1 Pet 3:7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honour to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
The ancient concept behind sacrifice was simple. If you did wrong, that action disturbed your relationship with God. The sacrifice you brought to the temple and offered by the ordained priest was the act that restored the relationship. However, Jesus is saying that your gift to God is of no value until you have ‘gone to’ the person with whom you have fallen out. The sacrifice will not atone for you on any level. Forgiveness will not take effect until you are right with your neighbour. To be reconciled with God means I need to be reconciled to my brother.
Sacrifice for atonement must include confession of sin and penitence. This means rectifying any of the consequences sin has had. The worshipper then comes to the place of worship with his sacrifice, places his hands on the sacrifice saying, ‘I entreat O Lord; I have sinned, I have done perversely, I have rebelled; I have committed…………..; but I return in penitence, and let this be for my covering’.
We cannot be right with God without being right with people.
Any breakdown in our relationships is caused by ‘them’ or us. All of us prefer to believe it’s always, ‘them’. However, surprising as it may seem, we can be very blind to our own failures. So when it is us, we need to go to the offended party, repent, apologise, make any restitution necessary and seek forgiveness.
There are steps in healing a breach;
1. Understand what the offence is. Describe it to yourself.
Arrange to meet with the person. Choose the right time and place to ask forgiveness. The meeting should involve only those within the circle of offence; therefore it should be private, a phone call or a visit. The last resort should be a letter. Once the relationship is mended it should be forgotten. If a matter is still in writing it has the capacity to stir up old bitterness.
The time should be convenient for the other person. It should also indicate the level of seriousness you are attaching to the matter. Don’t ask your neighbour’s forgiveness while they’re mowing the lawn or preparing dinner. The time needs to be free from interruptions.
2. Choose the right wording.
The prodigal son worked out what he would say before he met his Father. (Luke 15:18) Remember, though, right words, without the right attitude have little worth. Be as brief and clear as possible. Don’t go through all the details again. It doesn’t help. Don’t implicate or involve others in the confession.
Examples of the wrong wording:
‘I was wrong, but you were too’.
‘I’m sorry, but it wasn’t all my fault’.
‘If I’ve been wrong, forgive me’.
Examples of the right wording:
‘I was wrong. I apologise and I’m doing …………… to straighten this out. Could you please forgive me’.
If the problem is definitely them; we go to them and seek to be reconciled.
In this case, even though they may have done wrong we still recognise our own faults in the situation, confess them and seek to be reconciled. Even though it is obvious to everyone the other person caused the problem, the pathway to reconciliation for a believer is to first recognise personal faults that have contributed to the situation.
Matthew 7:5 ‘First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’
If they are unwilling to be reconciled we are at least able to depart with an untroubled conscience and a right relationship with God because we have done all we can.
Never underestimate the power of bitterness. The Bible says it ‘defiles many’ (Heb 12:15). It’s contagious. It’s passed on from one generation to another, mother to daughter, father to son. It infects everyone else in relationship to the embittered person. It brings sickness at every level.
If only we could repent, apologise, and forgive, the blessing of God could come into our lives bringing joy and good health.