A Bridge Repaired

'.....Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I am no longer worthy to be called your son; ...
(Luke 15 18-19 NIV)

Taking disciplinary action against a colleague is never easy, but the evidence was clear. He had misused his position to benefit himself in a way unworthy of a Christian leader. The son in the parable at least got his share by asking. This man didn't.  He just took it. He was called to give account of himself, but the upshot of the enquiry was to inform him that he would be transferred to a position of much less authority.

That was too much for him to bear and he immediately reacted with unbridled anger and venom. We kept our calm, informing him that we were giving him another chance to prove his worth. 

He took up the new appointment grudgingly, but continued to use any opportunity to vent disagreement and anger. Anonymous letters started to arrive. They were horrid to read, with anything from continuing vitriol to death threats. I suspected the source, but could never prove it. They hurt, but the safest was to disregard them altogether. However eventually I decided to take one of the envelopes and in my best handwriting wrote on it. I placed it under the glass on my desk so that anyone seated on the other side could read the words:'You are forgiven.'  It may not have made much difference to those who read it, but it made a difference to me.

Matters came to a head during an executive conference. Once again he chose to be disruptive and antagonistic. I was in the chair and addressed him calmly.
     'I note what you're saying, but choose not to reply. Please come and see me in my room at 6pm this evening‘.

I had a senior colleague with me. He arrived and immediately knelt before me and, with tears, quoted those words from the parable:
'I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' 

I cannot read that part of the story without remembering that event. 

Next day there was plenty of comment.
    'What happened?' I was asked. 'He's different.'
    'O, you'll need to ask him,' was my reply. 

It was one experience though which I learned the costly love of church discipline, the importance of forgiveness, and the joy of restoration and reconciliation.

January 2016