“I have to forgive him, but I don’t have to reconcile with him,” was the statement I heard through the phone line. The caller and I were discussing a situation in her family where a daughter would not speak to her father. The daughter had cause to be upset. Her father had put her and her children in a very dangerous circumstance. However, he had repented, confessed, and attempted to make amends, but she would have none of it. Forgive? Yes. Reconcile? No!
From the time of that conversation I have become aware of several Christian families who are estranged from one another. Daughters won’t speak to their mothers. Sons won’t speak to their fathers. Brothers and sisters carry irreconcilable grievances against one another. Spouses will not step foot in the homes of their in-laws. I have written about family members and former friends that will not speak to me because of my offense in May of 2013. Oh, each one would profess to have forgiven – after all that is commanded by God – but reconciliation is illusive.
In some of my past writings I have struggled with this question of forgiveness and reconciliation. God both forgives and reconciles with the repentant sinner at the same time in the same action, but I will concede that for we humans it is often a two-step procedure. The process of forgiveness is often worked through between the offended and God long before the offender ever asks for it, if they ever do. However, the process of reconciliation requires a whole other level of commitment. It requires intimate, one-on-one interaction. You can forgive from afar. Reconciliation is up close. Personal.
The thing that bothers me the most is that this is occurring between those professing to be followers of Christ. I am not talking about the offenses perpetrated by a sinner upon a saint. Criminal upon Christian. Reprobate upon the righteous. NO! It is saint upon saint. Christian upon Christian. One follower of Jesus upon another follower of Jesus. Is this the way it is supposed to be? In exasperation I asked my wife a few weeks back, “Do you think they will talk to me in heaven?”
So, does the Bible say that we do not have to reconcile with our brother and sister in Christ? You be the judge. (All references are from the New International Version [NIV].)
John 13:34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
Matthew 5:23-24, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
Romans 14:19, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
I Corinthians 3:3, “You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?”
I Corinthians 10:24, “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”
I Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
II Corinthians 2:5-8, “But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree—in order not to say too much—to all of you. Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.”
II Corinthians 5:17-18, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
II Corinthians 7:8-12, “For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the offender nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God.
II Corinthians 13:11, “Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
Galatians 5:14-15, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.”
Galatians 6:1, “If anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”
Galatians 6:10, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”
Ephesians 4:1-3, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Philippians 1:9-10, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.”
Philippians 1:27, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
Philippians 2:14-15, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.”
Philippians 4:5, “Let your gentle spirit be known to all.”
Colossians 1:19-20, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
Colossians 3:12-15, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
Colossians 4:5-6, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
(I stop here because I have not finished my survey of the New Testament as of this writing.)
I want to challenge anyone to produce one verse of scripture – Old Testament or New Testament – that clearly states we need NOT reconcile with our fellow believer.
Oh, Lord, bring peace to your children.
The LORD be with you.