Prayer is a dominant theme throughout Scripture. We are called to pray for one another (James 5:16) as well as those who mistreat us (Luke 6:28). When we pray for someone, it brings the attention off our ill-will and rather helps us focus on what God wills us to do in the life of that person.
Related to prayer is the idea of confession. First John 1:9 emphasizes the importance of confessing to God what we have done wrong to demonstrate how sorry we are for what we did. When we are the offender, this step is key to reconciliation. When we have been offended, it is helpful to ask God to search our heart to see if we have erred.
Similar to confession is the act of repenting. Repentance requires leaving the old way of life and walking in a direction. This step is essential in reconciliation because it shows that there has been behavior modification (Luke 17:3).
After spending time seeking the Lord, it is necessary to talk with the person with whom we have the broken relationship. Beginning difficult conversations can be awkward and it is tempting to talk about the person rather than talk to them. However, confrontation is biblical and healthy (Matthew 18:15-17). When meeting with the person, it is helpful to remember James’ teaching to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19).
5. Take Responsibility
When we meet with someone in conflict, it is important to remember to take responsibility for our offenses. The goal of the conversation is restoration. Therefore, we must aim to speak openly and honestly about our actions and feelings (Ephesians 4:25; Matthew 7:12). We expect the same courtesy.
6. Make Amends
In some instances, we might need to offer to make amends for where we have offended someone to restore the relationship. We see this concept in Scripture in the life of Zacchaeus, the tax collector. After he repented to Jesus, he gave the people he cheated four times the amount in return. He went beyond what was expected to make things right. Likewise, we should be willing to try to improve the situation of those we offend.
7. Be Humble
Reconciliation is difficult. This can especially be true if we were the one who has been hurt. The temptation is to play the victim. However, we must remember that we are all sinful. Thus, we need to remain humble in our conversation (Philippians 2:3-11)
As we approach reconciliation, a key element is forgiveness. The term describes the removal of guilt. Scripture commands that we forgive one another because God has forgiven us (Colossians 3:13). Jesus speaks of the consequences of unforgiveness (Matthew 6:15). It is important to note that forgiveness should take place regardless of the result of any conversation. Forgiveness is one-sided and is enabled through the power of Christ. Therefore, we should offer it to any offender, regardless of whether we feel like they deserve it.
When guilt is removed, love remains. Since we have forgiven on our side, we are free to show love. This is Jesus’ command to his disciples and is how we grow as a Body of Christ. If the other member has not yet forgiven, we can continue to show love and pray for the situation.
Not all situations resolve immediately. Some take decades to reconcile. If this is the case, do not lose heart. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 states, “we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (ESV). We serve a sovereign God whose greatest desire is to reconcile the world. Have faith and trust him.