On our first visit, after a few moments, she began to weep. “I’m so sorry.” “Will God ever forgive me?” she asked. For another hour we talked of God’s healing comfort and grace and studied the appropriate Biblical passages. Finally, we said a prayer together with her asking God for forgiveness. All in all, it was exactly what a pastor should do on a visit. I felt satisfied.

On our second visit, after a few moments, she began to weep. “I’m so sorry!” For the next hour, I heard the same sad story of mistakes, misunderstandings and family disagreements. Just like before, her speech was tortured with words of guilt and hurt. “Will God ever forgive me?” she asked. For another hour we talked again of God’s healing comfort and grace and studied the appropriate Biblical passages. Finally, we said a prayer together with her asking God for forgiveness.

On our third visit, after a few moments, she again started to weep and I began to worry. The sad story of mistakes, misunderstandings and family disagreements came as if every word had been carefully memorized. “Will God ever forgive me?” she asked. We said a prayer together with her still passionately asking God for forgiveness. All in all, it was exactly what a pastor should do on a visit. So why was I so confused and concerned?

Jesus spoke often of forgiveness but he also spoke of about reconciliation. He said: “So if you are standing before the altar, offering a sacrifice to God and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” (Matthew 5:23-26)

Reconciliation means to settle an argument or make adjustments in a difficult relationship. You cannot reconcile without getting actively involved and making compromises necessary to resolve a particular situation.

A critical part of reconciliation is a willingness to honestly communicate your feelings but with humility and love. It’s important to set aside your ego and be ready to listen to the other person’s perspective.

Armed with newfound knowledge, I prepared to visit her a fourth time. Again, she began to weep and tell her sad story of mistakes and misunderstandings. This time, I interrupted her and began to talk about God’s gift of healing reconciliation.

Months later, during a family gathering, she was given the opportunity to tell her story. On a later visit, after a few moments, she began to laugh. ”So much has changed!” For the next hour, I heard about family gatherings and exploits of wayward grandchildren. Her speech was more animated and full of life and hope. For another few minutes we talked about community and church concerns. Finally, we said a prayer together.

All in all, it was exactly what a pastor should do on a visit. I felt enormously thankful.