Reconciliation vs Forgiveness

Discussion in 'Family Forum' started by Wretched Man, Jan 18, 2020.

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  1. Wretched Man

    Wretched Man Puritan Board Freshman

    Is there a difference between reconciliation and forgiveness? Can you forgive someone without reconciling with them? Are we called to forgive someone even if they don’t apologize or ask for forgiveness?

    I recently heard a teaching in which the speaker stated there was a difference between the two - the context being that of marriage in which a spouse demonstrates unrepentant destructive behavior. And I began to wonder if this is Biblically correct. [For the record, I think a wife would be within her rights to separate from her husband in the event of physical abuse or infidelity. But I wonder if she can really forgive her husband while doing so.]

    In particular, I am currently recovering from destructive behavior brought on by a family member of mine (not my wife) who has finally, after months of refusing to admit any fault, offered a weak apology with hardly any acceptance of blame. I responded by telling her I forgive her, but need some time before I am willing to be around her again. Without going into specifics, I laid out various things I expected her to do (none of which I felt were overly excessive) in order to alleviate the concern I have with her inflicting more damage to me or my family; she has not acknowledged any of them and expects things to return to normal. I have subsequently received pressure by others to attend family get-togethers with her - however I don't feel comfortable doing so.

    Am I improperly addressing this situation? Is it possible for me to have truly forgiven her while refusing to reconcile with her? I have gravitated to Titus 3:10, but worry I am taking that out of context, since it seems to deal specifically with those who cause division in the church. Can this be applied to general family relationships?

    I also recall R.C. Sproul once stated (I think I recall him saying this - someone please correct me if I am misrepresenting him) we aren't required to forgive someone if they don't ask for forgiveness. I believe he was preaching on Matthew 18:21-22.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2020
  2. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    We are forbidden from holding a grudge against anyone at any time. However, we are only commanded to restore a relationship back the way it was in cases of repentance.

    Both of these are only possible through the Spirit and prayer.
  3. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Yes, there is a difference. Forgiveness means releasing the debt, no longer holding the harm done against a person. Reconciliation means that the relationship is restored. You could forgive someone who had died; but you couldn't be reconciled to them. Forgiveness is in your power, something that by God's grace you can do; reconciliation takes more than one.
  4. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    Perhaps the distinction here requires considering restoration?

    If asked, we must forgive. However, forgiveness cannot in itself restore all aspects of a relationship. We could forgive someone who committed a violent crime, but that individual would still face criminal charges. We'd be wise to be wary of the attacker until enough time has gone by to demonstrate that person's repentance and for him to restore trust.
  5. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    Luke 17:3: "Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him."

    As with God and man, there is no forgiveness apart from repentance. We should be merciful to someone apart from repentance as God is also merciful to the unrepentant (Luke 6:35-36).

    @py3ak have a helpful distinction between reconciliation and repentance. Perhaps I could also add that repentance proceed from one party as does forgiveness. Reconciliation occurs between two parties who were alienated and are now restored.
  6. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Jean, even if we lessen the offense to, say a breach of trust, reconciliation may not be complete. I have been on both sides of the coin on this issue during my life and have given and received forgiveness. And while many aspects of those relationships have been restored, not all of them have. I'm not saying that's proper but it oftentimes does seem to be the reality.
  7. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    That's kind of my point. We can forgive but aspects of the relationship may not (in some cases cannot) be restored in this life.
  8. Wretched Man

    Wretched Man Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks Tim and everyone else who replied. Luke 17:3 was actually the verse I was considering, which had escaped me when I posted this thread.

    The struggle I have is when Jesus tells us to love our enemies... presumably, most of our enemies would not be repenting - and it’s hard for me to imagine truly loving someone without having forgiven them. Can you or anyone help reconcile those commands?
  9. wcf_linux

    wcf_linux Puritan Board Freshman

    How about an example? A faculty member at grad school (a mainline theological establishment) publicly shredded me for speaking up on the "wrong" side of a "community discussion" at the school. The kind of treatment where you walk away feeling like you'd been strapped to the keel of a ship and sailed across Lake Superior on a stormy day. And the whole thing was done with a false veneer of niceness, which just made it more galling.

    I never saw any indication of remorse. I doubt the faculty member even remembers it happened. (For me it was possibly my most unpleasant experience at the school; for them it was Tuesday.)

    What did/does loving my enemy look like in that case? Not holding a grudge and not needlessly nursing the sense of being wronged, to start. I was extra wary around that person, though thankfully we didn't need to interact often. I still recognized that person's authority as a faculty member, even while keeping clear of their courses (not a problem, given my concentration). I did my best not to grumble or backbite. And I did not let it stop me from speaking up at functions where the school claimed to want people to share their views. Most of all it meant recognizing that the case is before God, who will judge, and that I do not want to stand as the prosecutor in that court.
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Sometimes you must put up boundaries and fences against people.

    And sometimes folks even need to be killed. We have no need to forgive tyrants, for example, but may rejoice at their death. I believe the imprecatory psalms are still for us, today.

    Even God does not forgive everyone, nor is He reconciled to everyone.

    There are bad folks out there and being told we must reconcile is very dangerous.

    Some recent examples in churches suffice: child predators or clergy sex abusers "repenting" in churches and the abused women or children then being told they must reconcile with their abuser lest they hold to the "sin" of unforgiveness.
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