but by the time of our parting, it seemed prudent to simply avoid one another to preserve the fragile peace that remained. Thinking back, it’s difficult to remember what caused the resentment and animosity in the first place. Frankly, I don’t even remember if I was the initial offender or victim. The conflict seems so petty now, I scarcely remember what initiated the disagreement. As providence would have it, I was sent to another city, seemingly far removed from the dispute that divided us. But it was inevitable that we would meet again. and meet we did, under divine circumstances I like to think. As we stood face to face, a simple handshake turned into a long embrace. Words of deep regret simultaneously fell from our lips as each man confessed his own fault in the matter. How foolish we had been to remain divided when reconciliation had been so close at hand. We both felt the burden of bitterness lifted, darkness was dispelled by light and love, and our brotherly relationship was restored.
While it is true that we will all experience conflict with others throughout our lives, it is certainly not God’s desire that these disagreements should linger to the point of severed relationship. How many times have we heard of friends, even families divided over trivial matters that seem significant at the moment, but are meaningless in the grand scheme of life? In our culture of late, we are put off by the slightest offense. Discord has become the norm, peace and harmony the exception. It appears as though society is purposely seeking out disharmony. Oh, that love, respect and kindness would infiltrate our wounded social order and restore the imperative of civility once again. It can happen … it begins with you and me.
Contained in Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae, a fellowship not coincidentally embroiled in conflict due to gnostic intruders, is the instruction to live a life bent on reconciliation. This is in keeping with the reconciled state of those once regarded as enemies of God, but now redeemed by Christ. The Colossian fellowship was divided by heresy. The intent of Paul’s letter was twofold. First, the issue of creeping gnosticism had to be addressed. Secondly, once the stain of heresy had been expunged, believers were to move toward reunification. Be careful not to miss an underlying theme here, that conflicts within the church, while inevitable, are meant to be resolved in Christlike fashion, reflective of Christ’s reconciliatory action in our own lives at the point of salvation. Paul then writes accordingly, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-14). The imagery in Paul’s statement is palatable and pleasing to contemplate. It requires deliberate action on the believer’s part, that we are to put on, as one puts on a garment, the attributes of Christ so lovingly exercised on our behalf as He atoned for our sin. When the world looks at the Christian community, our spiritual clothing should be evident. What impression does the church exhibit in these days of conflict, in these days when humanity needs to see and feel the embrace of Christ more than ever? What garments are we showing off to one another and to the world? Some days I’m unsure. The political and nationalistic rhetoric of the moment implores us to take a deeper look inside lest we become ambassadors for a Jesus of our own creation, not the true Savior who looked upon our sinful condition and loved us anyway. We were not condemned or cast from His sight. We were, in fact, welcomed into the Kingdom of God. Compassion, love, unmerited grace, reconciliation … please tell me the Church is dressed properly in these days of woe.
I’ve been told recently of an awakening, some call it a revival, taking place in a small Kentucky town called Wilmore. I know the location well. I met and married my wife in that community of believers. It holds its proper place in the memory of my heart. Some are skeptical that the evident movement of the Holy Spirit amongst young college students will have any real or meaningful impact in the days ahead. I know full well there will always be cynics and skeptics who faithlessly stand in the way of spiritual progress. We pray that God will move in their stony souls. I, however, am convinced that the stirring and reformation of young hearts at Asbury University is a real and legitimate work of God. Why shouldn’t it be? Will the Holy Spirit not fill the soul of one humble believer again and again when that soul sincerely desires to be clothed in righteousness? The Spirit will do as He wills. We will not impede the progress of God. Even as these words are penned, I feel as though a reconciliation is taking place, a healing that will perhaps defeat the acrimony of a church whose love has possibly waxed cold. May it be so.