“Forgiveness is not forgetting; it’s actually remembering—remembering and not using your right to hit back. It’s a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you don’t want to repeat what happened.” –Desmond Tutu
Last October I had the opportunity to join a team of facilitators from the Jakarta Theological Seminary who hosted a workshop for church leaders in Toraja, South Sulawesi, Indonesia. The purpose of the workshop was to offer practical skills in conflict resolution with which churches could empower their congregations. During one session the leaders shared with us how the community typically resolves conflicts. This involves bringing members of the community together to spill the blood of an animal and share the meat. The community elder(s) determines who brings what elements for the ceremony (typically the offender provides the animal) and through the process the conflict is reconciled.
They shared that, in actuality, the process seldom creates reconciliation. Instead, the conflict becomes latent and bubbles under the surface. The ritual helps, but falls short of truly creating a new beginning. Likewise, in our own contexts there are many rituals or methods that create a false sense of reconciliation.
The quote at the beginning of this article is a great description of how I understand reconciliation. Reconciliation is the intentional process of creating a new beginning through intentional sacrifice and learning from our past experiences. It requires great courage and sacrifice, recognizing the need for resolution, peace and rights, justice, and restoring relationships when they have been broken. Reconciliation takes responsibility for contributions to the brokenness, while creating a new beginning by accepting the wrongdoers back into community. Unlike spilling blood, reconciliation is not forgive and forget, but rather requires us to acknowledge and restore.
Christ died to reconcile people with God. If we acknowledge our wrong, Christ’s sacrifice can help restore our relationship with God. The Bible is clear this was not easy for him and he even begged God for another way. The truth in this is wonderfully complicated and overly simple at the same time. We live in a world full of broken relationships, whether between family and friends, or countries and cultures.
Christ made a difficult choice to reconcile us to God. What choices can we make to help reconcile with those with whom we have broken relationships?