Mending Fences

Mending Fences
Robert Wurtz II

But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. (Matthew 5:22–24 KJV)

When we look at the world, there are major points of distinction between it and the kingdom of God. Forgiveness and love are in short supply in the world. A cursory look at the daily headlines reveals this. The devil fathered this world system and its philosophy, and there is no place for love or forgiveness in him (John 8:44). The ungodly work desperately to push Jesus Christ out of society; nevertheless, as the old saying goes, “be careful what you wish for.” 

Worldly relationships live and die on loyalty, and in a world with behaviors that keep people at each other’s throat constantly, forgiveness is a necessity. Strange it is, many want unconditional loyalty, and yet are disloyal themselves. People want love, and yet refuse to give it. They want respect, but act disrespectful. C.S. Lewis once pointed out that man is greatly unable to see his or her own faults that are clear to everyone else. People rarely see their personal contradictions. Therefor, they fall into the trap of unforgiveness and “broken fences.” The self-centeredness of the average mind leaves no road back to reconciliation. Denial typically blinds the parties involved; and blocks any hope of restoration.

The world is generally a merciless place. When someone fails they will live with that failure forever. The world will typically make your failure your identity. No matter how long ago the event took place; the person is never allowed to get past it. This is what happens in an environment of unforgiveness. Moreover, the marring of relationships is often permanent. Friends break apart and never reconcile; families break up and don’t speak for 30 years- if ever. Enemies become enemies and remain enemies. The root of bitterness and hatred runs deeper by the day. Priceless relationships can end over a few dollars; nevertheless, no amount of money could mend them. 

When Left To Themselves

The depravity of man was first revealed when Abel was killed by his own brother (Genesis 4). Abel served as an ever-present reminder to Cain’s conscience that he had disobeyed God. Cain was an evil and devilish sinner and apparently didn’t like being reminded of it (I John 3:12). He abandoned his relationship with God through blatant disobedience, and despised his relationship with his brother. Cain wasn’t “into” relationships — obviously. He was devoid of a certain type of familial love known in the Greek as stergo. He lacked what the KJV translators defined as “natural affection” (Romans 1:31). Cain had discarded the natural love that God planted in the hearts of men, that they should love their own flesh and blood (family). This spirit of hatred and revenge has followed mankind since that time and will continue to flourish in these last days (2 Timothy 3:3). 

The spirit of this evil age will culminate with the same situation that existed in Noah’s day. People were full of violence. Noah’s preaching fell on deaf ears. It had no effect. This ought to alarm us. Today the masses are inclined to offend Saints, but offer tolerance to sinners. The “spirit” of Cain is in the land. Romans 1:28-31 describes these people whom when left to themselves through reprobation, were capable of anything. Paul writes, And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful. This passage reads like the daily newspaper. 

A Reformation of Relationships

A stroll through the Old Testament reveals that the Gentiles were so wicked and violent, that they were often a threat to the very existence of mankind. People committed unconscionable acts. The pagan idol worshippers at Tophet, for example, would beat drums as they threw their babies into the sacrificial fires to drown out their screams. Pagans in North America would bag up their babies and offer them to their false gods in many cultures. Just a few miles from Furgason, MO. where rioting and violence have broken out, sits Cahokia where native Indians practiced human sacrifice like the Azteks. (click HERE)  Where do you suppose those demonic spirits went after the indians died off? As an aside, perhaps you may wonder why there is so much bloodshed in Mexico among the drug wars? Wonder no more. The same demons who led men and women to human sacrifice are still around. At the end of the day these are the things we are dealing with. 

This is why whole cultures had to be eliminated in the Old Testament. God simply could not allow that contagious and deplorable behavior to spread and fester, until every man and woman was reprobate. These people had no trace of natural affection left in them. Nevertheless, when Jesus came onto the scene, a whole new paradigm began to take root within society that has changed the course of humanity. Had Jesus not come we had already destroyed ourselves, as did the pagans of Noah’s day. Violence would be the law of the land, and forgiveness would be a word of ancient folklore. Jesus and His teachings had turned the tide of evil and cast a different light on man’s relationship with each other. Even the Jews had a lot to learn when it came to relationships; and they were the most Godly of all peoples. Cruelty in the Ancient World was the norm, but mercy would redefine the standards from which we relate to one another. 

Father Forgive Them for They Know Not What They Do

Never before had such a dichotomy of innocence and torture met on earth. Jesus, who personifies love and forgiveness, put to silence the tortuous revenge and hate when He cried out for His executioners’ forgiveness (Luke 23:34). In a figure, his blood speaks better things than that of Abel. Who ever heard of such forgiveness prior to this? So great was the influence of Jesus in those who received His Holy Spirit, that men like Stephen would emulate this attitude, crying out for mercy for his killers at his stoning in Acts 7:60. Mercy was simply unheard of at that level. The Spirit of Christ brought it to earth. So great was the impact of these events that over the centuries, people came to Christ as a consequence of the witness of these persecuted or dying saints. 

