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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

God’s Plea -- Be Reconciled to God

The word reconciliation is a very emotionally laden word.  There are millions upon millions of people in this world of billions who have sorrow in their lives that words cannot express.  It is a sadness that continues with them daily, month by month, year by year, and how can they tell anyone?  What can they say?  They cannot verbalize their feelings even to themselves let alone to others.  It is sadness, depression, emptiness, a sorrow that words cannot describe.

Why such sorrow, such longful mourning, such a sense of despair; because there is alienation within the family.  Families are torn apart because one member or another became alienated and will no longer have anything to do with the rest of the family or at least with the one with whom they are alienated.  The alienated one becomes angry and lives in bitterness, hate, and resentment.  Sometimes both parties involved come to feel that way but often it is a one-party matter.  The individual feels that he/she was done wrong and mistreated whether true or not; that is how they see it.

I knew a family, and there are many such families, whose only child, a son, ran away from home while alienated as a teenager and that was the last they saw him or heard from him, at least for many, many years, into decades.  They had no idea where he was.  The mother died without ever seeing her son again or knowing what became of him.  I cannot imagine the pain that mother and dad dealt with all of those years.  No doubt that mother would have rejoiced in tears to have seen her son at her bedside, just one time, as she passed from this world into the next.  However, that was not to be.

I did recently learn, I had lost touch with the family for years, that before the father’s passing the son had communicated with him.  Whether there was a genuine reconciliation or not I know not as I received my knowledge of this from a third party.  But how sad it was that this family had to go through this.

When I came to know the mother and dad they were devout church members.  I am sure faith in God is all that allowed them to live all those many years from middle age on into old age.  The one who suffers the least in these family breakups is the alienated.  They feel justified, maybe a sense of getting even, I will show you, and so in their desire to do this, they emotionally kill the other party and seemingly find some fulfillment in doing so.  The Bible would call this malice or hatred and condemn it but the alienated feels justified.

Two great examples in the Bible of men whose sons became alienated were David with his son Absalom and in the New Testament the case of the prodigal son.  David suffered immensely over Absalom.  It would take up too much space to retell the story of David’s relationship with Absalom so let me speak here only of David’s love for Absalom even after Absalom rebelled and had sought to overthrow David as King and take his father’s life.

Prior to David’s army going into battle against the army of Absalom David commanded Joab, the commander of his own army, to “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” (2 Sam 18:5 NKJV)  When word was sent back to David as to how the battle had gone the first thing David wanted to know was, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” (2 Sam. 18:29 NKJV)  When he was told that was not the case, that Absalom was dead, the Bible gives us some of the most heart-wrenching words ever uttered by a father.

“O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place!  O Absalom my son, my son!” (2 Sam. 18:33 NKJV)  The Bible says David, “was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept.” (2 Sam. 18:33 NKJV)  You always love your child no matter how deeply they grow to despise you.  Oh, what it would have meant to David if there could have been reconciliation before it came to this but reconciliation requires two willing parties.  One alone is not enough.

The New Testament example of alienation did not end in tragedy as was the case with David and Absalom but rather in great joy, in rejoicing.  In the prodigal son, we have a son who was not as alienated as Absalom was but who, nevertheless, was not satisfied and wanted to part ways from his father.  He felt he was being held back from the good life while at home.

The New Testament example of the prodigal son is too well known to repeat here other than to mention the father’s overwhelming joy when he saw his son coming down the road home.  “When he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20 NKJV) 

Thus we have two examples of alienation with two totally different endings.  One wonders why people refuse to be reconciled when reconciliation is the road to peace, joy, and happiness.  Whatever the cause alienation begins with perverseness of the heart.

The account of the prodigal son and his father is really about you and me and God.  We are God’s creatures, his people, “It is he who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.” (Psalm 100:3 NKJV)  “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way.” (Isa. 53:6 NKJV)

We are or have been, depending on where we are now in our standing with God, like the prodigal son.  We left God when we chose sin over him.  “There is none righteous, no not one.” (Rom. 3:10 NKJV)  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23 NKJV)

The gospel message is God’s call for the prodigal to come home.  It is the message of the father seeking the son or daughter who has gone astray who waits patiently until their return if only they are willing to be reconciled.  He is longsuffering and forbearing not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9).  He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4 NKJV)

The gospel is as if God was standing and calling to us to come for as Paul said to the Thessalonians, “He called you by our gospel.” (2 Thess. 2:14 NKJV)  It is “the word of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:19 NKJV)  “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’  And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’  And let him who thirsts come.  Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Rev. 22:17 NKJV)

It is an invitation but it is more than that.  It is a plea, “as though God were pleading through us:  we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:20 NKJV)  Reconciliation is a choice, a decision to be made.  The son I told you about earlier whose father and mother I knew made a choice, a choice to not be reconciled for those many years.  It was a bad choice.  It is a horrible choice, even a tragedy, any time a person makes the decision that he will not be reconciled with those against whom he is alienated.  All are losers, none winners. 

We ought to be reconciled to our fellowman if alienated.  We are to forgive one another so that we might be forgiven.  “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matt. 6:14 NKJV)  We ought to grow tired of fussing and fighting, of anger, hatred, and bitterness.

You know if we were to ask the question of why heaven is going to be such a grand and joyous place we would have to talk not only about what will be there but also about what will not be there--all of these evil things that burden the heart and bring tears and sorrow.  Heaven is a place of love.  It is not a place of alienation, anger, and bitterness. 

The Bible says when Jesus drew near the city of Jerusalem, as he drew near to it for the last time (from afar), “he wept.” (Luke 19:41 NKJV)  What do you think brought him to tears?  In Matthew, we find his feelings expressed when he says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!  How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matt. 23:37 NKJV)  This was God crying for his lost alienated children who would not come home.

God’s plea is that we be reconciled to him.  He is the prodigal son’s father, figuratively speaking, looking down the road to see if we will come home.  Are you going to tell him you are not willing?  If so is that where you will find happiness and contentment—find it in alienation?  We ought to come home to God with tears of rejoicing that the alienation is over and we are home at last, that wonderful word and wonderful place--home.  Home is where you belong, where I belong, where we all belong, home with God.

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