Like Christmas itself, we can become nostalgic about reconciliation rather than embrace the messy grace and humility that it requires.
Many of us love Christmas. We love the lights, the festivities, and the jovial delight that comes with the season. And as much as I hate to admit it, here in the biting-cold Midwest I even enjoy the snow this time of year, although those pretty flakes can be gone once the New Year rolls around.
But no amount of nostalgia can capture the real power of Christmas: Christ has come for us. He has crossed behind enemy lines to rescue us who have long been slaves of sin, fear, and death. We celebrate Christmas because we celebrate our king becoming vulnerable, becoming weak, humbling himself to bring reconciliation between us and God.
Reconciliation is a wonderful idea when we are the ones that have been fought for, and we are the ones who receive mercy, forgiveness, and restored relationship.
But like Christmas itself, we can become nostalgic about reconciliation rather than really embrace the messy grace and humility that it requires.
We all have work to do reconciling relationships with the people in our lives. Whether it’s a slight irritation with a coworker or a full-on feud over deep wounds, we all have imperfect and broken connections with other humans. But those minor cracks can break, and major brokenness can soon become septic.
If we are to pursue building up the Church, be effective in our evangelism, and experience the true fullness of mercy, grace, and redemption, we cannot ignore broken relationships.
And if we are going to truly say, “Merry Christmas,” then we must adopt the passion of Jesus to step into the awkward, uncomfortable, humbling messiness that is reconciliation.
We are God’s kids. When Jesus came, he didn’t stop at forgiveness; he brought us into full relationship; he brought us home. His life, death, and resurrection acquitted us of our treason, paid the price for our sins in full, and then in his great compassion God stepped victoriously off of the judgment seat and invited us to be his children. And just like I delight when my two little boys are loving each other well, our Heavenly Father rejoices over us as His kids when we have right relationships with one another.
The meaning of Christmas is found in God’s passion for reconciliation, demonstrated through the sending of His son. His joy is the restoration of right relationship between us and himself, as well as between his sons and daughters.
It takes guts to step directly into the conflicts we have with other people, however big or small. It takes courage, humility, and emulating Jesus to pursue reconciliation when we are offended or when we have offended someone else. Reconciliation is messy, and it is costly to navigate towards healing, but the cost of avoidance is even higher.
Scripture gives us a few essential practices that help guide us towards reconciliation with others:
Keep the Small Things Small | 1 Corinthians 13
My husband and I have this little phrase listed among our family’s core values, framed and hung up in our home. We’ve avoided many-a-blow-up over minor infractions like someone forgetting to do something, making a wrong turn, taking too long, or other mistakes simply by speaking these words to each other: “Let’s keep the small things small.”
We can all be far too sensitive and easily offended. I’ve known several people who live miserable lives simply because the smallest mistakes cause big reactions. Graceless living is joyless living and is a barrier to experiencing reconciled relationships.
1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that love is not easily offended. Love believes the best, gives generous grace and mercy, overlooks offenses, and lets go when a ball is dropped or a mistake is made.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons to feel hurt, bothered, or offended in relationship with others. But we must check ourselves to ensure that we aren’t making mountains out of molehills.
Go Directly and Go Quickly | Matthew 18
When we are hurt or offended it is easier and requires less emotional muscle to shut down, ignore the issue, or seep gossip, slander, or complaints to anyone and everyone except the person who caused the offense.
Jesus gave a better way in Matthew 18 by telling us that when we are offended, we must have a soft heart, a strong spine, and move towards the offender directly. If we are going to receive the true meaning of Christmas and emulate God’s heart for reconciliation, we must decide to deal with interpersonal issues head-on.
Relational infection spreads quickly. Resentment digs deep roots as quickly as a weed, and if we don’t deal with it promptly, we become jaded, calloused, cynical, joyless, and worse. We ought to decide to value reconciliation as a lifestyle and commit to practicing what Jesus taught: step into the awkward discomfort of dealing with a conflict or offense directly.
Conversely, when we are aware that we are the ones who have caused hurt or offense, we are to go to our brother or sister humbly and personally to confess, repent, and pursue restored and right relationship with them.
Know What You Can and Cannot Control | Romans 12:18
Romans 12:18 tells us that as far as it depends on us, we are to live at peace with all people. We cannot control both sides of reconciliation; we can only lead ourselves and pray that we are met at the unifying line.
We cannot force others to forgive us, love us, or mutually pursue restored relationships with us, but we are to keep our hearts soft, surrendered to the love of Jesus and His passion for complete restoration. We are to pray, we are to love well, always looking towards the best interest of others, even the ones who don’t like us and those who flat-out hate us.
In the same way that God stands at the ready to welcome more sons and daughters home by receiving Jesus as their King, we are to stand at the ready for reconciliation between our fellow man at all times with open eyes and hearts that reject bitterness and live full of love and hope for all people.
This Christmas, let us remember that Christ has come for us; that he stepped into our broken mess and paid the price for us to be fully and completely reconciled to God. As his followers, let us receive our King and bear his name well, honoring his name and kingdom by modeling his passion for real reconciliation.
Fight for restored relationships, rip up the weeds of bitterness, and pursue the fruit of reconciliation.
Originally posted at Christianity Today
Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Haley Bodine and her family now call metro Detroit “home.” She currently serves as the North American Relationship Catalyst and Communications Director for NewThing Network. She has a background in small group ministry, nonprofit communications, and content development. Her work has been published by Relevant Magazine, World Vision International, Neue Magazine, and more.