Reconciliation is one of the major themes of the New Testament and one of the most common counseling issues. Here are two reflections on reconciliation from two New Testament passages and some questions that could be used in a counseling session or as a homework assignment.
The Gospel Is the Root of All Reconciliation
In 2 Corinthians 5:14-21, Paul shares his manifesto on vertical and horizontal reconciliation. He begins by highlighting the new and powerful motivation we have for seeking reconciliation, “For the love of Christ controls us….” No longer controlled by self-preoccupation, we have been freed to love God and others. God’s love for us in the gospel is a powerful motivation to love others, even those we may have difficult relationships with.
Paul reinforces this new freedom by proclaiming that Christ “died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” We all experience the pull to live for self in relation to God (i.e. self-protection, self-exaltation, self-righteousness, self-atonement) and in relation to others (attacking, retaliating, withdrawing, people-pleasing, manipulating).
Paul reveals that Jesus died so that we can now live for him both vertically (gratitude for his grace, heartfelt worship, desire to serve him by serving others) and horizontally (forgiving, self-sacrificing, lovingly confronting, deferring). Paul also reminds us that “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh” and that we now relate to every believer as “a new creation.”
And all this is possible because of a costly exchange: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” In Christ, God exchanged condemnation for acquittal, hostility for peace, curse for blessing, punishment for forgiveness, and alienation for friendship. What hope this gives us for reconciled relationships!
Living as Reconciled People
Romans 12:14-21 shows us what it looks like to live as reconciled and reconciling saints. We must bend our costly vertical reconciliation outward into costly horizontal reconciliation in two ways:
- “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” We are to do whatever we can to live in peace and harmony with others: share their joys and sorrows; associate with humble people; be willing to do humble tasks.
- “Bless those who persecute you…repay no one evil for evil…if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…overcome evil with good.” Our costly reconciliation with God through Christ frees us to use our words to bless rather than to curse (i.e. gossiping and slandering, caricaturing, exaggerating, shaming) and to respond to hostility with kindness (moving toward them in love, meeting their needs). Living this way will glorify the Father, adorn the gospel, and point people to the Savior.
Questions to Lead to Repentance
These questions can be used to help reveal heart issues and lead to relational change.
- How have you sinned against God in thought, word, and deed? Be specific. What do you deserve? How has God showed “costly exchange” grace to you?
- How do you typically live for yourself in relationships? What would it look like to live for Jesus in your relationships?
- What are your thoughts on bending God’s costly grace to you outward to extend costly grace to others?
- Who are you currently having relational trouble with? How have you contributed to this trouble? How has he/she contributed?
- How have you sought to live in peace and harmony with him/her? What have been the results?
- What hinders you from sacrificially loving and blessing this person? What do you need to ask God for so that you might do this?
- What is God calling you to change and do in this relationship? What will it look like today? This week?
- Write a prayer expressing your rejoicing in what God has given you in the gospel, repenting of sinful thoughts, words, and deeds, and requesting the graces you need to love this person as Christ has loved you.
Reconciliation is the removal of indifferent or hostile distance between two estranged parties. Our reconciliation to God through the gospel is the source of our joy and the foundation for all relational healing. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
Join the Conversation
What is your own response to, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”?
What Scriptures and strategies might be used to help others bend their reconciliation with God through Christ outward toward reconciliation with others?