Thursday, May 11, 2017

Do I Have to Reconcile with Someone When I Forgive Them?

"Accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive."
-Colossians 3:13

When God forgives a sinner like us, God makes a commitment to pardon graciously those who repent and believe so that they are reconciled to Him, although this commitment does not eliminate all consequences. His forgiveness is gracious and freely given. It is not free regarding the cost to God; God sent his one and only Son to pay the price for forgiveness.

While God’s forgiveness is given only to those who repent, God’s forgiveness lays the groundwork for and begins the process of reconciliation. When God forgives us, our relationship with Him is restored. One cannot receive forgiveness from God without being reconciled to God.

In a similar way, to guard the unity of the church, believers in the local body must continually be confronting and confessing sin.  Some passages in the Bible seem to indicate that you can just simply forgive someone without ever speaking to them about the matter (Mark 11:25); however, some passages seem to suggest that there can only be forgiveness when the offender asks to be forgiven (Luke 17:3-4).

To make sense of this tension, I would argue there is a difference between the attitude of forgiveness and the transaction of forgiveness.  Just like in the gospel, we must be ready to extend forgiveness at any time! Perhaps the hardest work of the two is preparing our hearts to forgive.  Christians must draw on the forgiveness given by Christ to forgive others.  A heart that has an attitude of forgiveness will do everything it can to help the offender to repent, and a forgiving heart will always be ready and quick to reconcile (Psalm 86:5). Conflict is not an issue of "speaking your mind" it's an opportunity of repairing the fractured relationship and growing closer to another.  The transaction of forgiveness takes place following the exposure of the sin.  After the one whom we have confronted has repented, we must forgive them and remember the promises of forgiveness we are making:

a.  I will not bring this matter up to you (the offender) again in a hurtful way in the future

b.  I will not bring this matter up to others

c.  I will not choose to dwell on it myself (to rehearse it and nurse it)

d. I will seek to be fully reconciled with the estranged party.

Biblically, forgiveness is much more than a feeling it is a commitment to pardon the offender. Forgiveness requires a heart focused on loving God and God’s glory, motivated by love for neighbor, and the courage to have tough conversations. Forgiveness also gives us joy. It takes two people to create offense, and it takes two people to have forgiveness.

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