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Purposefully Seeking Reconciliation

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(12/27) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased." (Luke 2:13-14)

In 1864, during the American Civil War, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote Christmas Bells. His beloved wife, Frances, had died in 1861 in a house fire, and his son Charles had been severely, though not mortally wounded as a Union officer in the war. The song as you see it lacks two verses that speak directly about the awful Civil War America was engaged in. Letís read the words.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

The poem and song fits with the times we live in. We long for the Peace of Christmas. We hear the song that says, "Let there peace on earth and let it begin with me." Some of us remember the Old Coca-Cola commercial from the 70's that sang, "I'd like to see the world all sing in perfect harmony, I'd like to buy the world a coke and keep it company." Remember that? That's the kind of peace that we dream about isn't it? The kind where there will be no more threats of terrorists; no more threats of war in the middle east, or Korea; no more war in Afghanistan or Iraq; no more school, mall, or movie theater shootings; no more marriage troubles; no more road rage; no more crime; no more political impasses between Republicans and Democrats; no more angry neighbors; instead, there will be people caring as much for each other as they do themselves.

Yet, the conditions of our world creates fear, and results in despair because of sinful decay, terrorism, and wars. The promises of God and Longfellowís affirmation is, that because of Jesus, there will be a glorious time of peace on earth when Jesus returns. And, that time, I believe, is fast approaching. But not until the world goes through the most awful period of trouble and violence the earth has ever had. Jesus said that nothing that has ever happened on earth will be as terrible as that time, preceding His return (Matt. 24:21-22). There will be natural disasters, and diseases, and violence. He said there would be constant wars, as nation fights against nation, and people turn on their families and friends even to have them killed. Christians and Jews will be the target of the worldís hatred. The Revelation tells us that nearly ĺís of the worldís population will die as God pours out His wrath on the world, and then Jesus will return and establish a kingdom of peace and righteousness.

Someone wrote that in the recorded history of the world, there have been over 15,000 wars that we know of and maybe as many more that we donít know of. It seems that there have been few years since the founding of our country that we Americans havenít been fighting someone somewhere. And we are fighting still. Today, we fight a war with terrorists. It is a religious war. It is as if the crusades of the middle ages have been revived. Longfellow was right, despite the fact that Jesus came to initiate peace, "Ö hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men."

When the angels appeared to the Shepherds announcing that He had been born, they concluded by saying, "And on earth peace, good will toward men." That is not just a nice sentiment nor is it a blanket blessing for the earth; rather, it is a truth and a promise that more literally reads like this, "And on earth, Peace towards men upon whom His favor rests," (Luke 2:14). Peace is what God offers to those who will receive His Son as His Gift to us. Isaiah refers to the Messiah as, "The Prince of Peace," in Isaiah 9:6.

Jesus came to us so that Peace would replace our anxieties and fears. Peace is part of His gift to you this Christmas. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." (John 14:27) and again, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

You and I know that Jesus came to give us peace in several ways. First, by paying for our sins, He removed the barrier between us and our Father so we could have peace with God. Romans 5:1, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Remember, "that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself," (2 Cor. 5:18). "And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation," (Rom. 5:11). Paul said to the Colossians (1:21), "And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled."

The idea of the word, reconcile, is to restore peace between enemies or people who are at odds with each other. Because of our sins and our wicked ways, we were enemies of God. Jesus came so we could be forgiven and restored to God and adopted into His family and be at peace with God and then have the Peace of God to keep our minds and souls at rest and calm as we know our Father knows and cares about us very much and has pledged Himself to take care of us. Paul again reminds us, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus," (Phil. 4:6-7).

Now, there is so much more I can say about the Peace of God and the Peace of God, but having a Purposeful Christmas and now a New Year should include, intentionally seeking peace and reconciliation.

First, seek it with God. If you are not a Christ-follower, you will not know this peace that is beyond explanation, but if you will repent of your sins and receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior you can experience it.

Second, if you are a Christ-Follower and are not experiencing His peace, it may be because you are continuing in something that you shouldnít be, or that your pride is keeping you from being humble, or that you are refusing to submit your will to obeying God, or you simply are not trusting Him. Repent and receive His grace and His peace. Is it that easy? Yes. It is that easy.

