A Heart-To-Heart Talk
“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers [a reconciliation produced by repentance], so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse [of complete destruction].”
Today, studies show that 40 percent of children grow up without a father in the home, and another 40 percent have dads who are physically present but emotionally absent. The absence of a father’s love and guidance devastates children as much as the plagues devastated Pharaoh and the Egyptians.
In this verse, God promises to send the prophet Elijah back to earth before the final cataclysm of history. The prophet’s role won’t be geopolitical. Instead, he focuses his attention on fathers and their kids. Today, broken marriages, misplaced priorities, addictions, and run-of-the-mill selfishness have ruined countless relationships between fathers and their kids. Many of them want to make changes, but bitterness hardens their hearts and prevents progress. Each one insists, “I’m right, and you’re wrong” or “I’m hurt, and it’s all your fault.” Is there hope to break this deadlock?
Forgiveness is the one and only solution to bitterness, and if one side won’t take initiative, the other can. First, we go to God with the realization of our own sinfulness and our need for His forgiveness. Then, out of full hearts, we choose to forgive those who hurt us. No, it’s not easy, but it’s the only way to restore the most cherished relationships in our lives.
The true secret of giving advise is after you have honestly given it to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not, and never persist in trying to set people right.
Hannah Whitall Smith
Throughout the world we are seeing a dramatic increase in broken people engaged in revenge, retaliation, violence, and crime. Almost every day we hear of another mass shooting or some other evil work taking place. Abuse, molestation, trafficking, and suicides are becoming normal news items. We are seeing hatred, racism in every form, and those who spread its seeds to gain power abound.
Ziglar mentions the breakup of families and the increasing number of what we now call blended families. Dozens of children have little or no security and care. Marriages are acts of convenience and when they don’t provide expected results are easily dissolved. Sometimes it almost seems hopeless to think of turning the tide. Yet God speaks through Malachi that with His servant Elijah, He’s going to turn the hearts of fathers and sons toward each other. How will it be possible to transform relationships based on hatred, mistrust, jealousy and fear? How will reconciliation ever be possible especially after decades and even centuries of bitterness and remembered wrongs?
Someone has to move first. That’s what God did. As the wronged party, He made the first move toward reconciliation. Here’s what Paul says about it:
“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, it is much more certain, having been reconciled, that we will be saved [from the consequences of sin] by His life [that is, we will be saved because Christ lives today].”
How often do we as the wronged party wait for those who wrong us to make the first move toward reconciliation? How often do we hold hurts, grudges, and hostility letting it eat away at us and damaging any possible relationship we might could have had?
Suspicion and mistrust become the norms when communication ceases. Our minds with the help of the devil demonize those who have wronged us in some way and our emotions scream for revenge thinking that if somehow we could make those who hurt us suffer, it would make us feel better. So each side continues to retaliate, escalating the conflict and division until all hope of reconciliation is gone.
But if the holy, righteous, perfect God who has suffered wrong from us whom He created and loves can break down the wall of hostility between us and Him through the very act of grace, cannot we who are His budge a little from our entrenched positions and move toward reconciliation? After all that’s our ministry and the servants of God. As Christians cannot Christian children forgive their parents since God has forgiven them? As Christians cannot Christian parents forgive their children because they themselves have been forgiven by their Father? We who have been forgiven much can surely find the grace to forgive little.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life]. But all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ [making us acceptable to Him] and gave us the ministry of reconciliation [so that by our example we might bring others to Him], that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting people’s sins against them [but canceling them]. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation [that is, restoration to favor with God]. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us; we [as Christ’s representatives] plead with you on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God. He made Christ who knew no sin to [judicially] be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God [that is, we would be made acceptable to Him and placed in a right relationship with Him by His gracious lovingkindness].
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
I invite you to join the league of world changers. Oh no, this isn’t some new program or
group. It’s a decision made by individuals. It begins with you and me. Are you willing to forgive those who have wronged you just as God has forgiven you? Are you willing to reconcile your differences with others even if it’s just to agree to disagree? Are you willing to let love conquer hate? Would you be willing to get to know those you are separated from by fear or misunderstanding? Will you take the first step toward reconciliation? As a Christian will you be an ambassador for Christ, spreading His invitation to those away from God to come home?”
There is hope. That hope is in and through Christ as He changes our hearts toward Him and others.
To every son who has been hurt by a father, forgive. To every daughter who has been hurt by a mother, forgive. To all who have experienced wrong and abuse and harm, choose forgiveness over revenge. And just maybe we can turn the tide toward reconciliation and restoration of families, communities, and nations. If we choose forgiveness, we have nothing to lose but bitterness and anger and strife. Who knows we might gain a friend, renew a relationship, restore a love. Our small action might even set off a domino effect and it could even spread beyond us and impact the world around us. Will you be the first?
Dr. John Thompson