How Do We Reconcile?
Fess up when you mess up!” – golfer Roy Spence
“Repentance is the Re-set button!” – Kevin Jordan
A lot of prayer has to go into reconciliation. Both parties usually feel offended or victimized. We need to put aside blaming and defensiveness. We may not really want to reconcile with one who has hurt us, but we must because it is right. “For then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Romans 14: 19). He has already provided the way for us.
“For He Himself is our peace, Who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2: 14).
Repentance and Confession
The first step in reconciliation is to get past denial and to recognize we have done something wrong. It is worth researching the situation and praying for God to give us a spirit of repentance. It may be that both parties have wronged the other, but one party humbling themselves and repenting for their part can break the stronghold of division between them. It needs to be verbalized and said in humility. Confession done rightly doesn’t ever say, “but you….” There may be fault on the other side, but we must leave it to God to convict him of his part.
Repentance simply means “to turn.” God repeatedly implores His people to “turn” or “return.” Sometimes an apology is not received by the offended person because it is too generic or not perceived as being from the heart. We need to name our wrongs in detail and never buffer the apology by saying, “if I offended you.”
A confession of wrong needs to be followed by a request for forgiveness, such as, “Can you forgive me?” If they can’t at that moment, leave it. You have done the right thing and are clear in your heart.
What on earth is “identificational repentance?”
To define it, perhaps it is necessary to give some cultural background. European culture, hence white American culture, follows its Greek and Roman foundations in being mostly individualistic; African and Hebrew cultures recognize individuals’ identities as being closely tied to their tribe or nation. In scripture, we see that God deals with nations and people groups. In that light, we can better understand passages in Ezra, Nehemiah and Daniel where they prayed intensely and with great sorrow, “We have sinned….”
In the case of Nehemiah, hearing that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down and that the gates were burned, the city in great trouble and shame, wept and mourned for days. Then he prayed, “O LORD God of Heaven…I now pray before You day and night for the people of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against You. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments….”
Nehemiah had never seen Jerusalem, but he knew his history and the covenants his people had broken. He understood that if his people had sinned, he and his fathers had collectively sinned too (Neh. 1: 6).
Likewise, Daniel, realizing that the 70 years of exile to Babylon were to come to an end, faced the sins of his people that put them into exile. He was probably too young to have experienced those sins when he was taken captive, but he still identifies with the guilt of his people, repenting: “…we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from Your commandments and rules. We have not listened to Your servants the prophets…to us belongs open shame…” (Daniel 9: 5-8).
In Ezra 12: 13 a similar prayer is found. In this case, it was a current sin among those rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. He wasn’t taking part in that sin, but he identified with his people in repenting: “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt…As Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly” (Ezra 9: 6-7; 10:1). Ezra’s identificational repentance caused the people of Israel to repent, deeply.
When there is deep sin in a nation, God is looking for people who will “stand in the gap” before Him, “…that I should not destroy it” (Ezek. 22: 30). That seems to present the picture of a broken down wall and a person who steps up into the opening to protect that vulnerable place in it. This principle applies not only to nations, but also to other groups we are part of. It also can be prayed in behalf of our ancestors (“Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness…” Ps. 106: 6).
Solemn assemblies have been held in many places in the world to “clean up” the sins in the past as well as those being committed by a group we are part of today, using identificational repentance. Individuals can pray this way as well. Repentance is powerful! “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousess” (I John 1: 9). Will you be one who “stands in the gap”?
Repentance is the “Re-set” Button – Kevin Jordan
Forgiving others is necessary that we might be forgiven. The words sound harsh, but Jesus taught this truth in what is called The Lord’s Prayer: “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6: 14-15). We can only forgive by the grace given us by God, but it is abundantly available to help us do it.
Many of us will not forgive because of some lies we believe: “If I forgive him, he will only do it again” or “If I forgive him, who will hold him accountable?” God is the judge and He judges fairly. Revenge belong to Him. The skewed thinking above ends up punishing us as we carry the weight of the offense, ruining our own relationships and even our health.
Forgiveness means to set our oppressors free of the weight of their sins against us—and in the process, we get free as well!
Jesus set the prime example of forgiving, when He gave up all right to retribution, saying: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23: 34). If He can forgive all that man did to cause His suffering, how can we not?
What About Restitution?
Restitution is a topic most people avoid. Scripture is very clear about it (see Exodus chapter 22). When we cause harm against a person or against his property, we are to pay for it with a penalty added. How do we do that in our culture, especially to very old wounds and injustices? As John Dawson (author of Healing America’s Wounds, Regal Books, 1994) defines it, it is “attempting to restore that which has been damaged or destroyed, and seeking justice wherever we have power to act or to influence those in authority to act” (p. 136).
Humility is not a quality that is highly valued in our culture, yet it greatly valued in God’s eyes: “This is the man I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and who trembles at My word “ (Is. 66:2). When there is not humility during a reconciliation meeting, people sense the lack of genuineness. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 5: 6).
Humility is the key to reconciliation!