A wife realized how different she and her husband were one day. She says, “I once gave my husband the silent treatment for an entire week, at the end of which he said, ‘Hey, we’re getting along pretty great lately, aren’t we?’” Now that’s some powerful reverse psychology. Grandpa: “When I was your age, I could name all the states and their capitals.” Grandson: “Well, that was easy. There were only 13 states back then.” That was too easy. I want to show you a clip from the movie Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. An asteroid named “Matilda” is on a collision course towards Earth and in three weeks the world will come to an absolute end. What would you do if your life and the world were doomed? One man decides to spend his time searching for his long lost love from high school during the coming catastrophe. On the way he finds his long-estranged dad. It’s important that we learn to get along with others. But no matter how hard we try, we can’t always succeed. We have difficulties. We don’t understand each other perfectly well, and so we misinterpret some word or action. One thing can pile on another. Relationships breakdown into arguments or disconnection. After an argument, we realize so often what a waste that all was. We want to do things better. We need to stay more independent of others. We need to stay more aware of ourselves. But this isn’t easy. When someone gets upset at us, so often we get upset at them. When we get upset at someone else, they get upset at us. Proverbs 27:19 “Just as water reflects the face, so one human heart reflects another.” This is true. It’s true for good and it’s true for bad. It’s true when we keep our composure and peace even when others are raising Cain. If we don’t get caught up and start reflecting the other person’s mood and attitude, then we will have a chance of letting them reflect our mood and attitude. Don’t reflect a storm. Someone else’s heart is theirs. Keep yours in its place and in its peace and you will have the best chance of changing others toward you. Being someone who knows how to keep relationships going well is really important. Having healthy relationships is central to living well and being a part of the body of Christ.
Good people have good relationships. A good person thinks of others, goes the extra mile, is kind to loved ones, can smile easily, and makes the best out of situations. Such a person also has the capacity to reconcile with others. Now, I’m not talking about when someone does us wrong and we are willing to forgive and be reconciled. That’s one thing, and important. Today, we’re talking about when we were the ones who did something wrong and have pushed someone away—when it’s our fault. This is a different issue, and one that might not always come that easily. “But of course I do that,” we think first. And then perhaps some honestly breaks in. When we think about it, we say, “The thing is in my case I don’t have to make amends for something I did wrong because, well, I don’t do much wrong.” Lord, help us, right? Lord help us if everyone is thinking this, and Lord help us if everyone’s going to wait until someone else starts making amends first. As scripture says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people.” So far as it depends on you. Do you have relationships where things aren’t right? It could be in your marriage, with your children, your parents, somebody at church. It could be someone close to you who burned you. It could be a friend who you thought was always going to be your friend, but they aren’t. It’s so easy to see what they did wrong. But we can’t always do it this way. It may be that you’ve let somebody else down and you’re estranged because of what you have done. Today is the time to say, “Lord, help me have the courage to go and seek forgiveness from that person, so that we can be reconciled.” Don’t wait. Decide today to find your path to reconciliation. Now the truth is we’re willing to reconcile after we’ve done wrong as long as it’s more or less on our terms. And we have a couple of terms to our agreement. The first term is we like to do a little blaming first. We’re willing to make amends if the other person acknowledges his or her part in what we did. “I may have said the wrong thing but they shouldn’t have said that first.” If we can extract a little bit from them then we’re willing to give in on our side.
Most people want to reconcile so they’re willing to negotiate some. But we shouldn’t take advantage of others’ good will. Accept your own part without first requiring someone else take on theirs. They can take theirs in their own time. You take care of your business. You see, by doing it this way, you’re not dependent on someone else for your clean conscience. Don’t want to wait to clean up the spill. You just get going, say your peace, do your business, hope for the best, pray for the good, and then you’re set free. The second term we often like to exercise in order to reconcile with someone else is to diminish the other person’s hurt from what we did or said. “Yes, I did something wrong but it wasn’t as bad as you’re making it out to be.” We may try to deny the pain or ignore the split. We may think that time heals all wounds, but it only moves the pain below the surface. Our first term says they also did something wrong. They should acknowledge it before we get on our part. The second terms says they are doing something wrong now. We did something wrong first but they’re now guilty of something. In both cases, we want to take some of their flesh before we give any of ours. That’s not how we should reconcile with someone else. We need to use reverse psychology on ourselves. We need to believe big changes can happen if we do things a better way. We could learn a lot from Jacob, of Esau and Jacob fame. The brothers were born to Isaac, the sons of Abraham. When Isaac is near death, he desires to give to Esau, the older of the two brothers, his blessing. Today, we bless things all the time, and it means approval or acceptance. But in biblical times, a blessing was to grant another a place of honor and status. You’ve heard it said of some people, “Everything he touches turns to gold.” That’s the kind of idea that was built into this the ancient idea of firstborn blessing. It had real power. At the scheming of his mother, Rebekah, Jacob, the younger son, tricks and deceives his father, Isaac, so that the blessing is given to Jacob, whose name by the way means “he deceives.” That’s when Jacob runs away from his dad and his big brother Esau. Esau has something big against Jacob. For years they stay apart. But the day comes when such a thing can’t be continued. Scriptures say, “Jacob went on his way, and God’s angels met him.” After the angels are done, Jacob gets up and sends a message to his brother that he would like to meet. What’s really great about this is this talk
with the angels occurs right after Jacob reconciles with his father-in-law Laban about his two daughters who are Jacob’s two wives. It’s like Jacob wants to get all these people and unreconciled issues settled in his life. He wants to change his life. He wants to have a clear conscience. He wants to make amends, to reset the relationship with Esau. “But how?” “Why would Esau?” “I’m afraid.” “What if things go bad?” That’s why Jacob needs to meet with angels. They help steady his heart and free his mind to take the right path and make the right choice. Don’t stay chained to some past action, some past hurt. Find a way to peace, a path for forgiveness. Unburden yourself. Heal a broken relationship, if it’s at all in your ability. And if it’s not, pray for a broken relationship and the person who is hurting and who has hurt you. It’s not going to work to seek God’s help for something when there are people who need help from us. That’s why in our reading Jesus was very clear when he told us to remember someone who has something against us first before we go to the Lord. “So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Too many people think God doesn’t scrutinize them and what they do wrong and remember the people we have hurt. God loves us but the Lord loves those people too. Jacob knew he had done wrong. Now he knew he had to make it right. He had to take the first step. Esau was on his way. Mathematics teaches us that “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” The shortest distance between two people is a straight line. A straight line like: “I was wrong,” or “I haven’t been honest with you” or “Your actions hurt me,” or “I love you too much to allow our relationship to crumble.” And that’s what Jacob did. He ran a straight line to Esau when he saw him, and hugged him. “Then” the Bible says, “They wept.” Reconciliation requires vulnerability. Jacob sought peace. He desired to put the past behind him. He risked himself for the sake of receiving a new life. He trusted in the angels that spoke to him.
Esau embraced Jacob. And, as they held each other, I’m sure Jacob said, “Please forgive me, brother.” Then, Esau spoke those life-changing words, “I forgive you.” They soon separated with their families, each going on his way. The world had changed for the better because Jacob did the opposite of what most people do. He sought reconciliation and forgiveness. Be willing to put in the effort to change your life. Be willing to expose your heart. Be willing to take the risk. Be first to admit what you did wrong. Don’t wait for someone else. Listen to your hopeful heart. Go to the angels for strength. Do the reverse of what has been done before and follow the Lord’s will for your life. Can the church say Amen?
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