Guest Editorial by Rev. Dr. Slewion Lewis
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (II Corinthians 5:18-19)
The Apostle Paul in the above text reminds us that God’s new creation has dawned, and they are part of his handiwork; and as recipients of God’s grace, we all are called to share the good news of God’s reconciliation. Similarly, the Apostle Paul is sharing with us how God has reconciled us to himself through his son, Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry and message of reconciliation. As children of God, we have been reconciled to God through his son and now have the privilege of encouraging others to do the same, because we have been commissioned with the ministry and message of reconciliation. God is the author of reconciliation, and to reconcile is to destroy the barriers, the dividing wall of hostilities between two parties, and anyone who works out reconciliation is a friend of God. Therefore, with the ministry and message of reconciliation entrusted to us, we are now given the task of reconciling others with God and with one another.
As our presidential and legislative elections have come to a peaceful climax, reconciliation now seems to be the key word resonating from these elections, as both winners and losers from the presidential and legislative elections are calling for reconciliation. Indeed, reconciliation is the way forward and must involve all parties and Liberians in order to be realized.
However, for genuine and sincere reconciliation to be achieved, there are certain elements that need to be considered. These elements are very important, and attaining genuine and sincere reconciliation without them may be impossible. These elements are: listening, truth telling, repentance, and forgiveness. We shall look at each of these elements and see how they are important to our quest as Liberians for genuine and sincere reconciliation.
Listening is a very important element in the attainment of authentic reconciliation. Listening in this sense is giving ears and attention to the Holy Spirit and to those seeking reconciliation. This calls for listening to the stories, cries, frustrations, pains, and hurts of everyone concerned. Listening helps resolve conflicts and prevents us from missing very sensitive and important details; and when people are able to deeply listen, the other party is able to feel deeply heard and feels that they are cared about and understood. Remember, allowing those offended to express their hurts and pains does not only heal them but pave the way for true reconciliation. Listening in this context can also involve dialogues, town hall meetings, one on one engagements, and prosecution if necessary.
Truth Telling is another key element to genuine and sincere reconciliation. Having listened to the stories and pains of those seeking reconciliation, especially those offended, establishing the truth is pivotal to the attainment of sincere reconciliation. Truth telling in this sense means telling the truth without fear or favor as to who is wrong or right and identifying the actual problem or root cause(s) to the conflict. While truth telling is a very difficult component to genuine and sincere reconciliation, it is a key antidote to the attainment of undisputed reconciliation.
Having listened and established the truth, repentance is the next step to attaining genuine and sincere reconciliation. Repentance is the way provided for us to become free from our offenses and receive forgiveness. Repentance is more than regret or sorrow. It is to turn around, to change direction, to change the mind and will. Repentance does not occur when a person cries; but when a person changes and accepts full responsibility for his or her actions. Remember, repentance during reconciliation should be done from the heart with sincerity and without shame, couple with one's willingness to say sorry for what one has done; and if necessary or possible, make restitution and or receive punishment.
Finally, genuine and sincere reconciliation can be achieved by the offended party's willingness to forgive the person who caused the hurt or pain. Forgiveness, which is a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has hurt you, regardless of whether they actually deceive your forgiveness, is very important in reconciliation, as there can never be genuine and sincere reconciliation without forgiveness. Forgiveness can induce a shift in mindsets and transform hurtful attitudes. It can build bridges between opposing parties and help repair fractured relationships. Forgiveness can also help break the cycle of violence, build a more common future, and sustain lasting peace. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or excusing the hurt done to you, but releasing that resentment and bitterness.
Hence, as we strive for reconciliation as a nation, especially after our just ended presidential and legislative elections, let us be sincere in listening to the parties involved, speak the truth, be willing to repent and accept responsibility for our actions, and if necessary, be willing to make restitution couple with the willingness to forgive from the bottom of our hearts. May God grant us the grace to achieve total, genuine and sincere reconciliation in our beloved country.