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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

Taking That Step

"Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation."

2 Corinthians 5:18 (NKJV)

The apostle Paul reminds us that Christ, through whom we have been reconciled to God the Father, has entrusted us with the ministry of reconciliation, making us His ambassadors (v. 20). It is part of the charge to work at making peace with hearts, individuals and families, which assumes that we have first made peace with God. And being at peace with Him requires that we be at peace with others, for the series “physician heal thyself.” The Gospel offers us no alternative: “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). Just the opposite of what Cain perpetrated with his brother Abel. Also in Genesis we meet another character, Jacob, known for some of his family affairs, and also as one who does not give up and with ingenuity knows how to make up for the toil of so many years that others had taken advantage of. But he is also the one who had taken the birthright away from his brother Esau with a plate of lentils and was then forced to flee.

After a distant twenty years he matures the decision to reconcile with his brother. That day comes sooner or later when that step must be taken. As his first act he announces his arrival, “Jacob sent messengers to Esau” (32:4). He knows it will be a difficult encounter, the one with his deceived brother, though an extraordinary encounter at the ford of the Yabbòq (a tributary of the Jordan) will give him awareness that God is with him. After twenty years of exile, the last miles become heavy. Jacob is afraid to return to the lands of his deceived brother, but he has decided to meet him to reconcile. Will Esau have forgotten what happened? Two decades and countless sunsets later Jacob lives with a woodworm in his mind. The apostle Paul advises us not to let the sun set on the first day and to clarify without stalling, even when hearts are inflamed and minds clouded, lest we give way to poisonous rancor and sin (Ephesians 4:26). Now that he has decided to pay the price, he displays the weakness of one who has done wrong and must make amends. When he learns that his brother was advancing toward him with four hundred men, “he was greatly afraid and distressed” (32:7). He thus tries to prepare his way by sending abundant gifts to his brother in the hope that they will appease him (32:14-15). Giving is like saying the first words, the ones that break the ice of separation, and it reveals the deep connection between giving and for-giving, both free gestures.

Forgiveness is never a one-sided act, but an encounter of gifts. Still hobbled by the struggle with the LORD, the supplanter does not hesitate to bow seven times before his brother (Genesis 33:3). He remains true to his desire to show himself as his brother's “servant,” and this humility, perceived as genuine by Esau, unlocks the situation: “But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” (Genesis 33:4). Without humility, any reconciliation is impossible. Esau no longer remembers the theft of primogeniture, and his anger melts into an affectionate embrace. The story of salvation is a story of unexpected “wonders,” stories of men becoming instruments of blessing. The offended and feared brother even becomes a reflection of God's face in reconciliation. Reconciliation becomes a theophany. “Receive my present from my hand, inasmuch as I have seen your face as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me.” (Genesis 33:10). Whenever forgiveness enters the picture God is present. The two separated become one in the embrace, but it is not over yet. In fact, we can go through a thousand trials, but complete reconciliation comes only when we can finally “mourn together.”

Anyone who has been wronged knows how deep the pain is too deep to be compensated or set aside by time. The only effective cure is for the “offender” to go to the other, acknowledging his or her mistake in the hope of finding a hug. When the tears come, the tear will begin to heal and the wound will stop bleeding, because reconciliation does not mean giving in to others' positions or violence or giving up one's identity but simply being willing to welcome those who recognize their mistake. Prepare your journey, get ready to meet the one/who you have offended, disappointed or betrayed, and you will witness unthinkable things.


Weekly Bible Reading Plan # 20

May 13, 2 Kings 19-21; John 4:1-30

May 14, 2 Kings 22-23; John 4:31-54

May 15, 2 Kings 24-25; John 5:1-24

May 16, 1 Chronicles 1-3; John 5:25-47

May 17, 1 Chronicles 4-6; John 6:1-21

May 18, 1 Chronicles 7-9; John 6:22-44

May 19, 1 Chronicles 10-12; John 6:45-71

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