"So here we are walking home, late at night, thinking about the sermon, about fathers and fatherhood but even more so about mercy and reconciliation and the need for someone to take the first step. In the case of our salvation, God took the first step."
But God has shown us how much he loves us -- it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us!
--Romans 5:8 GNB
Real love isn't our love for God, but his love for us. God sent his Son to be the sacrifice by which our sins are forgiven."Everything starts with God. But having gotten past that, we find ourselves, as Christians, in situations where we have to be like God for a reconciliation to occur. We have to lay aside our rights and privileges and humble ourselves and become like a servant ..."
--1 John 4:10 CEV
... of his own free will [Jesus] gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death -- his death on the cross"We find ourselves in situations where we have to do for someone else what God did for us. We have to take the first step for the other person. Even if we are in the right, we have to give up, voluntarily, sacrificially, our 'wealth' -- the higher moral ground where we reckon we stand. We have to lay all these things aside, have to let go of our pride, so that we can meet that person where they are. Rather than pride, pomposity and platitudes we need to approach that person with humility, respect and love.
--Philippians 2:7-8 GNB
This is how Jesus did it for us: he put aside his wealth, his position, his privileges -- all the things that he had every right to bear. He put these all aside, and in love and humility made himself one of us. He came down and met us at our level rather than demanding that we somehow lift ourselves to his."
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."We have to do the same as Jesus. We have to actively seek our on 'kenosis'. We have to let go of stuff, stuff that stands in the way, stuff that makes reconciliation impossible. For as long as we hold on to what we consider to be our rights, as long as we presume to hold ourselves above that person, for whatever reason, we will never know reconciliation with that person. For as long as we demand that the first move be made by the other, we will never have the closeness, the depth of relationship, indeed the fellowship we desire."
-- Philippians 2:5-11 RSV
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."We need to make the first move. The other person may not even have the power to make the first move, even if they have the inclination. God is at work within us to will and to do. God is not at work in the ungodly in this way. They do not necessarily have the desire to be reconciled. And even if they do, where can they find the power to carry it through? How will they be able to resist all the temptations that assails us when we attempt to restore relationships? The Evil One will not permit such a thing without a fight, and who, without Christ, has the power to resist him?
--Philippians 2:12,13 RSV
We need to make the first move, with all respect, humility and love. And without condescension, saying 'I'm doing this for you because you obviously can't.' Leave obvious things obvious. Don't succumb to the temptation to editorialise, to pass comment on their spiritual health or lack thereof.
We Christians have the responsibility, even the necessity, of emptying ourselves so that others may be filled. Only by relinquishing our rights, within limits, can reconciliation be achieved, a relationship started or restarted, and true fellowship enjoyed together."
For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end."In the case of two believers, it falls to the person who first becomes aware of the situation, to do something about it. As with the case of Christian and non-Christian, one's being in the right has very little to do with the issue: fellowship and community are at stake. Whether you fell that you're "always the one" who has to get the ball rolling, the issues at stake are the preservation of fellowship and not providing Satan with footholds from where he can launch greater attacks."
--Ephesians 2:14-16 RSV
Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
--Ephesians 4:26,27 RSV
There are six things which the LORD hates, seven which are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and a man who sows discord among brothers."Pride is the biggest single killer of churches, marriages and families. For as long as we stand on our dignity, we stand firmly within the sphere of Satan's influence. Are you 'always the one'? It doesn't matter. What's more important, for you to be right or for you and your father, mother, brother, sister, pastor, spouse, child to have a relationship, one with the other? What's more important, to be vindicated or to have real fellowship that is alive and growing?
-- Proverbs 6:16-19 RSV
As soon as we become aware that something needs to be done, we need to be the first to do something about it, even if we've been the first to do something about it seven times out of the last ten. Do not wait for the other person to get his/her act together. Act now while an opportunity exists. If you leave it too long, the opportunity will be lost and the restoration of relationship even harder to achieve. Dig now before the concrete sets.
Time does not heal all hurts. Instead these hurts just get buried under all the other stuff that happens in life. Once buried they fester and so poison the heart and the mind. The longer you leave it, the worse it will inevitably become. To deal with a breaking relationship promptly shows how much you value it. Just as untreated cuts lead to infection and even gangrene, so to leave a damaged relationship untreated is to pronounce a death sentence upon it, a slow and agonising one."
So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."Jesus there doesn't say to wait for your brother to make the first move. Has the man down the road suddenly taken a dislike to you? Make the first move! Is your spouse treating you like a stranger? Make the first move! Do you want to have a dad but have become estranged from the one you grew up with? Make the first move! By making the first move, you make people able to respond; you free them to face the situation in ways that did not expect because you related to them God's way. No one expects to be approached respectfully, in humility and with love. And yet, when they are treated in this way, the vast majority are deeply moved and open up, slowly or quickly, to the process of reconciliation and eventually to the presence of the Reconciler himself."
-- Matthew 5:23.24 RSV