18 March 2011

Question of the Week:
What is Biblical Reconciliation?

by Anne Lang Bundy

Sculpted by Josefina de Vasconcellos
(image source: trinityfellowship.net)

What is the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation, (in the sense of being available for further abuse)?
~ Anonymous

Last week's post provided some contrasts from the Bible about forgiveness, separation and accountability. This week offers some examples of how enmity, forgiveness and reconciliation might play out.

Three important notes in preface:

• if a Christian experiences enmity, relationship with Christ will bring the desire to eliminate it;

• the below examples of forgiveness and reconciliation are biblical ideals toward which God's Holy Spirit enables us to work, whether or not we reach them;

• the person who has been wronged should not only be ready to forgive and reconcile, but also ask God if there is anything for which he or she should repent and ask forgiveness.

"Love your enemies,
bless those who curse you,
do good to those who hate you,
and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
that you may be sons of your Father in heaven;
for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good,
and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?
Do not even the [heathen] do the same?"
~ Jesus (Matthew 5:44-46)


You hurt me and I hope you suffer for it.

I want to hurt you back, whether I do it openly or secretly, with or without restraint.

I want you out of my life. Your death wouldn't bother me. Killing you myself isn't out of the question.


If I hate you, it will hurt me more than it will hurt you, so I release my enmity. God's forgiveness and love enable me to forgive and love you, and I choose to do so.

I am willing to hold you accountable for your wrongdoing with the hope that your repentance will enable full reconciliation between you and God, between you and me.

I ask God to do good things for you. I seek opportunity to be an agent of His blessing. I wait for God to heal the injury you have done to me. I hope God will move you to become an agent of that healing by your right response to Him, expressed to me.


Whether you and I associate peaceably or have no contact, your lack of repentance has prevented reconciliation between us. But my forgiveness prevents enmity toward you—even if circumstances prevent me from escaping further injury. Though I desire reconciliation with you, I instead reconcile myself to knowing I have done as much as I can. I am at peace.

You have repented—you have acknowledged your wrong against me, you have expressed remorse and apology, and you may have reconciled yourself to God through Jesus. Forgiveness and repentance enables you and I to experience reconciliation. But until your cooperation with God enables you to overcome the behavior which led you to hurt me, we cannot share the level of relationship I still hope for, which I pray God brings to pass. I am at peace.

Your thorough repentance and my thorough forgiveness have enabled our reconciliation to God and to each other. We are brother(s) and sister(s) through Jesus Christ and are free to enjoy that relationship in love. I am at peace.

Now all things are of God,
who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ,
and has given us the ministry of reconciliation ...
and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
~ 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (NKJV)
Photo credit: Ed Gardener, Flickr.com

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What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below (anonymous questions welcome), or email buildingHisbody [plus] @ gmail.com.

© 2011 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.


  1. Anne - I think you are correct that God wants and puts on our hearts to reconcile, not only to forgive. Anger and a sense of injustice are not the only obstacles. Forgiveness can be very effective in dealing with both. Fear of the other person and a lack of trust take more time to resolve, even when the offending person is cooperative.

    Thank you so much for your thoughts on this topic.

  2. Rusty ~

    I agree that trust is vital to relationship. Where sin has occurred, it is more work—more difficult—to rebuild trust than it was to initially establish it.

    I will allow that my viewpoint may be missing something, but I do not see anywhere in the Bible which shows relationship (reconciliation) can go any deeper than repentance after sin has occurred, whether between two people, or between a person and God. The need for repentance to be expressed, demonstrated, and consistently (not flawlessly) lived out is so fundamental to reconciliation that the Bible speaks of it as necessary to salvation. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

    As I said in the preface, the above examples are biblical ideals toward which the Holy Spirit patiently leads us. Attaining them is a rarity, but miracles are also made more possible as our faith increases.

  3. Your viewpoint seems on target from my standpoint. Wounds can be so multilayered, redirected, or misinterpreted, that we sometimes do not know what we are forgiving or repenting for.

    When I work with couples, family members, etc., and counseling seems bogged down or there is limited, unsatisfactory progress, there is practically always an issue not being talked about, or there is a hidden issue. This has been very true in my own relationships.

    Scripture teaches that we are to forgive and even bless those who hurt us, even when there is a lack of repentance from the other person. But, it hurts so much when there is not reconciliation.

  4. Though my formal training in counseling has been brief, my counseling experience lines up with your analysis. I believe accurate triage and diagnosis for wounds is critical. Where an offense is not sin, neither forgiveness nor repentance should be asked. Forgiveness cleanses the soul of what it knows to be sin, not the unknown or the un-sinful. And I don't see how repentance can occur at all if sin is not adequately identified.

    • If bothersome behavior is not sinful, recognizing that fact helps a person overlook it.

    • I once counseled someone struggling with unresolved anger and finally understood that the offender's partial disclosure of sin hindered the victim ability to forgive the unknown.

    • Admission to being a sinner with an underlying attitude that it is "only human" is meaningless. You can't repent of generic sin or being human. Repentance is a response to the guilt for a specific sin—lying, sexual offenses, spouse- or self- abuse.

    My perspective of counseling is that discussion of immediate issues is helpful to develop rapport, establish facts, and analyze what root issues are causing true problems. But if either side resists disclosure of hidden issues, the forgiveness and repentance which leads to reconciliation and relationship will not occur.

    We ultimately want healing. I see that occur in the same measure as forgiveness and repentance do. The Lord can be trusted to bring healing through the victim's forgiveness, whether or not the offender furthers healing with repentance.

    Where all other efforts seem to fail, prayer is known to work miracles. Doug Spurling says that a prayer of faith offered in love is the most powerful force on earth. That's not Scripture, but it is Truth.