The difficult work of reconciliation is very difficult to write about. In reflecting on the events of the Ashley Madison website hack, I struggle to make sense of it all. As some of you wrote back to us, there is an inability to see how reconciliation can even be an option. Reconciliation is grace-infused, redemptive. It extends an open hand of care to the other.
And in looking at the example of Jesus Himself, whom we are called to follow, reconciliation seems to be the only option to our fellow brothers and sisters.
Imagine what it would have been like for Jesus to reconcile with His dear friend Peter after the crucifixion. Jesus had spent three years interacting with Peter and had built a friendship with the Galilean fisherman on whom He said He would “build my church” (Matthew 16). Jesus had trained Peter (Matthew 17:1-13 being just one account) and interacted with His family (Mark 1:29-31). It must have been more than a letdown to Jesus for Peter to have denied him three times (Matthew 26).
Still, we see Jesus going the extra mile when all was said and done, or at least when Peter thought all was said and done. After the crucifixion, Peter was letdown himself. Probably a bit by himself, and maybe even a bit by Jesus. And we can see that in his going back to his family’s business of fishing on the Sea of Galilee, Peter was done with the work of ministry. Fishing was much more easy. It was known. And it was safe.
Taking seven of his colleagues with him, they went out on the water and fished, only to catch nothing in their nets. For us followers of Jesus, this is when the application really hits home. Jesus provided much more than those disciples ever thought they could. In their broken and distressed spirits, the Lord intervened. He provided more than could have been done on their own, an overflow of fish (read the full account in John 21).
But Jesus doesn’t just stop there—he provided a fire so that those fish could be roasted over it, along with bread. A meal of fellowship around the warmth of a fire. It is here in this place of acceptance and spiritual embrace that Jesus brings Peter back into the fold. He restored Peter to a place of honor and leadership. He provided for us ragamuffin band of believers, 2,000 years later, a model of care for fellow broken ragamuffins.
In one of his letters to the Church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul wrote about the importance of reconciling. He wrote that as we who follow Christ are new creations because of Christ, God Himself commits us His followers to bring about reconciliation to the world. This is now our ministry as His ambassadors, “as though God were making an appeal through us” to call those same followers, as well as the world, to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:11-21).
This is a bold task. It is grace-infused, redemptive. It extends an open hand of care to the other.
While there are many ways of looking at reconciling (I Corinthians 5, II Corinthians 2 and these steps being some models), I am not going to look at the steps to it in great detail. There is much more to this than I can address in a single post. Books have been written on this topic.
What I will say is that reconciliation will require an ability to sit with broken folks and be about the grace work that Jesus calls us to. It will be messy, because people are messy. Reconciliation is not easy and total restoration may or may not occur. Still we must work toward it.
Because in not participating fully in the ministry we have been given as followers of Jesus, we short circuit the process even more. This was made all the more apparent to the community of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary when one of their professors, who was also outed by the Ashley Madison hackers, committed suicide. Dr. John Gibson took his own life last month.
And so, we in the TLI community can learn with this community as well. Dr. Gibson’s family has decided to be more transparent with each other about their own weaknesses. Says Gibson’s grieving wife, “Don’t underestimate the power of love. Nothing is worth the loss of a father, a husband and a friend. It just didn’t merit it. It didn’t merit it at all.”
Those who have been forgiven and reconciled can, in turn, become those who foster reconciliation in the lives of others.