Why I Shouldn't Be Preaching about Reconciliation But I Did Anyway

January 4, 2024 | Angel Garcia

Should I have called him?

I’ve asked myself this question numerous times, especially right after finding out that my dad had passed away earlier this Spring.

My father and I had a terrible relationship. He struggled with serious mental illness, including an addiction to pills. My father grew up in, arguably, the most dangerous area of Puerto Rico and only began to open up about some of his more traumatic experiences there before he died. Untreated mental illness, addiction, and trauma, all contributed to my father’s inability to consistently love me, my sister, and my mother well. He could be abusive, petulant, and manipulative.

Shortly after becoming a Christian I decided to stop speaking with my father, partly because I couldn’t handle his behavior anymore and partly so I could intentionally begin the process of healing and ultimately forgive my father one day. This process lasted for about five years. It ultimately took a gentle rebuke from my roommate for me to finally get over the hump in reaching out to my father and begin engaging in the process of reconciliation with him.

My hope was to begin conversing with my father via email and then eventually move to speaking on the phone and, lastly, to connecting with him face to face.

Unfortunately, after about 10 years, my father and I never moved past emailing each other until he died. 10 years of emailing back and forth and I never called my father even though he asked me repeatedly. Why?

The biggest reasons for never calling my father were two-fold. First, I was waiting until I felt “comfortable” enough to call him which, in reality, was probably never going to happen given the history of our relationship. Not only that, but I assumed that my father would be around and alive until I got to that point.

Aside from my presumptuousness, the other reason that I never called him was the reality that I didn’t love my father very much. At times, it felt like I didn’t love him at all. Was this partly due to his inability to foster a loving relationship with me while I was growing up? Sure. But I knew better, at least eventually. And I truly believe that I should have just tried to call him, even just once, to see if this could have led to significant healing in our relationship.

Even worse, while we’re still waiting for his autopsy report, my father left my mother an email days before he died that read like a “suicide note”. My father died outside of the US and, to be honest, I don’t have a lot of hope in receiving his autopsy report but I also wonder, selfishly, if it would be for the better. I guess my fear is that the report would confirm that my father intentionally overdosed on pills. And if that’s the case, it would only exacerbate my guilt for not calling him and potentially being available to him the night before he decided to take his life.

Even worse than that, not calling my father denied him the opportunity to hear the Gospel from me in a more conversational manner, and in a way that probably would have been more helpful for him to engage with. As a Christian, I believe that heaven is reserved for those who have received the unconditional love of God, manifested through the death of His Son for us and our sin and, as a result, Christians love Jesus and want to be with him forever. And if I had to bet, I don’t think my father loved Jesus and, therefore, I honestly don’t expect to see him in heaven.

Should I have called him? Yes, if only to articulate the Gospel to him in a different way, especially after trying to share the Gospel with him so many times through email and not feeling like he truly understood, at least intellectually, the Good News of Jesus.

So why did I preach a sermon on reconciliation at our church during Advent? I don’t want people to make the same mistake I did. Time is short, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed... you’ve probably heard this a thousand times before...but do you believe it? I didn’t, at least when it came to trying to do more to reconcile with my father.

The most important reason for me preaching a sermon on reconciliation, even though I’m terribly unqualified to do so, is because of Jesus.

When I consider how unloving it was for me to not at least try to call my father, even once, and perhaps be available to him if he was truly struggling with suicidal thoughts the night before he died, I’m reminded that Jesus knew this would happen and yet, He loved me enough to die for me.

My hope with my sermon was to show that we should try to reconcile (if possible) and forgive others not only because God commands us to and He knows that it’s good for our psychological well-being (the research on forgiveness is pretty clear on this) but because of His Son Jesus. Jesus was born as a human and His life, as depicted in the Gospels, shows us someone who loved humanity and God perfectly. And yet, Jesus chose to allow Himself to take on our sinful nature, that part of ourselves that fails to reconcile with and love others, even our parents, and ultimately experienced what we deserve: an unreconciled relationship with God.

God’s desire to be reconciled to us in this radical way gives me hope that perhaps, before he died, that God made known His reconciling love through His Son, to my father. And it also gives me hope that I can love better and strive to be a better reconciler with those God calls to me love.

Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ... So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
(2 Corinthians 17-18, 20)



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