The Teachings of Jesus

The teachings of Christ have had 2000 years to extract the devil’s cruelty from society; and wherever true Christianity prevails — mercy and grace are found. Jesus taught us to love one another and to love our enemies (Luke 6:27). These were strange concepts in His day, and in many ways they still are. John the Revelator went as far as to say “he that loveth not knoweth not God- for God is love” (I John 4:8). Love comes to us in four primary forms: eros (lust), phileo (friendship), stergo (family), and agape (God’s type of love). 

The closest word we have for agape is compassion. Compassion is an undeserved love that results in tender mercy (splagchnon eleos). That is precisely what we need in this world today. We need a world where retaliation is left to God alone and where justice is meeted out – out of love. We need society to embrace the message of mercy and reconciliation. We need to return to the clear instruction of Jesus and show love to one another out of a pure heart fervently (1 Peter 1:22). We need to lay aside our corrupt hearts, prejudices, bitterness, and jealousies and begin to influence the world with the person of Jesus Christ. 

Angry Without a Cause

Some people can’t get along and they don’t know why. You ask them and they might say “I don’t like their looks!” Delving into the core of how these feelings come to be is a mystery too great for us; but one thing is certain, acting on these feelings and harboring them is unacceptable among the Saints. The Hatfield’s and McCoy’s long since forgot why they were feuding; as have the Crip’s and the Blood’s. Nevertheless, these type feelings live on in this present evil world. They are even found in families. Bitterness is boiling under the surface. This is dangerous. People are filled with hate and don’t even realize the danger they are in (Matthew 5:22). “Anger without cause” is an attitude that emperils the soul. 

The Holy Spirit will expose ill feelings and challenge them as a first point in His dealings. Sinners must stop resisting the Holy Spirit when He reveals this behavior. If it exists in a Saint, it is grieving to Him (Ephesians 4:30). We must submit to the Holy Spirit’s dealings immediately. We cannot allow the sun to go down day after day on ill feelings, until they become a permanent part of our personality (Ephesians 4:26). 

Making Reconciliation

Some people wait until it’s too late to try to get things right. They stand over the graves of friends and family teary-eyed wishing they had said they were sorry or made an attempt to reconcile. Their grief is their just reward for quenching the Spirit for years as He prompted them to make amends (Romans 1:27). Now they live with themselves. Nevertheless, it doesn’t have to be that way. We can lay aside the stubbornness and uproot the bitterness that is poisoning our souls and souring our spirit. We can make that call or send that letter; we can find a way to break the ice. No matter whose fault it was — it is the Spiritual person who must move to restore the relationship (Galatians 6:1). God will prepare the hearts as we pray and God will give us the courage. We are not guaranteed success; nevertheless, we must make an effort.

Reconciliation is a very powerful thing. It is proof that God is at work in our lives. Anyone can stay angry and make excuses — but a true child of God will seek to reconcile broken relationships. We have to love one another. And if so be that the person will not cooperate, their blood is on their own head; that is, if we moved in unfeigned love and sincerity. Some people are not rejecting us — they are really rejecting God. Nevertheless, God has used reconciliation to transform people’s relationship with Him. He was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Could God say that of us? God was in _____ (your name here) reconciling the world to Himself? Do we have a heart of compassion and love that wants to end the strife and operate in Christian love? Can we lay aside the past? Can we put aside our emotions? Can we part with our record of wrongs? Can we heal some broken relationship? Can we mend some fences?  

The Power of Reconciliation (revisited)

The Power of Reconciliation (revisited)
Robert Wurtz II

 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. (Matthew 5:24)

