Shane Pruitt: Why Forgiveness and Reconciliation is Not the Same Thing

“Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.” ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Naturally, people don’t like to (and, frankly, don’t want to) forgive. We want to hold on to bitterness because we think, if I forgive the people who have hurt me, then I’m condoning their actions. I’m saying what they did is okay. I have to be close with them again. That is not true at all. God is the judge, and He will judge appropriately. Bitterness, lack of forgiveness, and grudges often harm the one holding on to them the most. However, when we forgive we essentially say, “You can’t destroy me, end me or hinder me any longer, because my God heals. He is better than bitterness.” It also shows the world that we truly understand how much God has forgiven us.

Plus, let’s be honest. Most of our unforgiveness and bitterness stem from some really silly and trivial situations. However, some stories involve true victims. In these types of stories, forgiveness can come only from God because they take a God-sized forgiveness. Although, forgiving someone is the hardest work we can do, we must absolutely do it, because not forgiving makes you toxic. And then you really have very little to offer your family, the world or your neighbors because your bitterness can spread to others, and no one wants it for themselves.

One of the most sobering verses in all of Scripture has to be Matthew 6:14–15, where Jesus said, “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” This is one of those verses that you’ll never see on a Christian T-shirt, coffee mug, or desktop screen saver with roses in the background. The reason this is not a popular verse is that it digs deep into the uncomfortable areas of our lives and deals with some difficult actions on our part. It teaches us that if we’re going to be recipients of God’s grace, then we must give grace to others. Jesus gives the challenge that if we don’t forgive others, it may be proof that we’ve never truly received God’s forgiveness ourselves. Or, in a positively glorious implication, He is teaching us that the most practical way to show the world that we understand forgiveness in our own lives is by showing that we know how to forgive.

It’s very clear in scripture that we are commanded to forgive. However, what about reconciliation? Is it possible to forgive someone, and not reconcile with them? Is it possible to reconcile with someone, without forgiving them? Are forgiveness and reconciliation one in the same? Allow me to give you the short answers to those questions, and then I’ll elaborate a little more. Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing. It is possible to forgive someone, without reconciling with them, however, it is not possible to truly reconcile with someone without truly forgiving them.

Sometimes, the confusion over reconciliation and forgiveness can actually hinder us from forgiving someone. Forgiveness is always a must, and ideally, reconciliation should always be the goal. However, while forgiveness is always plausible, reconciliation is not always possible. Basically, reconciliation should always be the goal in healthy scenarios, but it’s not always going to be a reality because not every situation is healthy.

Let me explain why…

It’s possible to forgive someone without offering immediate reconciliation, because forgiveness is between one person and God. It’s an act of faith, where that particular person is taking their heavy weight of bitterness and placing it at the feet of Jesus trusting Him to be perfect judge over the situation. This act of trusting God can take place in the context of one’s relationship with God apart from any contact with the offender. But, reconciliation is different, because it is focused on restoring broken relationships between two people. It takes two people apologizing, forgiving, compromising and changing. It’s going to take two people trusting in God, and asking Him to restore trust in them for one another. This takes a super-natural work of the Lord, because that trust was completely shattered. And, where trust is broken, restoration will have to be a process —  sometimes, a very lengthy one.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Shane Pruitt

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