Forgiveness, restoration are important

Published 10:35pm Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pastor Jones served his church for a number of years and by all accounts did a commendable job.

But he lost his temper in a church business meeting and abruptly resigned. The issue had to do with the pastor’s authority to make a certain decision.

Research shows that 90 percent of church fights revolve around the question, “Who’s the boss?”

This was true in Jones’ case.

Jones moved on to another church and the former church continued to send him the weekly newsletter.

One day the secretary was surprised to receive a letter from Jones stating testily that he didn’t want to hear from his former church again.

Over the course of time, Pastor Jones experienced some health issues.

His former congregation prayed for him and sent encouraging notes. He recovered from his illness and mellowed in his feelings for the church he’d left so abruptly.

The church’s new pastor suggested Jones be invited back to speak for a special event. He and his wife attended and received many handshakes and hugs. The congregation presented him a gift at the conclusion of the worship service in appreciation for his many years of service–a gift several years late, but nonetheless offered in friendship.

The story of Pastor Jones is a story of forgiveness, to be sure, but goes beyond forgiveness. It’s a story of restoration.

The Bible speaks a lot about forgiveness. We’ve remembered lately the greatest example of forgiveness. It was offered from the cross when Jesus prayed that God would forgive his tormentors.

Followers of Christ are likewise exhorted to offer forgiveness to our tormentors: “. . . forgiving one another as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Forgiveness is one step, and it’s an important step. But sometimes we stop short with forgiveness. Our attitude can be “I forgive that person and I hope I never see them again.” Thus the old adage “forgive and forget” is taken quite literally when we say we’ve forgiven someone, but show no concern for them in the future. Restoration is a second step. Restoration occurs when we undertake to undo the harm that was caused and repair a broken relationship.

Husbands and wives cannot just forgive one another. They must try to restore the broken relationship. Parents and their children cannot just forgive one another. They must try to restore the broken relationship. And Christians cannot just forgive their spiritual brothers and sisters. They must try to restore a healthy relationship.

Restoration isn’t always possible, and sometimes an offended party must establish barriers, if the offender is abusive. But I’m convinced restoration is possible more often than it’s tried.

And it’s a very godly thing to do.

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