Recovering the Whole Gospel of Reconciliation

By Dick Loizeaux

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
(2 Corinthians 5:18)

Just hearing the words gets our hearts pumping to reconcile people to God through Jesus, doesn’t it? That is our calling. We love being ministers of reconciliation for God!

But the Bible doesn’t let our task end there. You see, reconciliation with Jesus is supposed to flow through our lives so that we also reconcile with each other. Reconciliation with God is supposed to result in reconciliation with God’s people.

Who says? Jesus in Matthew 5:23-24 when he points out reconciliation with your brother is a precondition of true worship. Or when he says that the whole law is loving God (reconciliation with God) and loving your neighbor as yourself (reconciliation with others).

So it hurts to admit that for many years as a Pastor I avoided doing interpersonal reconciliation. Too messy and unpredictable.  Too easy for me to get bruised in the brawl. As long as they weren’t doing bodily harm to each other in the church lobby I had more important things to do, right? Or did I?

Is it possible sometimes outsiders have a hard time believing our message of reconciliation to God because they see our lack of reconciliation to each other? Is it possible our gospel of reconciliation to a God they cannot see is only believable when supported by our demonstration of reconciliation to people who they can see?

In Colossians 3:12-15 the apostle Paul tells us just how important interpersonal reconciliation is to God: “Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace.”

Did you notice the three “musts” and one “calling”? Interpersonal reconciliation doesn’t sound optional, does it? Reconciliation with Jesus is supposed to make us into people who reconcile like Jesus.  So how can you and I build churches where reconciliation is a way of life? Here are some ideas:

1. Confess the failure of you and/or your leadership team to create a culture where reconciliation is a priority. Ask God for the courage to step into situations where reconciliation is biblically required.

2. Include a general process for resolution of disputes in your By-Laws. Make sure your Membership Covenant requires that members will abide by that process. For a sample see convergemidamerica.org./resources/by-laws, disputes.

3. Arrange for conciliation training, such as the Peacemakers Process (peacemaker.net), for you, your staff and leadership team. Peacemakers has several helpful programs. A local counselor who is trained in their process can equip your leaders, or you can purchase their materials.

4. Have your leaders take the “Conflict Styles Assessment” and talk about the practical implications. (churchsmart.com).

5. Make sure at least one person on your staff and board is the kind of person who wades into conflict rather than backs away from conflict. If you don’t have that person, then become that person yourself. If you do have that person, free them up from other responsibilities to focus on this critical area.

6. Have a clear and detailed process/policy for your elders and staff to follow in seeking reconciliation. Here is a sample.

Preparation: Check My Attitude
1. I don’t know the other person’s motives so don’t judge them. (Matt. 7:1; Rom. 14:4-13; 1 Cor. 4:3,4)
2. My perceptions / interpretations may be incorrect so be tentative. (Col. 3:12 Eph. 4:3)
3. I don’t know all the facts so stick to specific actions and words.
4. I may have misunderstood so listen intently not defensively. (Prov. 18:13; James 1:19)
5. I have been hurt by harsh or critical people; so be gentle. (Gal. 6:1; Prov.15:1; Col. 3:12)
6. I have been wrong and been forgiven, so be merciful. (Luke 17:3; Eph.4:32)
7. I may be wrong so I must be open to correction. (Prov.15:12, 32)

Preparation: Identify my Conflict Resolution Style
Have all participants take the Conflict Style Assessment and consider how their style might have played a part in the conflict. 

Preparation: Agree To the Communication Rules
Things like:  Make feeling statements not “you” statements; Do not attack; express your perspective; Do not interrupt; Do not attribute motives; Avoid “always” and “never”; No sarcasm, exaggeration, intimidation, name calling, or walking out. 

Opening Presentation: Own My Part
1. “Some things I have learned about myself through this are…”
2. “Based on that knowledge I believe I contributed to the conflict in these ways…”
3. Express how you feel about your contribution and how you would like the other person to respond. 

The Hard Part: Creating Mutual Understanding
1. Air the grievances on both sides and the hurt it caused, using a Reflective Listening Process.
2. Identify the Core Issues and how best to respond.
Mistakes.................................... Allow ”make allowance for each others faults; bear with” (Col. 3:13)
Misunderstandings.................... Clarify (Prov. 10:13)
Honest Disagreements.............. (Theology; Philosophy; Strategy; Style; Priorities) Accept
Personal Differences………....... (Personality; Baggage) Understand & Accept (Col. 3:15; Rom. 15:7)
Deliberate Wrongs, Sin............ Seek confession, repentance; then forgive (James 5:16; Col. 3:13)
3. Identify more Productive Behaviors:
“What I think I could have done differently or better is…”
“From your perspective, how should I have handled that?” 

Follow Through: The Reconciliation Process
1.     Recognition: I know what I did wrong and the harm it has done.
Admit guilt or responsibility. Be specific.
2.     Remorse: I feel expressed authentic sorrow for what I did wrong and the effect it had on others.
I apologize and ask for forgiveness.
3.     Repentance: I renounce that behavior and commit to actively turn away from it.
4.     Restitution: I offer to accomplish whatever I can do to make it right. Then I do it.
5.     Rebuild Trust: I want to earn trust back and ask what I can do. I know it will take time.
6.     Responsibility: I place myself under accountability to demonstrate repentance, make restitution, and rebuild trust. 

The more you invest in creating a church culture of reconciliation, the less actual conflict resolution you and your leaders will have to personally get involved in. And wouldn’t that be nice?

 

 

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Church Planting Articles, Relationships, Dick Loizeaux