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What the Bible says about Reconcilation with Brother
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Isaiah 1:4

The prophet Isaiah is saying the same thing in more detail as what Peter says in Acts 3:19: "Repent." That is how the breach, the separation, between God and man will be healed. That is how atonement is made. Atonement is not all something that Christ does. There will never be oneness with God until man does something with his free-moral agency.

The problem in Isaiah 1 is a hypocritical people just going through the motions. They were observing the rituals: burning incense, making the sacrifices. Yet, at the same time, their daily lives were filled with all kinds of unlawful acts—business shenanigans—that, according to God's law, is taking advantage of others. They were lying about the weights and balances, selling shoddy products, and as a rule, not conducting business in an upright way. They were murdering one another's reputations through gossip, and lying to one another using charm and deceit. God is saying that their lives were full of hypocrisy.

In the same way, people who today claim to be children of God, who attend Sabbath services and holy days yet have a heart full of greed, covetousness, anger, hatred, bitterness, envy, and so on, are simply hypocrites.

As it pertains to us, what we see in Isaiah is that there must be a relationship between worshipping God and our character in its practical aspect out on the streets, in our homes, in the way that we conduct business. We might say our character away from church, out of the eyesight of God's people, must reflect what we profess to believe. How can those who treat their fellows with contempt, greed, envy, jealousy, anger, hatred, and revenge, do those things through the week and then come to church services before God, thinking that somehow or another they are not separated from Him? Jesus says in Matthew 5:23-24, "If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." That is quite plain.

Because of all these things, God treated His people Israel in the same way as pagan idols treated their worshippers. Remember, the idols are not alive; they do not have ears that can hear, eyes that can see, or mouths that enable them to speak. So idol worshippers made their lamentations, their prayers, and their praises to their idols, and the idol never responded. God says, "I am going to be just like an idol to you. When you talk to me, I am not going to talk to you, and when you look at me, I am not going to look back at you. I am not going to see you." So in this way, He became as one who is dumb and deaf. He did not respond to their prayers.

It is essential to note that God, in His wisdom, knew before creating mankind that mankind would sin. If there were to be both reconciliation and character building, He would have to provide a means that would not only satisfy the legal requirements, but also contain within it the moral and spiritual influences that would motivate a man to cooperate on his own.

We play a major part in this because God has given us free-moral agency. By and large, the Protestant world has convinced Americans, Canadians, and Western Europeans that Christ did it all for us. It is a bald-faced lie! But sometimes, we who know better act as though it all depended on God. God gave us free-moral agency so that we can respond to Him, put His Word into practice, and exemplify before others what God is like.

It would be nice to say that we live lives like Christ so much that we could say of ourselves what Christ said: "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father" (John 14:9). There is a Person who was really at one with God.

What God is trying to do with the things that He has provided—namely, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of His Holy Spirit—is to motivate man to repent—to change, to turn to God, to resist the desire to continue in sin—to work at building character and learn to live by faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement

Matthew 18:28-35

Is it not odd that this man could have his fellow servant thrown into prison for a relatively small debt (as little as $20 in today's money)? We should be thankful to live in a more forgiving culture!

Today, however, there is another way that a fellow-servant can be cast into prison regardless of the laws of the culture. We can easily incarcerate someone within the confines of our own hearts and even throw away the key. It is likely that each of us has someone confined within our own heart's prison even today.

The late Lewis B. Smedes, a professor of theology at Fuller Seminary, is credited with saying: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

When we imprison someone in this manner, we subject ourselves to the burdensome duty of keeping him there. So instead of one, we now have two prisoners that keep each other imprisoned day in and day out, but only one of them has the key.

We have the offender as well as the offended. Assuming that most people do not purposefully look to offend, particularly within the church, the offender was probably clumsy or foolishly inconsiderate in his approach to the offended. Or perhaps he possesses, or has displayed, a character flaw that the offended feels is completely unacceptable (e.g., a betrayal of some sort).

Or maybe the offender disregarded the direction given in Galatians 6:1: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (emphasis ours).

To avoid offense, we must remember our humility and our place whenever we are inclined to point out a fault to a brother or sister. The same advice holds for the giver as well as the receiver of a rebuke. Criticism is always difficult to give without offending or to receive without taking offense. Be always mindful that our Creator received rebuke without retaliating. No one has ever been imprisoned in His heart!

When we do offend a brother, we are tempted to approach him and immediately ask for forgiveness because we dislike being regarded unfavorably. Remember, our godly purpose is to restore the relationship, if possible, because that is what God wants to see. If we pressure our friend into forgiveness, have we accomplished God's will? Consider well the adage: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

This is why God should be the very first from whom we ask forgiveness. We can ask Him to help us understand the severity of the damage we have caused and for the proper level of contrition, humility, and patience to help repair and restore the relationship. We can ask God to open the heart of our offended brother so that he willingly accept our apology and readily extend his forgiveness.

We can liken this request for the opening of our brother's heart to a request for the opening of his heart's prison doors, too easily slammed shut by an unforgiving attitude. Instead of having two (or even more) persons confined behind the doors of an intractable grudge, we experience the joy and the freedom of reconciliation. The relationship is restored, a good witness has been made, growth has occurred, and God is glorified.

On the other hand, if we have been offended, instead of giving into the temptation to strike immediately back—to seek vindication—we should also begin by going to God in prayer for humility, empathy, and mercy. We can ask God to help us understand why the unfortunate deed was done and how we can find a pathway to forgiveness. We can ask for clarity of thought, which is so often missing when anger and offense are present.

If a rebuke was the cause of offense, we should consider Solomon's words in Proverbs 27:5-6: “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” We should always ask God to enable us to give our offending brother the benefit of the doubt at a time when it would be easy to doubt his loyalty. Chances are, the offender feels as pained as the offended.

In these troubled and emotionally charged times, a true friend may feel a need to risk a special friendship for the good of the other. We should always be mindful that God may send us a vital message of correction or rebuke through someone other than our minister or someone we regard as having legitimate authority. We should be prepared to accept criticism, legitimate or not, from any person that God sends across our path. And perhaps, only a true friend would, could, or should point out to us a weakness or fault that no one else might even see or care about.

Whenever we are wronged, especially by a brother, we should strive to avoid becoming so inflexible that we slam shut the doors of animosity against him. The consequences of such a decision—to withhold forgiveness—particularly from a brother who sincerely asks for absolution and reconciliation, can be both devastating and eternal in scope for us. The wrong mindset can lead to a sinful attitude that is in opposition to God, keeping us locked inside a bitter prison of enmity and preventing our entrance into His Kingdom.

Therefore, regardless of whether we are the offender or the offended, let us never forget our constant need to first be forgiven and reconciled with God.

Austin Del Castillo
The Prisoner


 




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