Third, take the initiative and seek peace with that relative or friend, or co-worker, that you are at odds with. Make this Christmas season and New Year a season of reconciliation. I already feel your tension. He said, she said, he did, she did, and I am hurt, I didnít do this, I didnít start this, they owe me an apology, I am not going to stoop, they will have to grow up and get over it, etc. Did I miss anything?

Those are the same things our God could have said, but He came to us in Christ to reconcile us to himself. He took the initiative, He humbled Himself, He stooped, and He died so we could have peace and be reconciled with the Father and be part of His family.

Let me quickly remind you that there are two basic reasons why we have problems.

1.) Our sinful nature; that is, everyone has a nature that is bent towards selfishness and self-centeredness. We think of what we want and we strive to get what we want. But since what we all have this nature, often what we want is contrary to what others want. This leads us to become resentful, angry, and we think of ways to appease ourselves and get what we want. James 4:1-3, says it like this: "Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures."

2.) Unmet expectations; we expect others to act or react in a way that we deem right and when they don't we get angry, hurt, etc. and conflict results. Take politics for example. Our nation is divided over two basic political ideologies. Two primary parties each expecting or wanting the other to think like they think. We donít get why others donít think like we think.

Years ago, I heard James Dobson say that unmet expectations are a major cause of problems in marriage. A stay at home mom with several small children is anxious for her husband to get home and relieve her with the children so she can get a bath and a little, "Me Time." The husband has a hard day and is anxious to get home, have a hot meal and sit in his chair and read the paper. Guess what? Both are about to have unmet expectations, and chances are there will be conflict. The same is true among nations and even with God. We get disappointed and even angry when we expected something and it didn't happen, because people donít think like we think they should think.

Who are you thinking of right now?

So, what should we do? Let me say, that I am not an expert. I am not a psychologist. There are people I want to be reconciled with. People that have caused me emotional heartache. What I am about to share with you is not an instant formula for peace. These are simply some principles and actions that must be, for peace and reconciliation to occur. Are we clear on this? Okay, here we go.

1. We are to imitate our Father (Ephesians 4:31-5:1). The word in Eph. 5:1 is to mimic. He is our pattern, our example of peace initiating.

2. We have to prepare ourselves Spiritually and Emotionally.

a. This will require great humility. I am not #1; My Lord is. He humbled Himself to come to us and seek reconciliation. Do you get that?

b. Seek Godís forgiveness, for your thoughts and words, and your pride that has kept you from the peace you could have with reconciliation. Seek His forgiveness for your continued anger, the assumptions you have made, your rationalizing for your disobedience, and possibly for your un-forgiveness. Ask God to create in you a clean heart.

c. Commit yourself totally to obeying God. Jesus said, "if you love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15) This isnít just for you. This is for Him. This is because He rescued me and reconciled me.

3. Take the initiative and arrange a meeting. Knock on a door. Only use the phone as a second choice. Do not do this on Facebook, or twitter. Donít text, or email. Anything you write will be interpreted through their emotions and not yours. The Bible says that whether you are the offender or the offended, you should take the initiative and go to the person (Matt. 5:24 and 18:15). Our Lord said, "Blessed or Highly Favored by God are the Peacemakers, they alone shall be called the Sons of God." He did not say the peace lovers, or peaceful people, but the peacemakers.

4. Maybe take a gift. Romans 12:20, food and drink are good. A pumpkin pie, a bottle of Coke, or buy them dinner. Give them their favorite candy or whatever.

5. Love the Person, Forgive the problem. Offer grace and forgiveness and boldly state your love for the person. You are my child, my parent, my sibling, my friend, or whatever, and I love you. If the problem was you, then say the 12 hardest words; "I was wrong, I am sorry, please forgive, I love you."

If the Problem was with them, say, "I was hurt by your words or your actions but I love you and I want a relationship with you. We canít change the past, but we can have a present and a future, and that is what I want. And, listen, even if a renewed relationship doesnít occur, you wonít have to duck or pretend you donít see them at the Wal-Mart.

