Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Irreconcilable Differences

In previous blog posts, I have written extensively on forgiveness and reconciliation.  If you have lived long enough, you know how difficult it can be to forgive others for offenses that have deeply hurt you.  You also know personally that reconciliation is not always possible, even when forgiveness is commanded of us as believers (and best for us).  I have thought a great deal recently about the notion of, "reconciliation," after having trod through a broken friendship myself.  As God desires, we are to seek out the lesson(s) He has for us in the trials we endure.  That is a hard thing to do when you are walking through a painful experience or a difficult time in life.  The last thing you feel like doing at that moment is learning a lesson.  But nonetheless, I have learned some interesting things about forgiveness, reconciliation, and irreconcilable differences over the past couple of years. 

The word, "irreconcilable," has an interesting definition.  The Google definition of it in its noun form is, "Any of two or more ideas, facts, or statements that are incompatible."  In its adjective form it means, "So different from each other that they are incompatible."  Clearly, the word has to do with two opposing opinions, beliefs, or thoughts that are not meshing well.  This got me thinking--when two people disagree about something, and their beliefs about the issue or situation totally clash, does it necessarily mean that one person is right and the other is wrong?  I have come to realize that it does not.  It has become very apparent to me that two people can view something completely differently and both are right.  Therein is where the real problem lies. 

When two people have an "issue," and they cannot see or understand the alternative perspective, this is when the situation becomes, "irreconcilable."  Do not misunderstand me--I do believe there are times when one person is clearly more "right" than the other.  In some areas of, "irreconcilable differences," the issue at hand is blatantly polarizing due to an obvious foul (for example: marital infidelity).  But there are many more times in life, whether it be with our spouse or others, where irreconcilable differences really don't need to be irreconcilable.  People can and should be able to agree to disagree--or at least, see the others viewpoint and be selfless enough to understand it and move past it.  I fully believe that two people can walk through the exact same scenario in life and walk away with a totally different experience or belief from it.  Does that make one of them a liar?  God forbid.  

We are all different creatures and we perceive, feel, and react totally differently than each other on pretty much every level and in pretty much every situation.  We are not cookie-cutter creations from a boring and unoriginal Maker.  God, the Father of the Universe and everything in it, is far from trite.  He blows my mind on a daily basis just by allowing the sun to rise upon us each morning without fail.  You may think I'm being overly dramatic proclaiming that cliche` as if I'm so original.  But I guarantee you if the sun never came up again, you would miss it.  I know I would!  In His genius, creativity, and originality, God made us all quite unique.  I happen to believe that one big reason He did that was so we could learn to appreciate those differences, and so we would sharpen one another and fill-in the weak areas in each other with the strengths we happen to possess.  I also think God made us all so differently so that we would each have distinct passions, abilities, and interests, and by that, the needs of culture and life would be adequately covered. God is a God of order and purpose.  He doesn't make mistakes.

Do not misunderstand me and think I am condoning sin or sinful lifestyles.  I am talking about differences that make us special and unique, not "wrong."  But instead of viewing our differences as good, we tend to be greatly annoyed by them.  I hear it all the time--people complaining about others who are choosing to do something differently than they would.  Or people griping because they don't "get" why someone chooses to live the way they do or why they behave as they do.  I have committed this sin at times myself.  But overall, I try to live by the attitude of, "live and let live."  It isn't my job to play the Holy Spirit in any one's life, and thank goodness because I'm not up for the task (nor am I remotely qualified)!  It would also be piously prideful of me to look down on others due to their personalities or lives when God says He created us all in His image.  Every person I meet each day has been designed by God in His image.  When I insult or smugly look down upon another human being, I am mocking and insulting God.  Every person I meet has been dealt a different hand of cards than I have.  They have had totally different experiences than I have had.  They have completely unique weaknesses, battles, sins and struggles in their life.  When we view others like this and through the lens of God, suddenly we become much less concerned with the differences and much more focused on just loving people. 

But when two people face major differences in certain situations, those differences can be so glaring that reconciliation becomes a pipe-dream.   If those involved totally disagree and cannot even reach a reasonable understanding, and/or when trust, decency, and respect have been revoked, reconciliation is just not possible.  If both parties are actually right in their viewpoints, and their immovable perception of what has happened is their honest, believed perception, it makes reconciliation pretty tough.  It essentially becomes a stand-off.  The only way reconciliation can happen is if at least one person is willing to utterly bend and give to the other by ignoring their own perspective in the issue, perhaps even to the point of self-defamation.  God tested me to see if I was willing to give of myself to that level.  I was.  I did.  I tried.  And guess what:  reconciliation still didn't happen.  Sometimes God tests us to the absolute ultimate level with forgiveness and reconciliation.  But if the other person is not only unwilling to see your side and to attempt understanding it, but they are also unwilling to, "agree to disagree" if they cannot understand, there is nothing you can do.  At least you have the freedom knowing you did all you could do in the matter--and there is great freedom in that.

Why is it so hard for us to be willing to, "agree to disagree" with others?  Why is it so tasking to simply understand that we all see things differently in life?  Instead, we have to be right and we have to win.  We typically seek to cover our own faces, dodge our dealings in the matter, and delve-out blame.  But true reconciliation takes two people.  Otherwise, what you get is an endless game of tug-of-war or you end-up with one person leashed like a dog to the other.  Either way, there's a rope involved--and it isn't good.  Last time I checked, I was not a dog, and I stunk at tug-of-war (wimpy arms).  

We are called to be at peace and in reconciliation with others to the best of our ability.  There are those with whom we are called to make an extra effort in this area--i.e. our spouse, our kids, our families, and fellow believers in Christ.  But sometimes, God says, "Let go and move on."  We are not to be leashing ourselves like dogs to anyone for senseless purposes.  God did not create us to be doormats to everyone for everything.  We cannot be in full reconciliation to those who are not in the body of Christ anyway--there are already huge belief differences present there.  We are called to serve others with purpose and for the ministry of Christ.  But if our humble servitude to someone or the particular relationship in which we find ourselves is no longer falling into healthy realms with meaning, purpose, and encouragement for us, we need to move ahead and move past it.  I was created in the image of a great God.  I am no one's dog.  He is my Father and ultimately the only One to Whom I need to reconcile myself daily, eternally, and at all cost.  He will never falter or fail me.  There will never be irreconcilable differences with Him.  Praise be to God.

Scriptures on this topic:

Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." 

2 Corinthians 5:18, "All this is from God, Who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation."

Romans 5:10, "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life."

Matthew 5:23-24, "So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."

Matthew 18:15-17, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."

Hebrews 12:14, "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord."

1 Corinthians 7:15, "But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace."

Luke 17:3, "Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him." 

Matthew 5:31-32, "“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

Galatians 6:10, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."

1 Peter 4:8, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."