 There is an ancient story found on an old decayed papyrus fragment, of a prodigal Egyptian boy named Antonius Longus who had quarreled with his dear widowed mother. He left from the house and embarked on a life of prodigal living. The mother longed for her son to return home for a while and even went looking for him in strange cities. You will know that in ancient times when a person was lost, it was very difficult to find them as one had to almost see them face to face in order to identify them. This mother searched and searched for her lost son longing to reestablish communication. In time she happened upon a family acqaintance named Postumus that recounted to the disappointed mother every last offense of her son that he knew, including some of the troubles he had gotten into since their estrangement. This scandal monger would call to remembrance every debt the mother had tried to forget, down to the last nickel. The two parted and she apparently went back home. Over the course of time this Postumus happened upon Antonius Longus, the prodigal son. He told him of how he had saw his mother some time ago and had reminded her of how bad a boy he really was (as it were). Perhaps Postumus rationalized that it is better in these circumstances to be mad at a person than mourning over them. But Antonius was deeply hurt by this news and angered by what this man had done. He was moved to know that his dear mother had been looking for him so desperately, but this sower of discord had driven an already deep wedge between him and his mother, almost to the point of hopelessness. It was this occasion that gave rise to this hastily written letter, “I beseech thee, mother, be reconciled with me.” He had referred to himself using his mother’s childhood endearing name for him “Longinus”. The poor boy was a bad speller, but he used the same construction Jesus used when he said, “prōton diallagēthi” (get reconciled). The sentence, “I beseech thee, mother, be reconciled (dialagēti) with me” uses a verb that denotes mutual concession after mutual hostility. The crumbling old paper ends with the words of this woman’s dear son begging, “I beseech thee… I beseech thee…”. In more modern language we would read the words, “Mother, I’m begging you… I’m begging you…!” (Light from the Ancient East, pp 187-192) 

The Starting Point 

 As a young boy I would read the words of Jesus and take them to heart, but until I had been changed into a New Creature by the power of the Holy Spirit I cannot recall one time that I ever followed through with them. I was real good at making and keeping enemies, but I never sought reconciliation unless there was something to be gained by it. Just being honest. Adam Clarke spells out the jest of this passage when he writes, “Do not attempt to bring any offering to God while thou art in a spirit of enmity against any person; or hast any difference with thy neighbor, which thou hast not used thy diligence to get adjusted.” It is our duty and interest, both to bring our gift, and offer it too; but God will not accept of any act of religious worship from us, while any enmity subsists in our hearts towards any soul of man; or while any subsists in our neighbor’s heart towards us, which we have not used the proper means to remove. A religion, the very essence of which is love, cannot suffer at its altars a heart that is revengeful and uncharitable, or which does not use its utmost endeavors to revive love in the heart of another. The original word, δωρον, which we translate gift, is used by the rabbins in Hebrew letters דורון  doron, which signifies not only a gift, but a sacrifice offered to God. See several proofs in Schoettgen.” (Adam Clarke) There is no road forward for any person that ignores this rule.

Clearing the air

Some may make excuses here as if God does not expect them to search their own hearts for names of individuals that they know they are not on good terms with; people whom in the past you and I may have had disagreements and there is need of clearing the air. Another word for this is a ‘rift’. This is a break in friendly relations. Rifts among family, rifts among believers and rifts among leaders are stifling any hope of a move of God in our times. “Leaving thy gift, go – For neither thy gift nor thy prayer will atone for thy want of love: but this will make them both an abomination before God.” (Wesley) This means everyone, but especially leaders. A river will never run down any wider than it’s source. How will the people reconcile with those to whom they know they have a controversy if the leaders will not? Nothing stinks more in the nostrils of God than when his people refuse to be reconciled to each other in a way that restores a brotherly and sisterly affection. I have heard of sinners taking grudges down into the grave even whilst the one of them begged the other to be reconciled. That is the devilish nature in fallen man; but it ought not so to be as Saints. The single greatest hindrance to any move of God within the churches of God is this refusal to be reconciled. Again, the Greek phrase is prōton diallagēthi (ingressive aorist). It is the most important thing to do in terms of priority and is to be done first.

Making the phone call or sending the letter

When I first received the Holy Spirit about 20 years ago my immediate objective was to be reconciled with my enemies. I recall writing a letter to a dear woman that I had been feuding with. I am told by women that men forgive, but women often won’t forgive or forget. I hope this is not true, because if it is there will be a disproportional amount of women in hell over men. Selah. And although this woman of whom I speak has passed from the stage of time, I will leave her unnamed. This letter I wrote out in all sincerity and love and then prayed over with a dear minister that had traveled to our church for a revival meeting. The letter was not well received at first, but it served to break the ice and the relationship we restored. But there is something I must tell you that you must prepare yourself for now. Sometimes you will seek to reconcile knowing that the other person was as much at fault in the relationship as you were, and yet they will offer no apology or admit any wrong. Some people will see your apology as an admission of guilt and then tell themselves that it was your fault, dismissing their own role in the situation. You have to be prepared to look past this and leave it in the hands of God. Your part is not to obtain an admission, but to achieve reconciliation. You may go to your grave never getting the apology you believe you deserved, but that is not for our concern. You do your part and leave the results in the hands of God.

Do I have a Grudge?

