Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hesitant to Reconcile? Steve Cornell on Forgiveness and Reconciliation

From Pastor Cornell's Moving from Forgiveness to Reconciliation

In this last post of this series exploring the differences between forgiveness and reconciliation and the pitfalls of treating them as the same thing, I would be remiss in not encouraging you to read Steve Cornell's post on the topic.

You will notice some quotes from Ken Sande's book, The Peacemaker, which I strongly criticize for a Shepherding Discipleship Movement tendency to merge forgiveness and reconciliation as well as Sande's organization's requirements to defer to leadership. Though I don't appreciate these aspects of the book and how “patriarchs desperate for revenge” silence, exploit, and punish the wounded using spiritually abusive tactics (including Sande's friend, C.J. Mahaney who was active in the aberrant Shepherding Movement from its inception), Sande does make valid, salient points in the book. (Does this not highlight how difficult it is to put spiritually abusive Evangelicalism into perspective?)

If you take note however, Cornell adds a clarifying statement after one of the quotes, almost as a disclaimer, that he doesn't believe that Sande's principles should be applied to all situations. Pastor Cornell is able to more appreciate the valuable elements of the book. I'm happy to let him filter the good aspects of the book for me. Personally, I can't get around the other issues with Sande's system in order to enjoy the book because of my knowledge of people who have been exploited by several aspects of the system and the practices drawn from Shepherding.

Here's an excerpt, but I strongly encoruage you to just read the entire post on his blog, Wisdom for Life.

Ten Guidelines for those hesitant to reconcile: 
Those who have been significantly (and repeatedly) hurt are not wrong for feeling hesitant about reconciling with their offenders. When your offender is genuinely repentant, however, it’s important to be open to the possibility of restoration (unless there is a clear issue of safety involved). Jesus spoke about reconciliation with a sense of urgency (see Matthew 5:23-24). If you’re hesitant to reconcile, work through the following ten guidelines with the aid of a wise counselor. 
1.  Be honest about your motives – Make sure that your desire is to do what pleases God and not to get revenge. Settle the matter of forgiveness (as Joseph did) in the context of your relationship with God. Guidelines for reconciliation should not be retaliatory. 
2.  Be humble in your attitude – Do not let pride ruin everything. Renounce all vengeful attitudes toward your offender. We are not, for example, to demand that a person earn our forgiveness. The issue is not earning forgiveness, but working toward true reconciliation. This demands humility. Those who focus on retaliation and revenge have allowed self-serving pride to control them.
3.  Be prayerful for the one who hurt you – Jesus taught his disciples to pray for those who mistreat them (Luke 6:28). It is amazing how our attitude toward another person can change when we pray for him. Pray also for strength to follow through with reconciliation (see: Hebrews 4:16).
4.  Be willing to admit ways you might have contributed to the problem“Even if you did not start the dispute, your lack of understanding, careless words, impatience, or failure to respond in a loving manner may have aggravated the situation. When this happens, it is easy to behave as though the other person’s sins more than cancel yours, which leaves you with a self- righteous attitude that can retard forgiveness (i.e. relational forgiveness). The best way to overcome this tendency is to prayerfully examine your role in the conflict and then write down everything you have done or failed to do that may have been a factor.” (Ken Sande, The Peacemaker, p. 168). I do not recommend this point to promote the notion of equal or shared blame for all situations.
5.  Be honest with the offender – If you need time to absorb the reality of what was said or done, express this honestly to the one who hurt you. Yet we must not use time as a means of manipulation and punishment.
6.  Be objective about your hesitancy – Perhaps you have good reasons for being hesitant to reconcile, but they must be objectively stated. Sometimes, for example, repeated confessions and offenses of the same nature make it understandably hard for trust to be rebuilt. This is an objective concern. Clearly define your reasons for doubting your offender’s sincerity. 
7.  Be clear about the guidelines for restoration – Establish clear guidelines for restoration. Requirements like restitution can be clearly understood. Others include financial accountability, holding down a job, and putting away substances, attending counseling, taking medications, etc… 
8.  Be realistic about the process – Change often requires time and hard work (Philippians 3:12-14). Periodic failure by an offender does not always indicate an unrepentant heart. By failure, I am not including behaviors like violence or relapses into adultery. Behavior patterns typically run in deep channels. They can hold a powerful grip on a person’s life. A key indicator for change is the attitude of the offender. While proceeding with caution, be careful about demanding guarantees from a person who has truly expressed repentance. If the person stumbles, the process of loving confrontation, confession, and forgiveness may need to be repeated. Setbacks and disappointments are often part of the process of change. Don’t give up too easily on process of reconciliation. Keep the goal of a fully restored relationship open. 
9.  Be mindful of God’s control – “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). “We know that God works all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). “When you are having a hard time forgiving someone (i.e. being restored), take time to note how God may be using that offense for good. Is this an unusual opportunity to glorify God?  How can you serve others and help them grow in their faith? What sins and weaknesses of yours are being exposed? What character qualities are you being challenged to exercise? When you perceive that the person who has wronged you is being used as an instrument in God’s hand to help you mature, serve others, and glorify him, it may be easier for you to move ahead with forgiveness (i.e. restoration)” (Ken Sande,The Peacemaker, p.165;cf. Hebrews 12:7; I Pet.2:23b; 4:19). (Italicized words added). 
10.  Be alert to Satan’s schemes – In Ephesians 4:27, the apostle Paul warns about the possibility of unchecked anger giving Satan an opportunity in our lives. A few verses later, the Apostle wrote, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 4:29-5:2). Meditate on these words and put them into practice! (See also: II Corinthians 2:14; Hebrews 12:15).
Link here to read the entire post. It's well worth the time and effort concerning this most important topic.

Just a few more posts to come on
forgiving church, God, and self.