6. Realize 3 things.

a. Reconciliation doesnít always mean renewed relationship. Divorces have occurred; people are in prison; people have moved on to new jobs or new cities. It means that the past is forgiven and both parties can have peace. I have a friend who is was an alcoholic. He and his first wife divorced 30-40 years ago. My friend found grace in Jesus and though he hadnít seen or spoken to his ex in over 25 years, he got into his car and drove a long ways and knocked on a door. Both of them had remarried. He told of his faith in Christ and asked for forgiveness for his abuse and way of life. He told me she said, "I forgave you a long time ago." Will they have a relationship? No, but they have peace.

b. Reconciliation doesnít mean restored trust. It means the past is forgiven. Some offenses have broken vows or destroyed trust and that is something that takes time and sometimes a lot of time to rebuild. It means I forgive the past and hope for the best for the future, but I am not necessarily renewing what we had. The problem may remain the problem, but you can commit to loving the person as you work on the problem. Sometimes, because of the problem, trust and reconciliation canít occur. But peace between two people can.

c. Forgiving doesnít mean forgetting. The pain and scars will never completely go away. Forgiveness and peace can help the scars to heal, but you cannot forget that they occurred. It means that you purposefully have chosen to release the person from what you feel you are owed. And that you choose to never bring it up against them again. Forgiveness is a spiritual action. Forgetting is a mental action. I have told you before that even God doesnít forget. When it says that He remembers our sins no more, it literally means that He will not bring them up to act on them again. Eternity will remember Adamís, Abrahamís, Mosesí Davidís, Peterís, and Paulís sins because they are recorded in this eternal book. Our Father has chosen to not bring your sins up against you again, and when you forgive thatís what you do too.

7. Be Quiet and Listen.

When you approach someone for reconciliation you must listen even if it hurts. Sometimes you need to hear the perception of the problem from the other personís perspective. They interpreted the problem through their own biasís or assumptions, or emotions. They may have seen or felt something in you that you didnít realize. But no matter what they say, focus on the problem not the person. And when you do speak, avoid expletives. Avoid these words, "You alwaysÖ, or You neverÖ." Learn to say, "I am sorry you thought or perceived that, or assumed that, but that was not my intention". Or, "here is why I said or did, OR, here is how your words or actions hurt me." That is dealing with the problem and not the person. Tension will occur as soon as you use the word, "YouÖ."

8. Determine to Forgive even if they donít respond or respond favorably. Even if they donít now or ever repent or accept your apology. Do not speak against them to others. Forgive from your heart no matter what. Donít wish for or cheer for their demise or discipline. Pity them for not wanting the peace that God wants them to have. Put forgiveness on the table and never take it off. Let it be known that it will always be there if the person wants it.

9. Be ready to receive your child, or your friend, or your sibling or whoever it is back into your life. The future is more important than the past. The past is fixed, it is done, it cannot be altered. The future is wide open. Grace and forgiveness are the keys. I close with a true story. More than twenty years ago, a friend was confused by the words and actions of another and together they attacked my character and left our church. He would not answer my calls or respond to my letters. I would see him in public and would feel the pain. 15 years went by. The one who turned him would die as a young man. One day, several years ago, I saw the other man and extended my hand and asked him to join our pastor prayer group. That was hard. There had been no resolution. But he came. After a few weeks, I asked him if we could talk after prayer and he agreed. I asked him from his perspective, what had happened, He told me and then also said he found out he had been deceived and asked for forgiveness. He cried and I cried and embraced and left as friends and have worked together a good bit since then.

Let me read to you from the ESV, James 3 (look there), Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace

For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men." But love, grace, and forgiveness can break that hatred and result in peace

Last year I asked you to simply pray every day, for God to show you one person that you can touch for Him. This year I challenge you to offer peace and good will to those Jesus loved enough to die for. He wants to be reconciled to them and He wants you to be too. Christmas and the New Year is a great time to make effort.

Will you be obedient? Will you make the attempt?

Will you make that your New Year resolution. God pursed me to make reconciliation, and I will pursue Ö. (Who will you pursue?)

Letís pray about it.

Next week we will begin our walk through the Book of Ephesians. When we get to chapter three we will take a small break and look at how it fits in with the last days.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman