On June 9, I preached on the subject of reconciliation from 2 Samuel 14. This raised a number of questions, especially related to the concept of forgiveness. Let me try to explain further the concept of reconciliation to answer many of the questions I received.
Reconciliation is the process of restoring a broken relationship. It is made up of three parts:
- the offer of a renewed relationship and the willingness to forgive any wrongs;
- the confession and forgiveness of sin; and
- the re-establishment of relationship.
Let’s look at how God handles reconciliation with us. As humans our relationship with God is broken because of our sin. The first thing God did in response to our broken relationship is he sent his Son as a sacrificial offering to pay for our sins. Through Jesus, God is saying to each of us, “I love you and want to overcome this estrangement in our relationship. I am willing to fully and freely forgive you for all that you have done, adopt you into my family and remember your sins no more.” As I said in the sermon, God takes the initiative by making the offer of salvation, and he offers full and complete restoration of the relationship – not half-hearted reconciliation.
The second thing necessary for reconciliation with God is we have to acknowledge our sin and confess them to the Lord so that he can forgive them. When forgiveness occurs, we experience the final step when our relationship with God is re-established.
The question is, how does reconciliation work in human relationships? This is slightly different because as humans we are not usually completely innocent in our relationships. However, the basic principles are the same.
If you are estranged from your ex-spouse, for example, “Step 1” in the process is to take the initiative to overcome the estrangement. You might write a note to him or her that says, “I know that for a long time there has been a rift in our relationship. Some of it is because of my actions; some of it is because of yours. I want you to know that I am sorry for any ways that I have hurt you. And I am willing to forgive you for the ways that you have hurt me. I want us to be able to be friends.” To make such an offer is to take the initiative to offer true reconciliation.
If, however, your ex-spouse thinks that he or she has done nothing wrong, reconciliation cannot happen. If the ex-spouse is unwilling to admit he or she sinned against you then the relationship will continue to be estranged. At that point the only choice is to wait for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction. But regardless of whether “Step 2” in the process of reconciliation happens, the point of the sermon is that we need to follow God’s example and take the first step. Even if we have offered before and been refused, we should be willing, as the Lord leads, to make the offer of reconciliation again (Step 1) just like God offers non-believers reconciliation even though his offer is regularly rejected.
Hopefully this will help clear up any misconceptions from the sermon. I was mostly talking about “Step One” in the process of reconciliation, not the following steps. The offer of reconciliation (Step 1) is not contingent on someone acknowledging their sin and asking for forgiveness (Step 2).
This is clear from the story in Luke 15 of the prodigal son. The father runs to the son “while he is still a long way off.” In other words, before the father knows what the son is going to say to him when they are reunited, the father runs towards his son. The running is “Step 1” – it is an offer of reconciliation. I am sure that if instead of apologizing the son simply asked for more money the father would have said, “No more money until we deal with your sin.” Without knowing what the boy is going to say, the father runs to him. In do so, the father takes the initiative to have their relationship completely and totally restored.