Sunday, May 08, 2011

Love and Reconciliation

"I had just gone through a really bad breakup." Her smile--which always lights up a room--carried a heart-wrenching pain. "He started making snide comments and I told him I just couldn't handle that right then. He blew up and said, 'No man is ever going to put up with your BS!'"

A moment.

She lifted her eyes. "So, yeah. It's hard to pretend that everything's okay right now."

This is a story of forgiveness. This is a story that hasn't ended yet. For now, this girl can forgive the man. Indeed, she must. Carrying bitterness destroys the soul. Thankfully, we--by God's grace--have been given the ability to forgive those who wrong us. Not because it restores the relationship between us and them, but because it allows us to be free of the bondage of being wronged.

"Has he ever admitted he was wrong? Has he apologized?"

"No. Never."

But forgiveness is not reconciliation. If a company purposefully cheats you, you can decide it's not worth suing them. You can decide to let that go. You can move on with your life. But you wouldn't use that company again. The cheating company would need to apologize, admit their mistake, make a policy change and work to make restitution. Forgiveness is one thing. Repairing a relationship is another.

Today the world is abuzz with talk of Universalism and the idea that a loving God wouldn't send people to Hell. Christ's shed Blood covers the sin of all mankind. God is love and God ultimately wins.

But like the scene in Bruce Almighty where Jim Carrey tries to command his girlfriend to love him, I'm not sure even God has the ability to make us love Him. He can absolutely forgive us; indeed, He has. He can even pay for the wrong we've done. He's done that too. But relationships are two-way. Reconciliation requires repentance at some level.

This is why, no matter how much she longs to be reconnected with her father, my friend is separated from him until he asks for forgiveness. And this is why salvation through the grace of God is such a beautifully simple, yet brutally severe transformation: It requires us to admit we were wrong. It requires us to drop our pride. It requires us to accept the forgiveness already offered us.

When a man can't allow himself to make right the relationship with his daughter, it's little wonder we can't bring ourselves to the grace of God. We can bide our time and try to sweep things under the rug of our relationship. But all the forgiveness in the world won't make us friends again. That requires us to accept the forgiveness given.

"But I do accept her forgiveness," this man may say. "That's why I'm trying to move on."

You can't do that. You can't skip the important step of repentance, of apologizing with an aim to be better. Until you do that, you've merely accepted civility and tolerance. Grace and forgiveness say, "You have wronged me, but I will still accept you as a friend." To respond and say, "I'm glad we can still be around one another," ignores the first part. We must bring ourselves to say, "Thank you so much for being my friend. I am so sorry I have wronged you."

That is accepting love in a way that brings reconciliation.

The difference between the two responses to love is painfully clear. A girl, who loves her father, quietly mourns that divide.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester