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Epiphanies on the way to reconciliation

Rembrandt's Return of the Prodigal Son

We're right in the middle of the Epiphany season at the Chapel of the Resurrection. It's a time for recognizing the identity of Jesus as God's chosen one who brings life and salvation to all of humanity when he, who is both our God and our brother, comes among us.

The Bible readings for this season recount story after story of how both Jesus' humanity and divinity are made evident in word and deed throughout his ministry. These readings bear witness to the identity of Jesus. They are the means of epiphany (or revelation) for us and, beyond bringing news to us, they call us to bear witness to the presence of Christ in the world.

There are all kinds of ways to bear such witness. One that is often overlooked, but sorely needed, is that of working for reconciliation when relationships are strained or broken. My guess is that all of us can think of one person with whom our relationship is marked by tension, if it isn't broken. Reconciliation of conflict is often hard work and it's nearly always laden with fear and anxiety, but the same Scriptures that announce the presence of Jesus can also serve as a guide along the way. 

Mediator Ken Sande, in his book The Peacemaker, outlines four steps that mark the path toward reconciliation. He calls them, "The Four G's." I have found them a helpful outline in my life and offer Sande's summary here.

  1. Glorify God: When the Apostle Paul urged the Corinthians to live "to the glory of God," he was not talking about one hour on Sunday morning. He wanted them to show God honor and bring him praise in day-to-day life, especially by the way that they resolved personal conflicts (see 1 Cor. 10:31).
  2. Get the log out of your own eye: One of the most challenging principles of peacemaking is set forth in Matthew 7:5, where Jesus says, "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Before we engage others, it's critical that we take stock of the role we've played escalating the conflict. Our role may be a critical or negative attitude or it may be sinful words or actions. Confessing these failings in a reconciling conversation is a key to sustained resolution. An honest assessment of our own role may lead us to resolve to overlook minor offenses against us.
  3. Gently Restore: When it's time to speak honestly with the other person, we do so with the goal of restoring the relationship, not condemning their actions or attitude. Our manner strives to be gentle, neither patronizing nor incendiary. 
  4. Go and be reconciled: One of the most unique features of biblical peacemaking is the pursuit of genuine forgiveness and reconciliation. Remember that forgiveness is a spiritual process that you cannot fully accomplish on your own. Therefore, as you seek to forgive others, continually ask God for grace to enable you to imitate his wonderful forgiveness toward you.

A more detailed description of the principals of Biblical peacemaking described in Ken Sande's book is available at http://tinyurl.com/peacemaking

As always, if you would like to talk personally with a pastor about these or any other issues in your life, Pastor Char and I are available to meet with you.

Peace and joy,

Pr. Jim

Jan. 22, 2013

Rev. James A. Wetzstein and Rev. Charlene M. Rachuy Cox serve as university pastors at Valpo and take turns writing weekly reflections.