The Truth About Reconciliation

Today is the first day of a new national holiday for Canada, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. In the words of parliament, “this day honors the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families, and communities.”

While it remains to be seen what impact a national holiday will have on the ongoing conversation around the history of the residential school system and the treatment of native populations, having a firm grasp on the definition and process of reconciliation is useful for our personal interactions from day to day with each other and our Creator.

Reconciliation by Definition

Although the word “reconcile” is used in the English language in several different scenarios – including accounting and legislative – the definition that is most applicable to our daily lives is:

“to restore to friendship or harmony” – (source: Mirriam Webster Dictionary)

The word reconcile came into the English language from Latin in the early 1300’s and is closely related in definition to:

Think of reconciliation as two warring parties coming to a peace settlement and then sitting down for a cup of tea together.

Sounds simple, right?

Unfortunately no, reconciliation is a process.

Reconciliation the Process

To have true reconciliation with someone that you are at odd with requires working through a process of thought and action. The relationship of God and man is the best example of reconciliation. The Bible tells us that man rebelled in sin against God and chose to be the enemy of God. As a result, man lives in a state of conflict with God and that relationship needs to be reconciled.

Whether it’s your relationship with God or your relationship with others, the steps of reconciliation are the same.

Step #1 – Warring parties must agree on the issue. “What’s the problem?”

In our example of man vs. God, the issue is sin. Sin separates us from a relationship with God. When man refuses to recognize the roadblock of sin and continues to rebel against God, reconciliation is impossible.

Let’s bring it into our relationship with each other for a moment. We all live in our own realities. One man well said, “There are three sides to every story, your side, my side, and the truth.”

The “realities” that we encapsulate ourselves in are a result of our upbringing, our education, and other influences throughout our lives. Each of us sees teh world from our own perspective.

That’s what makes it hard for people in conflict to reconcile. – They can’t even agree on what the issue (the problem) really is.

Without agreement on “What’s the real problem here?” there can be no forward progress in the process of reconciliation.

Step #2 – Warring parties must agree on the desired outcome.

Once you and the person you have conflict with have come to an agreement on what the problem is, then the question becomes, “What do you each want as a end result (outcome) of this process?”

Again, the people involved have to come to an agreement on this point.

In our example of man vs. God, the desired outcome on God’s side of the equation is peace and a restored relationship with Him. On man’s side of the equation, this is often not the desired outcome. Man most often wants to “go it alone” without God – a part of the rebellion we talked about earlier.

When man and God BOTH desire peace and an ongoing relationship, they’re one step closer to reconciliation.

Step #3 – Warring parties must agree to compromise to make a path for peace.

So, we’ve agreed on what the problem(s) is. We’ve come to an agreement on what we mutually would like to have as an outcome of the process.

Now comes the hardest part – negotiating a compromise that we may both be a little bit uncomfortable with, but will get us to our agreed outcome.

In our example of man vs. God, we see this “compromise” played out.

God saw man’s sin and His holiness would not allow a relationship with us in our sin. God’s part of the solution toward the desired outcome (peace and relationship) was the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus, on the cross. God had to give something up for this reconciliation to work.

On man’s side, we have to give in to make the reconciliation work as well. We have to give up dependence upon our self-generated “righteousness”, choose to place our dependence on what Jesus did for us on the cross, and come to God’s point of view about our sin and rebellion against Him.

In this example, both man and God had to take a step toward each other. God made the first step, and you and I have to take the other. Then, we can, as the Bible says, be “reconciled to God.”

In conclusion:

Reconciliation among any individuals or group of individuals is the result of a process in which all parties are willing to come to the process with an open heart. When you and the person you are at war with entrench yourselves at each end of the battlefield, no reconciliation will be made.

Find common ground on, “What’s the issue?”

Find agreement on, “What do we want the outcome to be?”

Then build roads toward an accord that may be a little painful for both sides but leads to peace and a restored relationship.

Until next time, have a happy day.

Before the box