Summary: Whose responsibility is it if reconciliation is to happen?
Last time we spoke of the role of forgiveness in reconciliation. We said that without forgiveness, reconciliation is not possible. For reconciliation results with the offended person forgives and the offending person repents.
Forgiveness + Repentance = Reconciliation
Our reconciliation with God has been made possible because of the forgiveness God has already provided through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. If I respond to God’s forgiveness with repentance, then I am reconciled to Him. This opportunity to be reconciled to God is possible because God took the initiative in providing for our forgiveness! He has done everything He can possibly do in order for us to be reconciled. Now it is up to us and how we respond to the forgiveness He offers.
Likewise, in our relationship with one another, we must take the initiative in reconciliation. If we learn that we have offended someone else, we must take the initiative by being willing to repent of any offensive actions we are guilty of.
"So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God." - Matthew 5:23-24 (NLT)
Also, if we have been offended by someone, we should take the initiative in being reconciled with them. (READ TEXT)
Since our series focus is on finding freedom in forgiving others, we will focus on reconciliation from the standpoint of one who has been offended.
In one Peanuts comic strip, Lucy demands that Linus change TV channels and threatens him with her fist if he doesn’t. "What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?" asks Linus. "These five fingers," says Lucy. "Individually they’re nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold." "Which channel do you want?" asks Linus. Turning away, he looks at his fingers and says, "Why can’t you guys get organized like that?"
In our passage for today, Jesus tells us how to go about responding to an offense the proper way. As we think about being reconciled with someone who has offended us, we want to answer two questions.
1. When is it right to approach someone who has offended us?
A. When the person is a brother or sister in Christ - v. 15 - "brother"
Jesus makes it clear that the occasion when we might approach someone else about offending us is when it is an offense committed by a fellow Christian. After all, unbelievers can only be expected to act like unbelievers; but believers are to act in a far different way toward others.
B. When the offense is a sin - v. 15 - "sins"
We touched on this last time. We need to be careful and prayerful about approaching someone about an offense. Is it possible that the offense says more about me than them? Is it possible that my taking offense has to do with my having a judgmental or critical spirit? One must be careful and prayerful about approaching someone who has done something that has caused them offense. It is one thing for someone to offend you as a result of their violating the standards of God; it something else altogether for them to offend you as a result of violating some standard that you have established and think everyone else should abide by! Not everything that offends you is a SIN!
C. When the offense hurts your relationship - v. 15 - "against you"
Even though an offense is a sin, it might still be something you choose to overlook. Unless the pain caused you is so deep that you don’t see how your relationship with the person who has offended you could ever be the same again. If your relationship has been done harm, you should not overlook the offense, but have an obligation to approach them about the matter for the sake of your relationship.
D. When the offense hurts others.
This might happen in several ways.
1) The person’s offense against you might also have inadvertently hurt someone else who is also aware of the offense.
2) The person’s offense against you is one that could also cause harm to someone else who could also be impacted by their behavior.
3) The persons offense is setting a bad example to others.
E. When the offense is hurting the offender - v. 15
"you will have won your brother"
"My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God." - James 5:19-20 (The Message)