I’ve been thinking about the word “reconciliation” for several days now…pondering how it might apply to the climate we find ourselves in.
How do we reconcile to each other?
It’s not easy.
But I think it’s imperative…and for those of us who consider ourselves followers of Jesus, it’s a commandment.
So what is it?
While there are different definitions, the one I’m thinking about is “the restoration of friendly relations.” The origins of the word trace back to a couple of Latin words meaning “bring back together.”
It certainly doesn’t take much looking around for us to see the need for reconciliation…in our families…our churches…our society.
But who is going to take the first step? and what is that first step?
We can’t reconcile with each other unless we are willing to acknowledge the division between us. That doesn’t mean placing blame…doing that doesn’t get us any closer to reconciliation. In fact, it may make the division even deeper.
When South Africa ended apartheid, it would have been easy to say “Okay, we’ve ended it. Now everything is fine and dandy.” But the divisions were too deep. Instead, they went through a difficult process of acknowledging the division…of allowing and encouraging individuals to acknowledge their own role in that division…and only then was is possible for reconciliation to take place.
Was it easy? No. Did it accomplish everything hoped for? Again, no. But it began a process.
In American, there are so many divisions. They cross every spectrum you can think of, and they are not helped by the language we hear far too often today.
Where do we start? By being willing to listen to each other, even if what we hear is difficult or is something we don’t agree with.
Each of us has our own perspective on what is going on around us. I may not agree with yours–but you live your life according to that perspective. Unless I am willing to truly listen to what you believe is happening, I am not willing to reconcile. That doesn’t mean that I have to agree with your perspective…but if I want you to hear what I am saying, then I have to listen to you as well.
I may want someone else to make the first move, but that can only continue to lead to a standoff.
Jesus said that if I bring a gift to church and remember that my brother (or sister) has something against me, then I should put my gift down and make the first move to be reconciled. (Matthew 5:23-24)
I like to hold on to my “rightness”…and this challenges me. I might still be right, but this calls me to take the first step.
Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.–Desmond Tutu
In the end, reconciliation is a spiritual process, which requires more than just a legal framework. It has to happen in the hearts and minds of people.–Nelson Mandela
May we have the courage to truly reconcile with each other.