There are two main reasons that will lead to the need for reconciliation, and these will cover every situation.
- We have sinned against, upset, or abused someone
- Someone else has sinned against us, upset, or abused us.
In both situations, if it has passed the point of being able to talk things through, apologizing and receiving forgiveness, the best thing is to sit down and write down what the problem is. This helps us to make it clear, and enables us to explain the situation easier.
What to do if we have sinned against someone
If we have sinned against someone else, the Holy Spirit will already have convicted us. He makes us feel uncomfortable, so we need to take responsibility for our own actions and not blame someone else, or try to make excuses for what we have done.
We need to confess to the Lord what we have done, and ask for His forgiveness, and then for wisdom as to how to make steps in reconciliation. Jesus gives some advice in Matthew 5:23: If you go to church, in order to pray and take communion but realize that a brother has something against you, first go and be reconciled with him, and then you will be able to return to church and worship and serve the Lord. You cannot pretend that nothing has happened, and the Lord is not pleased with us if we carry on our lives and avoid the issue.
The steps in reconciliation
- Recognize you’ve sinned
- Humble yourself
- Go to see the one you have sinned against
- Apologize and ask for forgiveness
Unfortunately, sometimes when we have sinned or upset someone else, they are not always immediately willing to forgive. But if you have done your part, you need to leave the rest to the Lord. Love them, talk with them, serve them, help them, support them, so that they will see that you really have changed and are sorry for what you’ve done.
What to do if someone has sinned against us?
The second situation is not as easy. If someone has sinned against you, think through what has been done so that you can explain the problem. Before you do anything, forgive them, or ask God to help you forgive them. Then go to see them, with a humble heart. Don’t be angry, accusing or condemning. If you can’t do this yet, then pray until you are able to go to see them in the spirit with which Jesus would deal with it.
What Jesus says about this
Jesus also gives teaching on this situation in Matthew 18:15-17.
- First go to see them on your own, explain the problem,and what they have done. If they listen, admit their fault and ask for forgiveness, then true reconciliation is at work.
- If they will not listen, will not admit fault, then take one or two other fellow Christians along with you to help the person understand they are sinning against the Lord.
- If they still refuse to listen, this then becomes a matter for the church and church discipline. The leaders of the church need to decide how to discipline the person who has sinned.
All that we do needs to be done with love and respect, because we ourselves are sinners. We cannot be proud or arrogant or feel that we would never do anything like that. Ephesians 4:15 tells us to “speak the truth in love”. There are different ways of telling people that they are wrong, but the best way, and the most likely way to be reconciled with a brother or sister is when God’s love is the hallmark of our lives.