Reconciliation is the means or process by which we bring back or restore good relationship that had been broken between two individuals or groups of people. When relationship is broken, it is very important to bring about reconciliation so that everything could return to normal. This is because so long as there is no reconciliation there is no peace, unity and co-operation between the two, and those around them. The one who is wronged becomes bitter and builds up hate for his friend and everybody around him. The two refuse to talk to each other, which is not good. When they talk, it is to abuse each other. This leads to quarrelling which might end up in fighting with one another and both of them getting injured. Where they had been depending on each other for help or assistance, such help or assistance is no more, and both suffer. Therefore, unless we reconcile and restore that good relationship that once existed, for everything to become normal again, the broken and unhealthy relationship, with all its unpleasant consequences, would continue to the detriment of everyone.
Conditions necessary for reconciliation
Two Stages of Reconciliation:There are two conditions that are necessary to bring about reconciliation. The first condition is to feel really ‘sorry‘ for our bad behaviour, which had brought about the good relationship being broken and to promise ourselves that we will not misbehave like that again. ‘Feeling really sorry’, and the sincere promise of good behaviour is called: Repentance. Therefore, the first step in the process of reconciliation is repentance.
After repenting, we come to the second stage of reconciliation which is: Forgiveness. We go to the person we have wronged and ask for his or her forgiveness. We ask the fellow to pardon our misconduct because we have realized that we are at fault and that we will never do such a thing again. Therefore, the important thing to remember and accept in forgiveness is first to admit that we are at fault.
Again, the one we have wronged must accept us back ‘in good faith’ by forgiving us totally. This he or she does by restoring the good relationship that previously existed. When that is done, then the reconciliation is complete. The Bible has two stories that teach us more about the means to achieve complete reconciliation by restoring full relationship. The first is the story or the parable of the Prodigal Son and his true reconciliation with his father. The second is the story of how Jacob reconciled with his brother, Esau.
Ways of reconciling with offenders
There are many ways of reconciling with those who have offended us. This usually happens after the misunderstanding had been settled and the way is opened for us to live as good friends again. The ways include: Shaking hands; embracing; Saying: I am sorry; gift giving; forgive and forget.
- Shaking hands: Shaking hands is one of the commonest means of reconciling with those we have offended. After the offender had admitted his or her fault, and peace is made, he is asked to shake the hands of the one he or she had offended. If the one wronged accepts the handshake and shakes hands, then it means that there is full reconciliation. But if on the other hand, the one wronged is reluctant or unwilling to shake hands then it means that he or she still feels hurt and had not accepted the apology. When that happens the person is persuaded to let peace prevail and show his or her acceptance of full reconciliation by shaking hands. The person then shakes hands and there is peace between them again.
- Embracing: When two people have a misunderstanding, the good relationship between them is broken. They are no longer on good terms. They refuse to speak with each other. They refuse to embrace or hug each other. But when the guilty party had accepted his fault and apologized, then there is peace once again. The separation had been healed, and as a sign of reconciliation, they embrace or hug each other. In the story of the Prodigal Son, which we shall read about below, it was the father who saw his son approaching and went out and embraced him. This meant that he had totally forgiven his ‘wasteful’ son.
- Say: ‘I am sorry’: Some wrong-doers find it difficult to say they are sorry. They know they have offended the person and are therefore guilty; but they are reluctant to say ‘sorry’. You can see from the expression on their faces that they are not prepared to say sorry. It is usually either pride or arrogance that makes some of them behave in this way. In some cases too, it is because they feel too ashamed or humiliated by what had happened to say sorry. However after sometime or after some persuasion they come forward and say: “I am sorry.” Immediately that happens the reconciliation is complete. The two parties may then hug, embrace or shake hands to signify that all is well between them again.
- Forgive and forget: We have learnt that to forgive is to pardon someone who had offended us and had admitted his fault. To forget, means to overlook or ignore the offence that had been committed. Those who forgive their enemies ‘from the bottom of their hearts’ completely forget the offence committed against them. This means that true reconciliation had been effected. However, there are cases where some people forgive but never forget the incident that led to the fighting or quarrelling, misunderstanding or dispute. Such people have never truly forgiven those who offended them. It may be because when they remember the incident they feel real pain. They still feel hurt deep inside them. And, until the pain or hurt in their minds disappears, they can never fully reconcile with those who had wronged them. Such people should pray to God to allow the Holy Spirit pour His spiritual love into their hearts to heal the pain and make them completely forgive and forget.
- Giving gifts: Another form of reconciling with offenders is giving gifts. The gift is a sign that the offender had accepted full responsibility for the misunderstanding or dispute that led to the break in relationship between the two of them. If the one offended accepts the gift, then it means that he or she had forgiven the offender.
