The “Undo” Command: A Sequel on Reconciliation August 18 2018
(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")
Several blogs ago (May 11, 2018, to be exact) we left you hanging with an expectation of more material on the subject of forgiveness and reconciliation, while we dealt with several intervening topics that had captured the attention of the American public: sad and serious topics such as School Shootings and the Christian Faith (May 26), A Tragic Week for Suicides (June 9), and Aliens, Immigration and the Scriptures (June 23). The amazing thing about the Scriptures is that, as long as humans are involved, God’s Word has answers that penetrate to the heart of the problems we have. Sometimes the answers are humbling to accept, but they are certainly not superficial. Our Maker knows what we lovingly (sometimes painfully) need to hear. This is why BCF has been so committed over the years to teaching the relevance of the Scriptures to everyday life.
In Romans 15:1-4 the Lord reminds us, through Paul’s writings, of why constantly going back to the Scriptures is so important:
My brothers and sisters, in this world that seems to stray farther from the Lord by the day, it is that much more important to stay anchored in the Scriptures. We had a Bible teacher back when we lived in Orlando that would say “keep your newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other.” Though physical newspapers are becoming an endangered species, his point was that not only will we see the Scriptures being fulfilled, but we will see how relevant and timeless the Word of God is to daily situations. And we see how that is so, so true today, to an even greater degree.
Where we left you hanging in the May 11 blog was on the topic of forgiveness and reconciliation. We had left you with links to two BCF videos on this topic, recorded in 2017 and always available for viewing at:
We had talked in the May 11 blog about how convenient the “undo” command is on the computer, but how most of us have times when we would love to also have had an “undo” command for life. It would have been convenient to just hit “undo” to take back words we wish we had never spoken or actions we wish we had never taken. But there is no way to “un-say” words. There is no way to “un-slam” a door. There is no way to “un-lie” after we have told a falsehood. David could not undo what he had done in his downward spiral of sin; all he could do was to humble himself, and be a recipient of God’s mercy and forgiveness, as described in David’s prayers of confession in Psalms 38 and 51.
It is tragic how many relationships are fractured, how many families are split, and even how the reputations of churches are sometimes affected by an unwillingness to be reconciled. Jesus expressed the urgency of dealing with these things when He said in Matthew 5:23-24:
It is humbling, but it is so, so important to be reconciled. So here are some biblical principles to think about when you realize that you have committed an offense against someone else, or even if they just perceive that you have sinned against them.
Let’s say that you perceive there is a problem in a relationship even if you don’t exactly know what it is. Keep in mind that going to them is part of preserving the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3). If you do not know for sure, but think it is possible that fellowship with that person may be broken, go anyway to check out whether you may have committed an offense unknowingly. You may be tempted to wait for a more convenient time. God says not to wait. However, you must be careful to take the proper steps or you could become a stumbling block to the other person.
The BCF Victory Over Failures Plan highlights some biblical principles when putting Matthew 5:23-24 into practice, and partial excerpts are provided below. These can be helpful for not only your own life, but also when you are helping/discipling others. When reconciling you should:
- Take the initiative to be reconciled (even when you are uncertain that it is needed). This is an act of both love and obedience, emphasized in both the Old Testament and New (based on Leviticus 5:15-18; 6:2-5; Numbers 5:5-8; Proverbs 6:30-31; Luke 19:8).
- Demonstrate the “fruit of repentance” (Matthew 3:8; Acts 26:20) by writing down and following through on a plan for change. This would include a description of how you will “put off” the old pattern of sin and “put on” the new pattern of righteousness.
- Ask forgiveness. It can be important to think about or even write down in advance the words you will use. This would include:
- An admission and confession of sin against God and the person offended (James 5:16; I John 1:9)
- An expression of repentance, which would include: 1) how sorry you are (Psalm 51:16-17; 2 Corinthians 7:9-10); 2) an intention not to repeat the sin; and 3) the specific steps you are taking to change.
- Prepare yourself for various responses from the other person and plan how to respond biblically. For example, they might say “Oh, that’s all right” or they may not even remember the incident. You might want to explain that, even if it didn’t bother them, you wanted to take it very seriously and make sure there was not anything between you. And don’t, in a backhanded way, blame them for your own sin (e.g. “I’m sorry, but I had a hard time handling it when you took all the credit for the school play”). And don’t make an excuse for your sin (e.g., I’m sorry, but that was just a bad day for me”).
- It is also possible that the other person may not be willing to forgive you. Keep in mind that you can never force someone to forgive. They may think there is no way you could ever make up for whatever wrong they think was done. You cannot control their response, and it is possible that there is no further attempt you can make toward reconciliation. The only thing you can do is humbly, quietly, keep on demonstrating love to them, as the opportunity arises. With some relationships, that opportunity may not even exist. These situations can be extremely difficult, leaving you with nothing else to do but pray.
Also remember that our Heavenly Father goes through grief with His own children. He has sons and daughters who walk away. He has precious lives that refuse to be reconciled to Him. Jesus expressed this heartbreak in Matthew 23:37 – “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” You can just feel the agony in Jesus’ statement. My brother told me about a friend of his who was recently killed in a car crash. His son was apparently estranged from him and spoke at the service about some of his regrets. God says in Galatians 6:9-10:
Being reconciled in a broken relationship would have to rank very highly on the Bible’s list of what it means to “do good.” So don’t let that “opportunity” slip away. If you have questions about this or other blog posts, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also subscribe to the blog by emailing that address and put “Subscribe to blog” in the subject line. If you need general information about BCF, you can access our home page at www.bcfministries.org