Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone misses the mark. It is the human condition. When we find ourselves having made a significant error or breach of conduct, we need for others to forgive us. In fact, we expect others to forgive us, especially in the Christian community. To reach out for and receive forgiveness is a Christian reality. When others ask us for forgiveness, it is our duty and responsibility to grant it.
On the other hand, if we are the ones seeking forgiveness, what is our responsibility to help bring it to pass? Is there anything we are supposed to do or not do? Reconciliation is a process that requires cooperation from both sides. Through the years it seems our attention has focused on one side of the issue but not so much on the other.
When we have committed an infraction that has eroded a relationship, eventually we go about the task of mending those fences. This can be done in six not-so-easy, but essential and practical steps.
Following the Steps
The first step is to admit and acknowledge that we have done wrong. You might call this the "confession component." In Joshua 7:16-20 Joshua 7:16-20  So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken:
 And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken:
 And he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.
 And Joshua said to Achan, My son, give, I pray you, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession to him; and tell me now what you have done; hide it not from me.
 And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done:
American King James Version×, an admonition is given to "make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done." It is a very rare thing indeed for human beings to admit that they have done wrong. It's rarer still for a person, even a Christian person, to specify what he or she has done wrong. The first inclination of human nature is to deny, deny, deny.
In James 5:14-16 James 5:14-16  Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
American King James Version×we read of how we are to confess our trespasses one to another. The human proclivity is to hide our trespasses from one another. Sin loves concealment. When caught, most human beings respond by denying that they have done what they have done.
Eventually they may be willing to say something like, "If I have done anything wrong, then I...." Reconciliation can never come about under those circumstances. It is vitally necessary to acknowledge our wrong and to take ownership of our errors. We must be able to audibly say, "I have done wrong. I have done wrong in that I have..." and then we specify the wrong we have committed.
Step number two is to express regret and remorse. It is possible to acknowledge our sin without actually expressing appropriate regret and remorse. Daniel, however, set the right example. When he prayed his prayer of repentance, recorded in Daniel 9:1-7 Daniel 9:1-7  In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans;
 In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.
 And I set my face to the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:
 And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;
 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from your precepts and from your judgments:
 Neither have we listened to your servants the prophets, which spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
 O LORD, righteousness belongs to you, but to us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries where you have driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against you.
American King James Version×, he expressed feelings of "shame of face." On behalf of himself and his countrymen, he explained how sorry he was-how ashamed he was. If regret and remorse are present and genuine, they will be appropriately and even repeatedly expressed. Romans 6:19-21 Romans 6:19-21  I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as you have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity to iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness to holiness.  For when you were the servants of sin, you were free from righteousness.  What fruit had you then in those things whereof you are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
American King James Version×refers to "the things of which you are now ashamed." This connotes how the Christians in the Church of God at Rome deeply regretted their past misconduct and expressed it with visible emotion and acknowledgment.
It's important for the guilty party (we are all the guilty party from time to time), to say unequivocally, "I am sorry for what I did. I'm really, really sorry. I feel so badly for what happened. At times I even feel ashamed." Regret and remorse must be expressed in this honest and open manner for reconciliation to come about.
Step number three is to show how you have already made and will continue to make amends. Once a person has acknowledged an error or sin and then has gone on to express remorse and regret for that error or sin, then he or she will of necessity follow through with making amends.
If someone has borrowed your vacuum cleaner and in the process of using it has damaged it and then returns it to you, you would hope that the person would acknowledge straight away how it had been damaged while on loan. If your neighbor then followed up his (or her) confession with a statement of remorse-"I'm really sorry I wrecked your Hoover"-you would believe his regret was the real thing if he insisted on repairing it. If he didn't offer to make it right, you would probably doubt the depth and sincerity of his regret.
Exodus 22:1-5 Exodus 22:1-5  If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.
 If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.
 If the sun be risen on him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.
 If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double.
 If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another man's field; of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution.
American King James Version×teaches us about the important principle of making restitution: "He shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard."
When Jesus Christ visited the tax collector Zacchaeus (Luke 19), the latter was so moved that he promised to demonstrate his repentance by restoring fourfold any funds that he had collected excessively. This would have gone a long way to reconcile him with those citizens that he defrauded through the years. You can be sure that the actions of Zacchaeus would have been the dominant topic of conversation in his part of Jericho for a long time. If someone cheats me and then repays me four times the amount he cheated me of, it is likely my dim view of him will change significantly. I will be far more likely to believe that that person is really trying to turn over a new leaf. Reconciliation cannot come about without appropriate and commensurate restitution.