Father of Prodigal Son reconciles with his son (Luke 15:11-32)
In the parable of the Prodigal Son, there were two brothers living with their father. The younger brother was very greedy. He was never contented with what his father gave him. One day, he went to his father and asked for his share of the family property that would come to him after his father died. The father became offended at the greedy behaviour of his younger son, but allowed him to have his share of the family property.
The younger brother collected his share of the property and went to a distant country. There, he made many friends who helped him spend all his money on useless things. In a short time, all his money got finished and his friends deserted him. He began to beg for food from people, but no one gave him food to eat. He was employed to take care of pigs. His pay was so small, that he would have liked to eat the food of the pigs. He was really starving.
After he had suffered for some time, he realized that he had made a mistake. He should not have asked for his share of the family property when his father was not yet dead. He became ‘sorry’ and regretted his action. He made up his mind to be a good boy again. He repented. Therefore, he decided to go to his father to ask for forgiveness:
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants “.
When he came close to his family house, his father saw him first; and he ran to meet the Prodigal Son, and embraced him. He embraced his son because he had already forgiven him from the very bottom of his heart. The father did not even allow his son to apologize for his bad conduct. His coming home alone was enough proof that he had repented. Therefore, he had been forgiven and reconciled with his father.
His father organized a welcoming party for his ‘lost’ son and invited many people to come and celebrate with him:
“Let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and now is alive again; he was lost, and now is found”.
Esau reconciles with his brother Jacob (Genesis 32:1; 33:1-34)
Jacob took refuge with his uncle, Laban, in Haran after cheating Esau of his birthright and blessing. He worked for his uncle. In the course of time, he became very prosperous. But he was not a happy man. He was worried about what he had done to his brother. He felt really sorry for the evil he had done. He made up his mind to go to his brother and ask for his forgiveness. He decided to send presents to Esau with the hope that the presents will make Esau forgive him. If Esau accepted the presents, then it means that he had forgiven Jacob.
Jacob set out with his family and servants, with lots of presents, to find Esau and to ask for his forgiveness. He prayed to God to help him reconcile with his brother. He sent his servants to trace Esau. When the servants found Esau, they told him about the intentions of his brother. Finally, the two brothers came face to face.
Immediately Jacob saw Esau, he bowed down to the ground seven times. This he did till he came near his brother. In this way, Jacob humbled himself before his brother whom he had wronged. Esau did not wait for Jacob to come to him. He ran to meet his brother and embraced him. He fell on his neck and kissed him like an old friend. Both of them started weeping.
Esau had already forgiven Jacob in his heart for the wrong he had done to him. He refused the gifts, which Jacob had brought to find favour with him. It was not necessary. Therefore, he said to Jacob:
“I have enough my brother; keep what you have for yourself”.
But Jacob was not happy. He wanted Esau to accept the gifts as a sign that he was sorry and that he had been forgiven. Therefore, he told Esau that if he had truly forgiven him then he should accept his gifts:
“I pray you, if I have found favour in your sight, then accept my present from my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God, with such favour you have received me”.
Esau was moved by the pleas of his brother and accepted the gifts as a sign that true reconciliation had been brought about.
The importance of reconciliation: The stories of the Prodigal Son and of Jacob teach us the need for reconciliation in our society. We should endeavour. to reconcile with all those we have wronged. And those we have wronged should accept our repentance in good faith, so that good human relationship (peaceful co-existence) will always prevail. When we reconcile with each other, we have peace, unity, co-operation and progress.
Religious Guidance and Counselling
God wants you to forgive and forget when you reconcile with all those who have wronged you:
Some of you are good. You readily reconcile with all those you have wronged. You also reconcile with those who have wronged you. In the process you forgive and forget completely the incident that led to the break in relationship. That is good. Keep it up.
But some of you forgive but cannot easily forget. When you remember the pain caused by the incident that led to the break in the good relationship that existed before, you feel hurt. The painful memory makes you not to totally forgive the one who had wronged you. You do your best by your own power to forget but you are unable to succeed.
When you find yourself in such a situation, God wants you to pray to Him to help you forget the incident. God will pour His spiritual love into your heart to heal the pain, and help you forget completely.
Religious and Moral Lessons
- Reconciliation restores good relationship (which had been broken) through repentance, and forgiveness. You must learn to reconcile with others so that good relationships, which had been broken, might be restored.
- The Prodigal Son and Jacob repented for their bad behaviour and asked for forgiveness. You must learn to sincerely repent for your sins and ask for forgiveness.
- The father of the Prodigal Son and Esau, went out to meet those who had wronged them to show that they had forgiven them. You must learn to go out and meet those who have offended you, when they approach you for reconciliation, to show that you have forgiven them.
- Esau showed that he was sincere in his reconciliation by accepting the gift from Jacob. You must learn-to show, by your actions, that you are sincere in your reconciliation with those who have wronged you.
- Sometimes it is not easy to forgive those who have wronged us and to forget such incidents. You must learn to pray to God to pour His spiritual love into your heart to heal the pain, and help you forgive and forget painful incidents in your life completely.