Often we hear, “The true test of forgiveness is reconciliation.” I taught it and tried to live it, though in some instances I battled to do it. I wondered why it was so difficult, was it because I could not face that person, or was I a coward? The answer came long after that…
Reconciliation means “100 % restoration to harmony”; “to bring together again.”
Some differences may never be resolved, but you can still be reconciled to those with whom you differ. At other times, resolution may be possible, but reconciliation may be not. God requires only that, as far as it is possible, you seek to be at peace with everyone. 2 Corinthians 13:11 “Aim for perfection … be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”
“After we forgive someone, must we also try to be reconciled?”
The answer to this question is sometimes yes and sometimes no. Most of the time God’s desire for us is reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18 says, “God … reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” However, sometimes to encourage the restoration of a relationship is not wise. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.”
Is Forgiveness the Same as Reconciliation?
No. Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness focuses on the offense, whereas reconciliation focuses on the relationship with the offender. Forgiveness requires no relationship, while reconciliation requires nurturing a relationship – a time of coming together in which two people, in agreement, are walking together toward the same goal. “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (Amos 3:3)
It takes two for reconciliation, only one for forgiveness. Forgiveness is one-way directed, whilst reconciliation is two-way directed (reciprocal). Forgiveness is the decision to release the offender, and reconciliation is an effort to rejoin the offender. Forgiveness involves the change in thinking about the offender and reconciliation involves a change in behaviour by the offender. Forgiveness is the free gift to the one who has broken trust, reconciliation is a restored relationship based on restored trust. Forgiveness is extended even if it is never earned, reconciliation is offered to the offender because it has been earned. Forgiveness is unconditional, regardless of a lack of repentance, though reconciliation is conditional based on repentance.
Reconciliation may not always be the desired goal or even a wise choice. You may not choose to reconcile with those who:
- Have no clear understanding of the offense;
- Have taken no responsibility for the offense;
- Show no genuine empathy for the wounded person;
- Have neither communicated nor shown remorse for the offense;
- Have not entered into an agreement to cease and desist the offense;
- Have not entered into an agreement or plan to prevent recurrence in the future;
- Have not entered into an agreement to be accountable for their behaviour to a third party.
It is the better part of wisdom to, indeed, forgive those who injure you, but then resolutely set new safe boundaries for those who refuse to take responsibility for their offensive behaviour.