Fractured Friends (Genesis 3)
One consequence of the sin of Adam and Eve was fractured relationships and casting blame. Eve blamed the serpent for her disobedience. Adam blamed Eve and ultimately God when he said, “ ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate’ ” (Gen. 3:12, NKJV). Ever since, men and women have looked for someone else to blame for their shortcomings, and our personal relationships have suffered. It was only God who did not cast blame—rather, taking the blame in the symbol of the sacrifice that was the shadow of the ultimate sacrifice of His Son, Jesus (verse 21).
How can we take responsibility for our own actions, reconcile these broken relationships, and embrace real unity with our brother and sister sinners? Consider applying the principles that follow.
He took the first step.
Reconciliation With Jesus Leads to Reconciliation With People (2 Cor. 5:18–20)
In order to find reconciliation with brothers and sisters who have wronged us—and whom we have wronged—we must first find our personal reconciliation with Jesus. Because we are innately selfish individuals, we, by nature, do not play well with others. This “me-ness” causes us to seek our own desires, regardless of what others need. We treat God the same way. We want what we want. It is only when we confess this as sin to Jesus and allow Him to cleanse us from this selfishness that we can be free to treat others in the way God has treated us. 2 Corinthians 5:18–20 tells us that God, through Christ, has reconciled us to Himself—which enables us to pass along the ministry of reconciliation to others. It is impossible for two hearts that are filled with the love of Christ to allow division and bitterness to stain their relationship. We can live beyond that, not because we are able but because Jesus makes us able.
Forgiveness Is Not Optional (Matt. 5:23, 24; 18:15–17, 21–35; Rom. 5:8–11)
One key component to reconciliation is forgiveness. Forgiveness is very hard. I’m not talking about forgiving someone because they left the toilet seat up or down. I’m talking about the forgiveness that is needed because of betrayal or cruelty—the deep, heart-crushing actions that rock our souls. Jesus describes the process of forgiveness in Matthew 5:23, 24 and Matthew 18:15–17. One of the first ideas that jumps out is that you, personally, have the responsibility to start the process of seeking forgiveness—no matter who was wrong and wronged. Paul reveals to us that this is the way God acted: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8, NKJV). He took the first step. When we realize how great the debt that He has forgiven us, we are freed to be able to forgive one another. Jesus reveals that forgiveness is not optional in the parable of the generous, forgiving king and the unforgiving servant—also in Matthew 18.
Everyone Deserves a Second Chance (Acts 13:13; 15:36–39; Col. 4:10, 11; 2 Tim. 4:11; 2 Peter 3:9)
Where would we be if God did not believe in second chances? 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (NKJV). Therefore, He gives us erring humans a second chance—or a third chance—or a fourth chance. In the book of Acts we read that Paul gave up on the young, discouraged missionary Mark, who abandoned Paul and Barnabas on one of their mission trips. Paul’s distrust of Mark led him to separate ministry from Barnabas’s when Barnabas insisted Mark go on the subsequent mission trip. However, in the last days of Paul’s life, as he was suffering in prison, he sought Mark’s companionship and asked Timothy to “get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11, NKJV). Mark got a second chance. You did too. Someone in your life may need one from you.
What Reconciliation Does Not Mean (1 Cor. 3:5–11; 12:1–11; 2 Cor. 10:12–15; Eph. 4:11–16)
Reconciliation does not mean we will always agree with each other. It does not mean we’ll always do things the same way. We are one in Jesus, but He made us all as unique individuals with different gifts. True unity is achieved in spite of those differences. Unity does not mean uniformity. Paul talks about the different gifts that God has put in the church. He likens the church to a body. There are different body parts, but they all form the one body. Just so in the church, we all have different gifts but are to use those differences to make the body of Christ function at peak efficiency to bring the ministry of reconciliation to the world. It is when a person starts insisting that his or her job is more important or when someone insists that their way of thinking is the only way to believe that the unity of the body is threatened. Here’s an old saying that may help us as we move from reconciliation to unity: In essentials—unity; in nonessentials—liberty; in all things—charity (love).
1. How does one know whether he or she has truly forgiven someone?
2. Is there someone in your life whom you need to give another chance? Think of a name.
3. What do we do when we disagree over what constitutes essential and nonessential points of faith?