Penance or Reconciliation?

The reality of our relationships is that they are going to involve hurts. Dealing with these hurts is as much a matter of identity as the actions that caused the problem in the first place.

It is a legacy of the image of God within us that causes us to desire peace and the mending of relationship. Fractures in relationships are part of the Fall. Yet, as broken image bearers, how we restore relationship is about identity.

When you are wronged, do you seek penance or reconciliation?

Penance is about the old nature – the false self. Through the hurt or wrong, something has been lost and it is up to the perpetrator to restore the value. So action is expected. Enough penance needs to be made (and probably a little more) to restore the value of self that was perceived to be lost.

Penance is about control. And pride. It is a standard of rightness determined by the one who has been wronged.

Reconciliation is entirely another thing. The process of reconciliation begins with the acceptance that both the perpetrator of the wrong and the recipient are broken. It is also open to the reality that love often has to absorb hurt.

In reconciliation there can be mourning for what it lost, but an awareness that beyond the grief there can be newness and blessing.

That is the reality of the cross. We would rather God demand penance of us. Then we are in control of the salvation process. It also makes it easier to demand a penance from others.

Yet, through the cross, Jesus demonstrated reconciliation. Absorbing the hurt of sin, taking it upon himself, so that our relationship with the God we rejected could be mended. It is also the ministry – reconciliation – that becoming part of his body transfers to us.

Reconciliation requires a source of value outside of our self. It is otherwise impossible to absorb the hurts of relationship and respond with forgiveness. For there is a truth underlying penance, our value cannot be diminished.

But we should not strap that burden on a broken person who will crumble under the weight of our identity needs.

With our identity centered in Christ, our value is secure and cannot be taken by any amount of relational wrongs.

This is not an easy thing to live out, but remaining grafted to the vine is our worthy pursuit.

When you are wronged, do you seek penance from the other or reconciliation in Christ?

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