Risking Reconciliation

Dear ______,

Let me begin by lightening your heart. I assure you there is no problem between us. I haven't been offended in any way. There is absolutely no damage done to our friendship and relationship in Christ. 

I want to thank you for your email. In fact, I'd like to commend you for even writing in the first place. Most people wouldn't. To write in such a way as to make yourself vulnerable and open to criticism, all for the sake of harmony in the body, is a bold move. To ask if your actions have offended invites a critical, even hostile, response.

Similarly, to speak in favor of another brother, taking the side of love and assuming the very best of intentions, risks being dragged into a dispute not of your making. For the record, I am aware of no issues between myself and the brother you mention. Still, you had no way of knowing that. 

People are unpredictable. And since all people have had their lives ravaged by sin, that volatility all too often expresses itself in bitterness, malice, and hostility. Everyone has experienced, at one time or another, shock and bewilderment as rancor and venom spew from the lips of those we considered friends over some completely unintended word or slight. Sometimes we are able to repair the damage done, but all too often we cannot. The hopelessness, the feeling of loss at such times is overpowering. 

On the other hand, it seems more common for people to take offense at some snub (real or imagined) but never let you know. Oh, over time you notice a difference in the relationship. The warm camaraderie that was previously enjoyed is now merely a cordial exterior. There is always some reason why the invitation to spend time together is not accepted. The friendly slap on the back eventually turns to a cold shoulder. When you begin to search for the basis of the change you are assured there is nothing wrong or (more likely) that they don't want to talk about it.

In the very worst cases you later learn from a mutual "friend" the real problem. You discover that many others know as well. Enough time has passed that hurt feelings have hardened into permanent resentment. As the story has gotten round (each time worse in the telling), your reputation is damaged, your character besmirched, your good name slandered.

And the real tradgedy is that all of this is avoidable. If people…if believers……if brothers and sisters in Christwould simply love more, repent quickly, forgive freely, be tender always, the shambles that exist in so many churches would be gone. To be more explicit, if more people would reach out in love early, at the first hint of trouble, and seek reconciliation (as you have done) then Jesus' prediction would be a reality (John 13:35).

Oh to be certain, such a loving response is not really optional. We are commanded to reconcile with each other. In fact according to Jesus, being reconciled to a brother is more important than worship (Matt 5:23). But few in the body seem to take that seriously. 

I'm thankful you're one of the few.

With much gratitude and tender affection in Christ,

Bruce