“I don’t care what it takes. Put her name on the board and let’s get this over with.”
Our second grader was so worried about disappointing her teacher that she had built up in her mind the disaster that would follow if she should ever get her name on the board. For her, this would be the ultimate disgrace! Barely three weeks into the school year, she woke every morning with a stomachache and could barely choke down her breakfast. We could see the fear and worry in her eyes and the tension in her little frame. She was convinced there would never be forgiveness if she should commit the terrible offense. Her relationship with her teacher would be ruined and others would look down on her.
We knew our daughter would never understand the power of reconciliation until she experienced it. We never found out what the “crime” was that earned her name on the board. All we know is she discovered the sun still came out, her teacher still loved her (and so did we!) and the principal didn’t treat her as a criminal offender. Finally, there were no more stomachaches, and she could now skip to the bus stop in freedom.
With children it seems like there is a constant falling in and out with friendships. When angry eruptions of accusations threaten to undo relationships, it sometimes takes an understanding teacher, principal, or parent to sort through emotions and show the path to reconciliation.
As adults we don’t always have the luxury of a mediator to reconcile our relationships. Even when there are apologies, we don’t take them at face value. We look for an ulterior motive or doubt their sincerity. Too often there are barriers to reconciliation: mistrust; negative assumptions based on prejudices and stereotyping; fear of what the other person is capable of; suspicion as we search to legitimize our negative attitude. We may even feel justified in holding onto a grudge. We protest, “They don’t seem to care! They’re not even sorry!”
We know it’s wrong to take revenge or to stand by and watch when someone starts playing the “pay back” game (Romans 12:17-19). We’re also supposed to do good to those who have wronged us, even someone who has not accepted our apology (Romans 12:20-21). That is really asking a lot. Of course, we don’t have the ability to see into someone’s heart to know their apology is truly sincere. And when someone doesn’t accept our apology and we aren’t forgiven, we feel we are being misjudged. It’s hard to be generous to someone who doesn’t even acknowledge their part in breaking a relationship.
Yet, that’s just what our God does. He generously gives sunshine and rain to the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). And while we were still sinners, the enemies of God, the ones who were responsible for the breakup, our Lord Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8,10). He was the One who made it possible for us to be reconciled to the Father and saved for a life of peace (Romans 5:1).
Most of us don’t relish a life of conflict with our coworkers, our boss, or members of our church or family. We long for the renewal of relationships that have been broken, the restoration of a trust that no longer is solid.
As leaders in our homes, communities, organizations, or church, we must work to keep the flow of reconciliation going. We can be that example of being willing to shake a hand instead of a fist. Even in the absence of an apology, we can allow someone to change his or her ways and stop attacking. We can take that as a sign to put aside those hurts and move on and encourage others to do the same. Life is too short to keep resurrecting old quarrels and hurts.
But then comes the task that faces all leaders: being the mediator… It can be a difficult and unpleasant job. But, our Lord Jesus gives us “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). That’s what we are to do. It’s our mission in life. It’s part of being His servant. And it is the true path to peace in our homes and businesses.
We need to take the first step. Even when we aren’t directly involved, we are the ones who can bring others together. This may sometimes feel like we’re stepping into a buzzsaw. But if we are leaders, we have the responsibility to reconcile members of our company, our organization, our family, our church and restore relationships. We can’t relegate it to someone else. We have to be the peace makers. And be blessed because of it! Because we are children of God (Matthew 5:9).
It took the death of our Lord Jesus to make the reconciliation between God and us happen. How little is asked of us in comparison to do what is necessary to reconcile us to one another and to restore relationships. There is no need to extract a payment. “What are you going to do for me now that I’ve forgiven you?” When we remember the reconciliation payment has already been made, a simple “I forgive you” and “I’m sorry” should be all that is needed and required.
Thank goodness that is all God requires of us, thanks to the reconciliation that took place on the cross. And thanks to the joyful resurrection of our Lord Jesus, who proclaims with this mighty act that we no longer have to live in fear or be controlled by the unforgiving power of revenge and payback. We are free to forgive even when it is not deserved or recognized. Because that is when we are set free with the powerful grace of that empty tomb and the joy that fills our hearts and lives.
Learn how to reconcile with others by taking our Biblical DISC® Assessment.