Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Been meditating on this thought.
Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation.
When Jesus confronts Peter after the resurrection, He asks him those famous questions, ‘Peter do you love me”. He points out to Peter that when he proudly boasted he would never deny Christ, and then did it three times, his heartfelt devotion was in question.

Jesus points our his sin clearly and confronts him with his own attitude and action.
Now while Jesus could and would forgive him for his sin, true reconciliation would not take place without confrontation. An honest conversation.

Sometimes conflicts are not able to be resolved, reconciliation cannot take place. That does not mean forgiveness cannot take place. We can let go of the pain and the hurt, and release the person from any hold they have on us, or we on them. We can let the bitterness go. We can do that even if they don’t say sorry, and wont deal with the issue. But we cant be reconciled.

10 thoughts on “Forgiveness and Reconciliation”

  1. I read a book recently called ‘Unpacking Forgiveness’ by Chris Brauns and I would definitely recommend it to everyone. I don’t agree that forgiveness can take place without repentance ie. God has opened the way for sinners to be forgiven and in a right relationship with Him through Jesus, but we’re not forgiven until we repent. I hear what you’re saying about bitterness, and the book argues against a false kind of forgiveness it calls ‘therapeutic forgiveness’ which is about the hurt party ‘forgiving’ the perpetrator in their own head to avoid bitterness etc even though the perpetrator has never repented. I think we can have a ‘forgiving spirit’ towards enemies, being ready to grant them forgiveness when they repent, and love them.

  2. Thought provoking thoughts there Sarah.
    Do you think that we know all the sins we have committed? No we don’t.
    Yet when we get to heaven we will be forgiven. But as we relate to Jesus, there is a need for repentance, I agree with you on that.

    Jesus would not have been fully reconciled with Peter on earth, unless they had had an honest conversation.

    What I am saying though…is that it is possible for us to ‘forgive’ someone, even if they have not said sorry, and there is indeed no ‘repentance’ on their part towards us. We can forgive to the extent we ‘let go’ of the hurt. We have to, otherwise that unforgiveness will turn into bitterness, and eat us up inside. In fact it becomes a tool of the Devil.

  3. We can forgive to the extent we ‘let go’ of the hurt. We have to, otherwise that unforgiveness will turn into bitterness, and eat us up inside. In fact it becomes a tool of the Devil.
    I agree with you that we need to somehow let go of the hurt whether those who hurt us have asked for our forgiveness or not. But I don’t think that process is called forgiveness, it’s more about trying to put the injustice in God’s hands and not dwell on it. The book argues that forgiveness occurs between two (or more) parties with repentance, forgiveness, then reconciliation (if possible) – not a kind of process in our heads to stop us being bitter. I think that it is very necessary to avoid being eaten up by bitterness, but it is not called forgiveness.

    1. I do think that is exactly what forgiveness is, not holding the sin against the person. Because we are the one doing the holding if we don’t forgive. And they don’t gave to say sorry for us to forgive them. It is semantics we are talking about but to my mind what you are talking about is reconciliation, of which forgiveness is one part.

  4. No, I’m not talking about reconciliation. I’m talking about loving enemies which is what God commands us to do. Showing love to people who hurt us and never apologise is one way to fight bitterness, but that doesn’t mean we forgive or reconciled to that person. For example, I wrote about one incident I faced here This person never apologised and never took responsibility for their actions. Maybe they never will. Have I forgiven them? No, because they have not repented. As a result there is no reconciliation and the relationship cannot go back to how it was before. BUT that doesn’t mean I am bitter. Yes, I struggled with bitterness for a long time, but now I look at that person and can chat to them without feeling angry. I have a ‘forgiving spirit’ towards them meaning I am standing ready to forgive them should they one day repent. I try to show love to them, even though they are technically my enemy. That is the difference I am meaning. I think therapeutic forgiveness can be really damaging to churches. Too often, myself and others have had well-meaning Christians come up and say, “You need to forgive, you need to be reconciled etc” but they are reluctant to go and tell the person who has sinned that they need to repent. The kind of ‘forgiveness’ they mean is that we need to forgive unrepentant people within ourselves to prevent bitterness festering. In that way, forgiveness becomes about ourselves, when it is meant to be about two parties. It is conditional, not unconditional. It’s not just something I do within myself to make me feel better. There is a justice side to forgiveness too and it should not be cheapened. I think more churches should take Matt 18 seriously and confront serious sin rather than avoid confrontation and then tell the ‘victim’ they need to forgive.
    Anyway, that book explains it better than I do.

  5. and by the way, I totally agree with you about the need for confrontation and setting boundaries. Dont think I dont agree with that, I do. And unfortunately in churches all too often the way we have dealt with conflict is to avoid it.

  6. Yeah no worries. I was going to say next that it appears we don’t agree and should just leave it, and that it’s good that we can disagree graciously. I agree with the main bit in your post about reconciliation not always being possible. I just wanted to try and make sure I was being clear in what I was saying (and not saying). Peace.

  7. Hope you don’t mind me opening this up again but you got me thinking and I hope you don’t mind me putting my 2c in….

    So Sarah, your saying it takes the two parties to agree to forgive for forgiveness to happen?

    I think I am with Ps Mark on this one, the way I personally see it is the way that Jesus has forgiven us of our sins regardless whether we accept to receive it or not. He does not forgive us only if we receive it, it has already happened before we even needed forgiveness.

  8. Hi Jermayn, in response to your question, I believe repentance, forgiveness and then (if possible) reconciliation needs to happen between two or more parties. The party in the wrong apologises/repents, the wronged party forgives (as we have been commanded to by God, and then they try and reconcile if possible.
    I believe Jesus has opened the way to forgiveness and reconciliation between us and God, but we have to accept it. Not everyone is automatically forgiven because of Jesus’ death and reconciliation whether they want to be or not. If they were, why do we bother telling the gospel?
    Anyway, that’s all I have to say on the matter.

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