The resurgence of a gospel-centered paradigm of life and ministry in our time has the makings of historic revival. Clearly, God is doing great things, and we are glad (Psalm 126).
But one aspect of gospel-centrality remains under-emphasized among us: interpersonal reconciliation. The Bible says, “God . . . gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). It doesn’t say, “God gives us the option of reconciliation now and then, when it suits us.” No, God has given us the ministry of reconciliation as a matter of sacred stewardship. There is nothing more gospel-centered.
Do we pursue reconciliation with that urgency? Jesus said, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). Maybe we need to reach out to an offended brother or sister before next Sunday. Our approach might be rejected. We are grateful for this realism: “If possible, so far as it depends on you . . .” (Romans 12:18). But have we tried? If not, what are we waiting for? It isn’t the gospel that needs to change.
One reason we might hold back is how hard reconciliation can be. It is hard to dig up the injuries of the past. It is hard to talk it through with the offender. It is hard to become vulnerable again. Reconciliation is beautiful, powerful and prophetic, but not easy. And it doesn’t matter how much time has elapsed since the friendship broke down. The passage of time does not make anything better. Francis Schaeffer, in his wonderful essay, “The Mark of the Christian,” understands the dark power of long-standing brokenness:
“I have observed one thing among true Christians in their differences in many countries: What divides and severs true Christian groups and Christians – what leaves a bitterness that can last for 20, 30 or 40 years (or for 50 or 60 years in a son’s memory) – is not the issue of doctrine or belief which caused the differences in the first place. Invariably it is lack of love and the bitter things that are said by true Christians in the midst of differences. These stick in the mind like glue. And after time passes and the differences between the Christians or the groups appear less than they did, there are still those bitter, bitter things we said in the midst of what we thought was a good and sufficient objective discussion. It is these things, the unloving attitudes and words, that cause the stench that the world can smell in the church of Jesus Christ among those who are really true Christians. . . . The world looks, shrugs its shoulders and turns away. It has not seen even the beginning of a living church in the midst of a dying culture.”