top of page

Reconciliation Can Start with a Gesture

What is the small gesture or action you could take?

Tom Faletti

February 24, 2024

It is sometimes hard to reconcile with someone who has hurt you, or whom you have hurt.

We may think the gulf lying between us is too great.

We know that the Bible tells us to forgive each other (Eph. 4:32; Matt. 5:23-24; Matt. 6:14-15; Col. 3:13).  In Philippians 4:2, Paul asks the believers in Philippi to help two women leaders in the local church to be reconciled to each other.

But how do we do it?  It can be hard to know how to even take the first step.

Sometimes, it all begins with a gesture of good will.

The Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church have been separated since the 16th century.

Many people of good will on both sides desired at least a thaw in relations, if not a formal reconciliation, but the rift seemed unbridgeable.

After the Roman Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, the Catholic Church embraced a new openness to dialogue.  On March 24, 1966, Pope Paul VI and the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, met in Rome in the basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.  At that meeting, they signed a declaration in which they agreed to pursue a serious dialogue with each other.

Perhaps more significant than the declaration was a gesture that Pope Paul VI made during their meeting.

Here is how Gerald O’Connell of America magazine describes it:

Paul VI took the ring off his finger and placed it on Archbishop Ramsey’s finger. The archbishop burst into tears because he understood that the bishop of Rome was, in a symbolic rather than doctrinal way, recognizing his role as archbishop and inviting a deep relationship toward full visible unity. Ever since, the archbishops of Canterbury have worn that ring when they visit the pope. (A short history of Catholic-Anglican relations—and the last roadblocks to unity)

Pope Paul VI offered Archbishop Ramsey a ring.  And he made it personal by placing the ring on the Archbishop’s finger.

This simple gesture did nothing to break through the doctrinal disagreements between the churches.  But it did everything to start the dialogue.

The lesson is clear for us.  We don’t have to achieve a full reconciliation in one step.  The question is, can we take a first step?

In our normal lives, I can’t imagine a situation where offering a ring would be a helpful gesture.  But each ruptured relationship is unique.  For one, it might be a token or gesture, for another it might be a note or small act of kindness.  But our God is the God of reconciliation, so we can trust him that something can break through the cold silence and start the thawing process.

What is the small gesture or action you could take with someone you are estranged from, to start the process toward a possible reconciliation?

Copyright © 2024, Tom Faletti (Faith Explored, This material may be reproduced in whole or in part without alteration, for nonprofit use, provided such reproductions are not sold and include this copyright notice or a similar acknowledgement that includes a reference to Faith Explored and See for more materials like this.

Please Join the Conversation!

If you are a member and would like to react to or ask a question about any topic here, please post a question in the forum below. You are also encouraged to continue the conversation in any post by posting a response. Join the conversation here:

bottom of page