Are they the Same Thing?
Is it possible to forgive someone and to withhold reconciliation? We must learn the differences between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is always required by God, but it does not always lead to reconciliation.
Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Not the Same
Forgiveness is very different from reconciliation. It’s possible to forgive someone without offering immediate reconciliation.
It’s possible for forgiveness to occur in the context of one’s relationship with God apart from contact with her offender. But reconciliation is focused on restoring broken relationships. And where trust is deeply broken, restoration is a process—-sometimes, a lengthy one.
Differing from forgiveness, reconciliation is often conditioned on the attitude and actions of the offender. While its aim is restoration of a broken relationship, those who commit significant and repeated offenses must be willing to recognize that reconciliation is a process. If they’re genuinely repentant, they will recognize and accept that the harm they’ve caused takes time to heal.
In many cases, even if an offender confessed his wrong to the one he hurt and appealed for forgiveness, the offended person could justifiably say, “I forgive you, but it might take some time for me to regain trust and restore our relationship.” The evidence of genuine forgiveness is personal freedom from a vindictive or vengeful response, but not always an automatic restoration of relationship.
Even though God forgives our sins, he does not promise to remove all consequences created by our actions. Yes, being forgiven, restored, and trusted is an amazing experience, but it’s important for those who hurt others to understand that their attitude and actions will affect the process of rebuilding trust. Words alone are often not enough to restore trust. When someone has been significantly hurt and feels hesitant about restoration with their offender, it’s both right and wise to look for changes in the offender before allowing reconciliation to begin. But ultimately it is our choice to forgive or not. The fruit will be produced either way.
Timing of Reconciliation
The process of reconciliation depends on the attitude of the offender and the offended, the depth of the betrayal, and the pattern of offense. When an offended party works toward reconciliation, the first and most important step is the confirmation of genuine repentance on the part of the offender…
Luke 17:3-4 The Message (MSG)
“Be alert. If you see your friend going wrong, correct him. If he responds, forgive him. Even if it’s personal against you and repeated seven times through the day, and seven times he says, ‘I’m sorry, I won’t do it again,’ forgive him.”
This involves trust. Trust that the person is genuine in their remorse, trust that they take responsibility, trust that God’s grace is sufficient when mine isn’t enough in terms of trusting. In any case, we are clearly told that “if we do not forgive, that God cannot forgive us.” This leaves us in a place of holding resentment, bitterness, anger, self justifications and more in me that will work against me. As the saying goes, “not forgiving is life drinking poison, expecting the other person to get sick.”