By Basilea Schlink
When people live together in reconciliation, there is peace and joy, a bit of paradise. But in a house where people have bitter thoughts in their hearts about each other, where they quarrel and do not forgive, there is a bit of hell. We know how seldom we find homes that are like a bit of paradise. For irreconciliation and bitterness are widespread sins especially among the pious.
Yet when we look at the Sermon on the Mount, this fact is completely incomprehensible. Jesus said that there would be severe punishment for those who have anything in their hearts against their brothers. He exhorts us to reconcile ourselves with our brothers at all costs, because otherwise there would be terrible consequences (Matt. 5: 23-26). The Lord says they will be put in "prison". Expressed in other words, they will come into the kingdom of darkness where men will weep and gnash their teeth. And the Apostle Paul writes in Rom. 1: 29, 32 that those who are full of strife deserve to die. In another place the implacable are listed among other objectionable types of men who will come under the wrath of God (2 Tim. 3: 3).
Christians, who actually should not come under judgment, are threatened by judgment and punishment, yes even hell, if they refuse to be reconciled. But does anyone believe this? Does anyone hate this sin and want to break away from it? Does anyone believe the words that Jesus spoke? They are true and He will act according to them. We usually do not believe them, because we say that Jesus is merciful. Perhaps we argue like this: Jesus knows our hearts; He knows how difficult it is for us to forgive someone who has hurt our feelings or wronged us unjustly or has said something about us that would ruin our reputation or hurt our family. We imagine that Jesus understands that we cannot deal with such a bitter root in our hearts. We think He understands us when we wake up at night and keep seeing these people before our eyes, and we begin to hurl one accusation after another at them.
Yes, there is probably no one who knows and understands us as well as Jesus does. He knows our sins and bondages; He calls Himself the merciful High Priest. Still He pronounces a sharp verdict over people who do not live in reconciliation, who are filled with bitterness and accusations. He does this precisely because He is our merciful High Priest, who has forgiven all our sins. Because we have received so much mercy through Him, His anger is aroused when we are not merciful to others. We can no longer dodge the issue. This fact is unmistakable in the story of the unmerciful servant. If the Lord forgives us our sins a thousand times, it is a matter of course that He will take back His forgiveness and hold us accountable again for all our sins, if we do not forgive others. Yes, His anger will judge us and throw us into the place of torment (Matt. 18: 34).
Bitterness and irreconciliation are sins which cry to heaven, since the voices of those whom we do not want to forgive reach God's heart and accuse us. God's answer will strike us like lightning: "Bind this servant who dares to be unforgiving when I have forgiven him." Who will bind him? The fallen angels who will take him and throw him into prison, into outer darkness, as Jesus describes it in another text (Matt. 22: 13).
Bitterness and irreconciliation arouse the greatest wrath of the Lamb of God. Jesus has promised us forgiveness through His blood sacrifice, although He could have accused us for our sin and everything we have done to Him.
Irreconciliation and bitterness close the heart of God to all our pleas.
Irreconciliation and all our accusations against our brothers do not only set up a barrier against our brother, but also a barrier against God.
So the motto for our life must be to live in reconciliation and bury our accusations. Otherwise we will be accused and condemned and have to live with the irreconciled in the kingdom of darkness.
How can we get rid of our bitter, accusing thoughts and reactions? By letting the light of God fall upon us and show us that we accuse others of the very things for which we ought to accuse ourselves. It will show us that we have disappointed others in the same areas they disappoint us. We have made life difficult for them also. And so we will lose our desire to accuse our brother and persist in bitterness, a sin which binds us to Satan, the accuser. We cannot rest until the Lord gives us a repentant heart about this sin of bitterness. Through repentance our accusations melt away, irreconciliation and bitterness are dissolved and we begin to see, where formerly we were blind.
If we have something in our heart against another, or we know that someone has something against us, and we are not living in reconciliation, let us speak with him, if it is possible. Whether he accepts our outstretched hand is his business. The important point is that we have a humble heart and genuine love for our opponent. In this love there is great power to change others and establish a relationship of reconciliation. Tomorrow it may be too late to be reconciled with a neighbour who may have hurt us. If we have intentionally passed by the chance for reconciliation, the accuser will take us into his kingdom. Whenever we have bitter, accusing thoughts, we live in unison with him. Immediate action is necessary if we are living in irreconciliation. We must renounce our accusing thoughts at once and fight a battle of faith against them to the point of shedding blood.
But Jesus has come to destroy the works of the devil in our soul: bitterness, accusations, irreconciliation. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit, who wants to pour out the merciful love of God into our hearts. Whoever believes this will experience it, if he endures in faith, that is, if he does not grow weary of calling upon the victorious name of Jesus daily for the sake of His redeeming blood.
As surely as God is Yea and Amen, we will truly be freed, according to Jesus' promise that He will free us from the power of sin.