“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18–19 NIV)
I admit that I’m always the best at remembering exactly how things happened in the past. The details of our lives are mostly fuzzy memories that run bleed together into an indiscernible clump of time that we call our past. And the truth is, most stories from our past do not leave a deep enough mark on our lives to remember the important details. But one reoccurring scenario that I do distinctly remember my parents repeating often when I was growing up was asking for forgiveness from me when they messed up. This is something that never ceased to startle me mainly because they were in the position of authority in our relationship and did not “have” to ask me to forgive them. But to hear them humble themselves and ask for my forgiveness was something that left a mark on my life that remains to this day. Here’s why: being able to practice both sides of reconciliation is essential if we are going to fully grasp the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Reconciliation is a big “church” word that often gets tossed around Christian circles. The primary definition of the word reconcile is “to restore to friendship or harmony.” On Sunday, James taught from 2 Corinthians 5 where Paul brings this idea to a point and tells us that this is our job as Christians. Paul says that God has committed us, His followers, to “the message of reconciliation.” What most of us automatically hear from Paul’s words is that we are to forgive others, but that’s only half of the story. I believe that if we are going to be committed to the message of reconciliation, to restoring things back to harmony, then we must practice both sides of this process.
Here is what this looked like in my life last week: As a person that works with Middle School and High School students, I get invited to a lot of extracurricular events by kids in my youth group. There is a particular family in our neighborhood that Becca and I have gotten to know over the last few months that do not go to our church, but I told them I would go to their son’s final 7th grade basketball game of the season. Well I got held up at work and couldn’t make the game (it was out of town about 35 minutes away), and completely missed the opportunity. I originally thought, “I’ll see them in the yard or stop by soon and tell them what happened. No big deal.” And then two weeks went by without me saying a word about it. So last Friday, their family crossed my mind and I decided I needed to make this situation right, I need to restore our friendship. So I called his house and talked to his mom about missing the game. I apologized for letting him down after saying I would be there. I also apologized for taking so long to call. And what happened after that was one of the best feelings I’ve had in a while. The mother and the son extended grace to me and told me that they understood. They also said there would hopefully be opportunities in the future to see him play. But this moment convicted me because I almost let this opportunity for reconciliation slip by.
Owning up to your mistakes and practicing the art repentance is a habit that must be formed. No one I know naturally wants to do this. But we, as followers of Christ, are to be committed to the message of reconciliation. This certainly means forgiving others when we are wronged. This also means asking for forgiveness and repenting (turning in a new direction/changing our ways) when we mess up. When we do this, we allow others, Christian or not, to act as a redemptive agent in our lives. This humility will show others the importance of reconciliation and will continue the process of God reconciling the whole world to Himself.