The great danger in speaking on this great subject is insensitivity to our own feelings and actions. But there is a way to flush ourselves from our hiding places, beating around every bush until we discover if we are holding grudges or ignoring estranged relationships. For example, I have known of people that are in leadership roles in the churches to harbor ill feelings towards their mother and father and they are not on speaking terms. They bring their offering every week to the meeting, but refuse to be reconciled to their parent. They believe they are justified in their anger or bitterness because of some ‘thing’ that happened to them as a child, etc. ad infinitum. Yet Jesus gave the parable of the man that owed a fortune to the king and was forgiven, but then went out and took his fellow man by the throat and throttled him demanding what he was owed. The man was cast into hell for it. Jesus closed the story with this passage, So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. (Matthew 18:35) 

I have taught my sons this throughout their lives as I speak plainly to them, but you can back a 53 foot tractor trailer of praise into a meeting and God is not hearing it if you have enmity and ill feelings in your heart towards somebody. It may as well be a 53 foot trailer of garbage. As John Wesley said, “an offering to God with ought in our hearts is an abomination to God.” Could this be why it is so difficult for folk to try to get through to God? We ought to walk in the very presence of God. We should not need to give God a 2 hour invite back every meeting. He should be mightily upon us at all times; but this requires us to live in such a way that He will dwell in us. He will not live with people long that hold grudges. Ask yourself a question, do I have ill feelings towards anyone? Don’t mask over it. Be serious with God. Do I know of anyone that has ought against me? Are there people in my life that I don’t get along with, especially fellow believers? Do bad feelings come up before me when I think of _________ or when I am around __________? Grudges are expressed in many different ways. Go down upon your knees while your conscience is as tender as it is and ask God to reveal any ought you may have against others or any that have ought against you. Your whole Christian life and ministry could depend on you doing just that.

What an offense is not.

If a person reaches out to you in reconciliation, that is enough in itself for you to lay down your grudge. Why? Because it always takes the better man or the better woman to apologize. Sometimes the issue was a matter of disagreement that went too far and we want the person to change their views about things or we will not forgive. That is the wrong attitude. What folly is it to take personally how someone else sees something? They don’t have to change their view before we forgive them. For example; if you had a spat over some issue that each of you feel strongly about, don’t expect that the apology is an admission that they were wrong about what they felt strongly about. Paul and Barnabas disagreed over John mark, but Paul never suggested that he was wrong, nor did Barnabas. They viewed the situation differently. Who was right? It doesn’t matter. Paul simply said later to ‘send John mark for he is profitable to me for the ministry.’ Just because someone disagrees with you, resists you or objects to something you and I are doing does not mean they are attacking us. Keep that clear. If we tie reconciliation to a change in the other person’s view then we may well never reconcile. Moreover, you may die harboring ill feelings towards the person. If the disagreement reaches a level that there is ought between the parties then reconciliation is in order. If it is a doctrinal issue, ecclesiastical issue (church related), music, money, etc., then we need to check ourselves to make sure our priorities are right. Zeal can kill. Make sure what you are harping on is worth losing a brother, losing your effectiveness in ministry or at worst going to hell for. Because God will not tolerate an unloving spirit.

 The glory of reconciliation

There are few things more glorious than when two parties make amends and clear the air with one another. There is a load that comes off that is akin to the one described in Pilgrims Progress. That HUGE heavy pack that was weighing us down is now gone. We can breathe again. Our relationship with God gets a shot in the arm (so it feels). Why? Because any ought we have with our neighbor is a controversy we have with God. He is offended by our ill-feelings. But when reconciliation comes, what a difference! I cannot articulate the glory of reconciliation. Where once we resisted the person and tried to hinder them in some way, now we seek to help them. We go from obstructive to constructive! We go from wanting them to ‘get theirs’ to viewing them as a soul that deserves compassion and love. No more inward desire for evil upon their head, but a desire for Shalom, the very peace and blessing of God to be there. 

Reluctant reconciliation? 

I can say without hesitation that I have reconciled many times with folks over the last 20 years and when they would rightly reciprocate it was a glorious thing. Reluctant reconciliation usually left a mundane relationship in its wake. We have to reciprocate. How? Two people speak to each other in this way, “I’m sorry- I’m sorry too. I was wrong- I was wrong too. I want to clear the air- I want to clear the air too. I forgive you- I forgive you too. I want to put this behind us and go forward- I want to put this behind us and go forward too. I wish you the very best- and I wish you the very best too.” Maybe not just like that, but you get the idea. But reluctant reconciliation only desires to air their own grievance and waits for the person to show what they perceive to be enough contrition so they will forgive. If they don’t get what they want, the air is not cleared rightly. There is a lingering stench. A direct offense deserves an apology, but even if it does not come we are still called to love and forgive. Why? It is the Spirit and mind of Christ. While we were yet sinners He loved us, and He expects us to do the same. 

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