The fourth step to reconciliation requires us to show how we will do things differently from now on. In this step, we reassure the aggrieved party or parties that we have learned some profound lessons and are determined to conduct ourselves differently and have an actual plan by which to do so. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:9-11 1 Timothy 6:9-11  But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
 But you, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.
American King James Version×that certain temptations or situations have to be avoided by the conscientious Christian.
Suppose a husband has a serious drinking problem. In this step of reconciliation, he would tell his wife and children that he has joined a 12-step program in order to obtain and maintain his sobriety. We can get into trouble all by ourselves, but we require the help of others to get out of it.
Remember that once others have been hurt or injured by our actions, it will take time for them to learn to trust again.... Reconciliation truly is a process and it cannot be rushed or fast forwarded.
Hebrews 4:15-16 Hebrews 4:15-16  For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
American King James Version×talks about the importance of receiving help in time of need. This help certainly must come from God above, but it must also come through human agents and agencies. There are many resources available to a Christian today. Regrettably too many people are too proud to ask for help. Suppose a wife has a serious gambling problem. In this step, she would tell her husband that she has joined a self-help organization, has already attended some meetings and is determined to attend a meeting once or twice a week for a year or more if necessary.
Then Ask for Forgiveness
Step number five: Ask for forgiveness. Notice how this step comes later on in the list, not at the beginning. A lot of groundwork has to be laid first. Of course, repentance before God occurs at the beginning. Reconciliation to fellow man takes a bit longer.
In the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 we read about how the prodigal son sought to reconcile with his father by saying, "I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son" (verse 21). What a statement of contrition! Although he desperately wanted to be forgiven, he didn't feel worthy to ask for it directly. Admirably, his father granted him forgiveness on the basis of his attitude, what he had been through and what it took for him to come back home.
Genesis 50:14-18 Genesis 50:14-18  And Joseph returned into Egypt, he, and his brothers, and all that went up with him to bury his father, after he had buried his father.
 And when Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did to him.
 And they sent a messenger to Joseph, saying, Your father did command before he died, saying,
 So shall you say to Joseph, Forgive, I pray you now, the trespass of your brothers, and their sin; for they did to you evil: and now, we pray you, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father. And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
 And his brothers also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be your servants.
American King James Version×gives us an account of family members pleading their situation by saying, "I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin... Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father."
Forgiveness from our fellow man, even as from God, cannot be demanded. It can only be received. Occasionally guilty parties insist on being forgiven as if it were their right. You may hear something like, "OK. So I made a few mistakes. Well, I've repented of them. Now it's up to you to forgive me." That is not how forgiveness and reconciliation come about.
Step number six is to bear sustained fruit. Those who have been aggrieved need reassurance. This can only be done by bearing sustained fruit and doing so over a period of time thus indicating we have learned our lesson and are becoming a different person.
Matthew 7:16-20 Matthew 7:16-20  You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
 Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit.
 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
 Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
 Why by their fruits you shall know them.
American King James Version×proclaims, "You will know them by their fruits." This statement is mentioned twice for added emphasis. The only way I can know if an apple tree is a quality tree is by observing the fruit it produces. This takes time. In the autumn of the year, the tree will yield a crop. If the apples are plentiful, tasty and attractive, then I know I've got a good quality tree. It may take more that just one growing season for a tree to properly identify itself.
John 15:16 John 15:16You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
American King James Version×contains the following wonderful decree of Jesus Christ: "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain..." It is our task as Christians to produce visible and tangible fruit of the Christian life. Some folks do bear an array of fruit for a while, but then the crops diminish and disappear entirely. The fruit of a Christian life must be enduring for a lifetime.
Remember that once others have been hurt or injured by our actions, it will take time for them to learn to trust again. They probably want to trust, but it will take time for healing to occur in order for reconciliation to run its course. Reconciliation truly is a process and it cannot be rushed or fast forwarded.
Forgiveness is a hallmark of the Church of God. Forgiveness is something that we all need from our Heavenly Father. Forgiveness is something that we all need from each other. Forgiveness must be sought. Forgiveness must be given. Only then can reconciliation be fully realized. UN