Jesus came to us while we were yet sinners to bring peace and reconciliation, to restore us to worship.

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23, 24).

Jesus was clear. If a person claims we have hurt him or her, it is our responsibility to do four things:

1. Stop and pray, asking how we may have hurt others.

2. Take initiative. Even if you believe you are innocent, go to that person. Whether you meet face to face, write a letter, or talk by telephone, be the one to act first. 

3. Humbly listen to the claim against you. Take it seriously. Express your heartfelt sorrow that you were involved in causing hurt to a brother or sister. Do your best to restore the relationship.

4. Resume your worship. After you have finished, offer your gift to God and you will be blessed. 

Jesus indicates that resolving conflict has a higher priority than even worship. And although reconciliation is difficult, we must give it our best effort.

In following Jesus’ words, we follow his actions. He came to us while we were yet sinners to bring peace and reconciliation, to restore us to worship. 

We may have hundreds of excuses that keep us from attempting reconciliation. But the only valid reason for not doing so, in my opinion, is in cases where we believe the person intends to cause us physical harm. Otherwise the burden is on the person who caused the alleged harm to initiate reconciliation.

The same principles apply in congregational and denominational settings. In congregations where there is unresolved hurt, sides are frequently taken. No one seems willing to take the initiative to create peace and reconciliation. But the truth is that no one can be right in the eyes of Jesus when worship continues without reconciliation.

On a larger scale, the Christian Reformed Church has unresolved issues with the United Reformed Church, many of whose members withdrew from the CRC following the conflict over women in office. Twenty years after that split between brothers and sisters, I have read nothing to indicate that our leaders have attempted a reconciliation.

At the upcoming synod, our leaders will be dealing with complex problems, including members and worshipers with same-sex attractions. This could lead to another serious crisis. 

So let’s consider what Jesus teaches us about reconciliation. Whether you are a delegate or just watching the events of synod unfold, heed his words:
Stop to pray.  Is there anyone who may have a complaint about the way they were treated in your church, or by you personally? 

Take initiative. Make the phone call or get together and talk it out with grace and humility. 

Humbly reconcile. Do your part to create reconciliation. Even if you have polar opposite opinions and will never agree, you can still be reconciled. You can, at the minimum, be respectful in your disagreement, just as Jesus was.

Resume worship. When you humbly attempt reconciliation, you will return to worship having experienced the heart of God.

About the Author

David Snapper has written a DVD resource on forgiveness called (Un)hurt: The Healing Power of Forgiveness (Faith Alive). He leads workshops helping individuals and congregations move beyond the past with forgiveness. A retired CRC pastor, he lives in Silv

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Thanks David for wanting to help with the dissensions that are felt in our denomination, first the departure of the United Reformed churches from the CRC (over the women in office issue), and now the dissension over the homosexual issue.  I doubt that these kinds of issues (and the resulting dissensions) is what Christ is talking about in Matthew 5. 

Jesus seems to be talking about issues that are reconcilable, because Jesus says, “be reconciled to your brother.”  A natural reading would assume that these dissensions are more than likely personal issues, by which the offending party harbors anger unjustly.  Some manuscripts point out in verse 22, “if you are angry with someone without cause,” then you are subject to judgement. The example given by Jesus, is one in which “party one” has unjustly offended (or hurt) “party two” with the result that both parties are upset.  Jesus is telling party one (the offending party) to go to party two and to seek reconciliation, otherwise party two will have grounds to have party one punished by law.   Read the verses (23 and 24) in their context (verses 21-26), and this becomes clear.

That this is not reasonable protocol for church dissensions, like the one of the recent past or that which our denomination is engaged in at present, is evidenced by Jesus’ own behavior with the Jews of his day.  The Jewish religion was as close to a church as you can get in that period of time.  And Jesus did not deal with his disagreements with the Jewish leaders according to the pattern of Matthew 5:23,24. 

So, at a personal level, if you have created dissensions (unjustly) with a fellow believer, it makes common sense to go to that brother or sister and resolve the matter quickly before that other person takes you to court. When that matter is taken care of and you are reconciled to that other person, then you can legitimately come before God in worship. 

For our denomination, in determining moral issues or doctrinal issues, the best that our denomination can do is for all parties to be open and weigh carefully the differing positions in a spirit of love and grace.  When a decision is finally reached there may likely be members or even churches that cannot live with the decision and feel compelled to leave.  If due process has been followed there is a likelihood that some people will be hurt or feel dissension.

 

David is absolutely right we are well on our way to another theological crises and in all honesty I don't see the CRC surviving it. Sadly schism and not reconciliation is part and parcel of our shared Dutch Reformed legacy and the push for SSM will definitely create a division in our church that I doubt we'll recover from. I agree, we do need to get down on our knees and to both pray and repent.

 

"On a larger scale, the Christian Reformed Church has unresolved issues with the United Reformed Church, many of whose members withdrew from the CRC following the conflict over women in office. Twenty years after that split between brothers and sisters, I have read nothing to indicate that our leaders have attempted a reconciliation."

People follow the leaders.

The discussion about what scripture says seems to missing. The current issue (SSM) in the CRCNA will cause the above paragraph to be written 20 years from now.  Probably sooner.

In the world I can deal with this issue and have. But in church I have a different measuring device. Different ways of handling this device wil result in different churches. Scripture, our Creeds and confessions are my anchor.

Synod will need all the wisdom it can muster.