In this article Logan Hagoort, Teaching Elder, from Covenant Presbyterian Church helps us to see a call to reconciliation.
If you have been in the Church for any length of time it will be no shock for you to hear me say that churches have had their fair share of arguments, divisions, and problems. All of which require healing and reconciliation. If you haven’t seen this yet, I am fairly confident – sadly – that you will.
This reality of broken relationships, sin against one another, and pain is not new. Take for example, Paul urging the Ephesians “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:1-3) Why was this necessary for the church at Ephesus? The same reason it is necessary for us, because we are sinners and we do not naturally live in unity. As you spend time in different churches you quickly discover that every church has it’s own sad stories of broken relationships. Some handled well, some handled not so well. Some still left as open festering wounds, others healed beautiful with nothing but a scar of love and unity left remaining.
It is not my goal in this brief paper to consider the call to peaceful living, but rather to call us to reconciliation. One of the things that sets the Church apart from the world is not so much it’s ability to live in harmony, the bowling club can do that, but rather it’s ability to bring peace and healing to broken relationships in it’s community. This is what we call reconciliation.
Reconciliation is the act in which we take two parties who are at odds, at war, (choose your word) and bring them to a relationship of peace once more. A good way to understand this is to see the way that God does this with us in Christ. According to Ephesians 3 we were once aliens and strangers but have been made citizens and saints through Christ. This is reconciliation, taking two warring factions and restoring them to each other.
This is an absolutely essential aspect of grace-filled gospel ministry in the Church. But sadly, one that is often lacking in our communities. I cannot tell you why this is; sometimes it is because people do not have a faithful peacemaker to bring reconciliation, sometimes because people are unwilling to be reconciled, sometimes because people think it isn’t possible. There are a plethora of reasons why not, but in this article I want to urge us to pursue it, I want to provide two main reasons why we absolutely, at all costs, must pursue gospel-fuelled reconciliation.
The first reason is that when we pursue reconciliation we shine one of our greatest witnesses to the world. Jesus Christ said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) The flip side of this commandment is that if we do not love one another, then the world will not know that we are his disciples. We must not downplay this. When church members fail to be reconciled to each other we damage the ability for our church to show the world that we are disciples. When a believer fails to be reconciled to another in another church, now two churches are going to struggled to show the world that they are disciples.
Now consider how many churches you have been to where there are unresolved personal conflicts. Let’s be generous and say that in only two out of every ten churches there are unreconciled relationships. If that is the case, 20% of the churches in New Zealand will not be able to show the world that they are disciples of Christ. Or for the sake of GPCNZ, approximately 4-5 churches will be hamstrung in it’s witness to Jesus because people refuse to be reconciled. That is a scary thought, isn’t it?
But think about what happens when we are faithful in this task. The world will know, Jesus says, the world will know that we are his disciples because we love each other. Do you want people to see yourself and your church and know that you are disciples? The church is forever coming up with a thousand ways for outreach, different techniques and different models, if we would only hear the words of Christ and pursue love for one another we would go along way to having what we would love to see. Reconciliation is just one small part of that reality. But it is a vital part, we will not have churches that love one another if we do not seek reconciliation.
The second reason that we must pursue reconciliation is that when we do not we give a door for the devil to destroy. In William Gurnall’s book on the armour of God he states that, “If Satan can set us at odds with a brother, he gives a deep wound to our godliness and to the whole cause of Christ. He knows we will hardly join hands in a duty if we cannot join hearts in love.” The reality is, every broken relationship is sin, and sin is a doorway for the devils delight. Do you think God delights in broken relationships in the Church? But oh, how the devils must roar with laughter when the Minister and Elder scoff at each other, when the Mother and Daughter refuse to speak, when the Youth despise their peers.
The longer you put off reconciliation the greater the foothold you give the devil. Remember Ephesians 4:25-27, “We are members of one another…be angry and do not sin…give no opportunity to the devil”. To sin in ones anger and to let it stay until the morning would give the opportunity to the devil to attack. How much more when that same anger leads us to refuse to be reconciled?
There is only one way to combat the devil in this regard and it is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and become reconcilers. The goal of this article has been very simple, I would love for you to see the necessity of reconciliation.
 (Gurnall, William, The Christian in Complete Armour, Vol 1., P. 73)