What Missionaries Ought to know about Reconciliation
Ronald L. Koteskey
this as a pdf file
a serious disagreement with other missionaries, you have settled your
differences. You have asked for, received, and granted forgiveness, but
something still seems wrong. Although you do not sense any anger in the
relationship, your friendship is not the same as it was before.
Forgiveness literally means to "give up" or "give
away." The dictionary defines it as "to give up resentment
against" someone. That is a necessary first step in
reconciliation-but much more is possible. Let us see what we can do, how
we do it, and what are some possible results.
What does "maundy" mean?
Just before Easter Sunday we observe Maundy Thursday. Many people
have no idea what "maundy" means. It comes from the Latin
mande, meaning "mandate" or "command," from Jesus
words in John 13:34. At that time he was talking with people he had
poured his life into during their time of orientation and training. They
had three years ministry experience in their passport culture, had some
short-term home mission experience, and were about to enter
cross-cultural ministry. They were people who had affirmed their
devotion and vowed to die for him but would soon doubt, deny, and
His Maundy Thursday mandate (command) to them was "Love one
another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all
men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Today, as then, people fulfilling the Great Commission (making disciples
of all nations) must be recognized as his disciples. However, there
would soon be dissention among Jesus' disciples that would necessitate
forgiveness and reconciliation.
Go and be reconciled.
Earlier in his ministry Jesus had told his disciples that while they
were worshiping him in the sanctuary they might remember that a fellow
Christian had something against them. If that happened, they were to
leave their place of worship and, "First go and be reconciled to
your brother; then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:24).
Reconciliation should take place as soon as possible after we realize we
need it. Of course, one must be careful not to attempt it immediately
after the offense while emotions are still highly aroused and may
Reconciliation literally means to "bring together again."
The dictionary defines it as "to make friendly again or win over to
a friendly attitude." Although forgiveness has occurred, friendship
may not have yet been restored, and that is what is missing. Forgiveness
may involve only one person, but reconciliation always takes two.
Note that here we are talking about restoring a relationship between
you and someone you know has something against you. We are not talking
about the situation in Matthew 18 which involves you having something
against another person.
How do I do it?
People are sometimes unsure of how to go about actually moving toward
reconciliation. Fred DiBlasio has developed several steps he uses to
help people through forgiveness and into reconciliation.
After defining, considering scriptures on, and explaining forgiveness
and reconciliation, he introduces the following steps. Then after
reviewing the steps, he asks if the people want to go through them
toward reconciliation. If so, they proceed. If not, they wait.
- The offender states and explains the offense. He or she clearly,
specifically, and explicitly states the act for which he or she is
seeking forgiveness and reconciliation. He or she then follows with
an explanation of the reason behind the offensive behavior.
- Both parties ask questions and receive answers about what
happened, and this information may begin to bring them together.
- The offended shares his or her emotional reaction (with the
permission of the offender). This ventilating of feelings in detail
often leads to the offender being more empathic.
- The offender then paraphrases what was said and proposes a plan.
Expressing the feelings in other words usually leads to even greater
empathy, and then he or she proposes a plan (including specific
changes and means of accountability) that will eliminate the
- The offended then identifies with the offender. Realizing that he
or she is not completely faultless, the offended may be able to
identify with some of the guilt, loneliness, etc. that the offender
has experienced since the act.
- Both persons must agree on what forgiveness and the first steps
toward reconciliation mean. Granting forgiveness means that the
offense can never again be used as a weapon--it is a letting go, but
not necessarily forgetting. The one receiving forgiveness must
remember that he or she has agreed to be accountable and not repeat
- The offender then makes a formal request for forgiveness and
reconciliation for the action in question. This may include asking
God as well and the formal recording of the date, time and place of
- The offended then either grants, or refuses to grant, forgiveness
and movement toward reconciliation. If granted, it is recorded with
the request. If not granted, the process stops here, and may be
resumed at a later time.
This cycle is then repeated as often as necessary until all offensive
actions have been discussed. It usually includes both parties taking
turns being the offended and the offender. However, no one is allowed to
pressure another person to ask forgiveness for perceived wrong behavior.
Also remember that although forgiveness is final in this process, much
emotion may remain and full reconciliation may take much more time.
Go and do it.
Although we may ask how to go about reconciliation, most of us
already know how to do it. The problem is in actually getting up and
doing it. We tend to be like the expert who asked Jesus what he had to
do to inherit eternal life in Luke 10. Jesus asked him what the
scripture said. The man answered correctly, and Jesus said, "Do
this and you will live" (v. 10). Rather than doing it, the man
wanted to justify himself and asked who his neighbor was. After the
parable in which the two religious leaders passed by the needy person
who was finally helped by someone from a despised culture, Jesus again
asked the expert who was the real neighbor. When the expert answered
correctly, Jesus again said, "Go and do likewise" (v. 37).
Will everything be the same?
Certainly not immediately, and perhaps never. Remember that this is
just the beginning of reconciliation, and it may take months or years to
complete. Trust takes a long time to develop. Just one wrong act may
destroy it, and then it will take even longer to develop again.
Sometimes it never fully develops after it has been destroyed. The
following will help rebuild trust.
- Carry out every detail of the plan you have proposed to see that
the offensive behavior will not be repeated.
- Be completely accountable as you have proposed.
- If you do engage in some wrong action, apologize immediately and
- Always keep your word on other things.
- Be completely and consistently trustworthy in all dealings with
- Trust others yourself.
- Be openly and consistently cooperative.
John Mark had deserted the first missionary team to take the gospel
to other cultures. Although his uncle Barnabas wanted to take his nephew
when the team went back for a second term, Paul had not yet reconciled
with Mark and would not take Mark on his team. However, forgiveness and
reconciliation came later as indicated by Paul saying, "Get Mark
and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry"
(2 Timothy 4:11).
What if the person refuses?
Sometimes the person refuses, as was the case with Samuel and Saul in
1 Samuel 15. Although Saul's repentance ("I have sinned….Now I
beg you, forgive my sin.…" vs. 24-25) sounds sincere, it came
only after two denials in which he blamed the soldiers (vs. 13-15;
20-21). After that incident, Samuel never went to see Saul again (v.
35). Some offenses are so serious, and some requests for forgiveness are
so insincere, that the process stops and never begins again.
Whether the process continues depends on such things as the
seriousness and duration of the offense. For example, it is much easier
to reconcile after an argument over forgetting your spouse at the store
than it is over adultery. Likewise it is easier (though still very
difficult) to forgive your spouse over a single act of adultery on
impulse than over a long affair with "a friend."
Sometimes the process ends because the other person simply refuses.
Such a refusal may be temporary, or it may be permanent. All that God
asks of you is that you sincerely repent, enlist the aid of a mediator,
and try everything you know to do. Reconciliation takes two people, and
the other person may continue to refuse. Paul, that early missionary,
put it so well in the last half of Romans 12. He said, "Be devoted
to one another (v. 10)…. Live in harmony with one another (v. 16)….
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with
everyone" (v. 18). The ideal is to be reconciled to everyone, but
sometimes you have done everything you can do and it still does not
happen. God does not hold you responsible for someone else's refusal to
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