Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Current Study: Reconciliation
Today’s Topic: Reach Out to Reconcile Others
Once upon a time…I’ve always wanted to start a devotional that way. Once upon a time there was a man living a prosperous life in a distant land. Serving him in his household was a slave to whom had been entrusted much responsibility. Then one day, in an effort to not only be free but to be wealthy as well, the slave stole from his master and ran away. He travelled to the capital of the kingdom and while there met a man of God. As their friendship developed, the slave became a true believer in Jesus Christ. The man of God knew what had to be done – the slave had to return to his original master. He must confess his sin and seek forgiveness and reconciliation. He was filled with fear. How would he ever be able to convince his former master that he was different now? What if his master would not forgive him and throw him in prison for his crime? The man of God began to encourage him to be willing to suffer for his faith. It was powerful teaching because it was being backed up by personal experience. You see, the man of God was currently under arrest for his faith in Jesus Christ. He could testify to the sufficiency of God’s grace to endure any and all suffering that comes as a result of serving Jesus as Lord. So the slave agreed that he would go back.
Sitting in the room with the man of God was another man who had been very active in missionary work. He remembered the trouble they had when they had been together on a mission trip. He had deserted them and returned home before the trip was over. Then he had the nerve to come back with his cousin – a dear and trusted friend of the man of God – and want to go on another mission trip. The man of God refused to consider it, and had such a sharp argument with the cousin that they broke their friendship and went their separate ways. Now, years later, here they were in the same room again – the man of God and the deserter. All because the cousin had not given up on their relationship, and had reached out to begin the process of reconciliation.
As the man of God looked across the room and considered that restored relationship, he knew what he had to do. He would write a letter to the former master of the slave, and appeal to his spiritual understanding of God’s love. He knew the decision the former master had made for Christ years earlier. In fact, the man of God had visited the church he attended where he lived. He knew of the man’s faith and was especially impressed with the testimony of the man’s love for other believers. So a letter was composed. He usually had someone else write his letters for him as he dictated because his eyesight was so bad. But this time, because it was so important, he wrote the letter in his own handwriting. He appealed to the master on the basis of love, and gave testimony to the salvation and service of the former slave. He admitted that at one time the slave was useless to him because of his sin, but that now, in Christ, all that is forgiven and he has proven himself useful to the work of God. He even went so far as to volunteer to repay any debt that the master was still holding to the account of the slave.
He looked across the room again at the one who had been a deserter, and then he added one more line to the letter. He told the master that the deserter was present, and that he was now fully restored to relationship and was considered a brother and fellow worker with him in the Lord’s work. Then he closed the letter by saying, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with your spirit.” He knew it was all about grace. He knew that this kind of reconciliation could only happen if God’s grace overwhelms our natural instinct for justice. He himself had dealt with that issue with the deserter some time previously. He had learned that it’s more important to reach out than it is to prove who was right. In fact, it’s in giving up the right to be right that we will discover true reconciliation. His letter was asking the master to do the same by the grace of God.
As the man of God finishes the letter, he looks around the room and sees another faithful brother in Christ. He decides to send him back to the master with the slave as another testimony to the slaves spiritual renewal. He seals up the letter, hands it to his fellow worker, and he and the slave leave the capital city for the long journey to the home town of the slave where the prosperous master lived. When they arrive, the letter is delivered.
That’s it. The story ends there. We don’t know how the master responded to the letter. We don’t know what happened to the slave. Sounds like the kind of ending I hate to a movie. But none of that is ultimately important. What is significant for us to know is that we are all responsible to reach out to seek the reconciliation of brothers and sisters in Christ when relationships have been broken for any reason. Barnabas did it with the Apostle Paul when John Mark had deserted them on a mission trip. The Apostle Paul did it for Onesimus when he had stolen and run away from his master Philemon. You may have had it done for you by someone who understood the gift of reconciliation that can be given to those who are suffering from the pain of separation. Now I urge you to do the same for others. Be a minister of reconciliation.