On my Facebook page, I placed a New Year's challenge. In brief, my challenge was to not post any kind of derogatory comments; nothing that would tout one political party over another, one religion over another, one prejudicial thought against another.

The reason for such a challenge? 2016 was an extremely divisive year in practically every way imaginable. Family members were pitted against each other. Friendships were strained — some nearly irreparably broken.

Such strain was brought about because of half-truths and unverified information during political campaigns, people making derogatory comments about others with whom they disagreed, and the outright rudeness of persons with regard to racial issues.

Humanity was created to live in a good, solid relationship with each other and with God. We have been given the gift of making choices freely for our lives. I am certain God intended for us to use our free choice to choose his ways, to live as he desires, and to love our neighbor.

2016 definitely did not exhibit a great deal of fulfilling this desire.

How about doing your part in mending fences during 2017? How about reaching out to someone you offended to say, "I'm sorry." How about offering forgiveness to someone who offended you — whether they seek your forgiveness or not.

If you offer an olive branch and it is rejected, you have done your part. Then let it go. If it is accepted, you have begun the healing process.

There is great healing power in grace and forgiveness. Let 2017 be the year for reconciliation.

The Rev. Mark Broadhead is pastor at Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Crestview.