This is an attempt to help explain the “hows” of the twin ideas of forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s based on several biblical passages about forgiveness and reconciliation.
There’s a great book on marriage called, Your Family God’s Way by Dr. Wayne Mack. In that book, there is a story of a couple named Ken and Dorothy. When Ken and Dorothy were in their late 20s they went to the mission field and served the Lord in a primitive culture doing pioneer work. When they arrived, they worked with a veteran missionary couple who also mentored them. At first, Ken and Dorothy were delighted to be doing the work they had trained for and their hearts hungered for. But the new culture brought new responsibilities.
Soon, old forms of conflict crept back into their home. Ken would raise his voice and become verbally aggressive. He would get use strong-arm tactics to get his wife and children to obey him. Sometimes Dorothy would dissolve in the tears. Often, she would simply give in for the sake of peace. The frequency and intensity of these conflicts escalated and the other missionaries saw that this family needed help and so they were sent back to the states and began meeting with Wayne Mack for marriage counseling.
Why be gentle? Why forgive? How does my identity in Christ affect my relationship with others? Dr. Mack put them on a regiment focusing on who they were in Christ and how to live out the principles of peacemaking. They studied passages about having gentle words and forgiving hearts but they didn’t stop there. They also looked at the “Whys?” Why be gentle? Why forgive? How does my identity in Christ affect my relationship with others? During those counseling sessions, they meditated on the reality of the Gospel and learned how to let Christ’s indwelling power retrain their old, fleshly ways and bring in new, Christ-filled ways. In other words, they learned how to forgive, how to reconcile and how to walk consistently with the Lord that they might faithfully demonstrate the reality of Christ in their life.
Eventually Ken and Dorothy went back to the mission field to enjoy a fruitful and peaceful ministry. They needed to learn the principles that make for peace And join that with the principles of defeating their flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit So they might walk with God and walk with one another.
This is an attempt to help explain the “hows” of the twin ideas of forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s based on several biblical passages about forgiveness and reconciliation. The first is Philippians 4:1-4. Here’s what Paul had to say to the Philippian church about two women who could not agree:
Philippians 4:1–3 “Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. 2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. 3 Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”
Now, we don’t know exactly who Euodia and Syntyche were; however the fact that they made it to this letter demonstrates that they were two important women in the Philippian church. Likewise, we don’t know what the disagreement was over, but we know that it was significant enough that the church asked Paul for help. So as we work through this passage, we’ll see how it relates to handling conflict in our lives.
This opened with an example of conflict within a marriage. The fact is, conflict comes to just about every marriage. I’ve had conflict in my marriage and more than likely, you’ve had conflict in yours. Now, it’s not hard to figure out why this happen. Marriage involves two people and each person comes with a different background, a different set of expectations, a different set of strengths and weaknesses. Likewise, most marriages contain two sinners! I say “most” to be silly. The fact is, all people are sinners and the fact that marriage is made of two people means that it’s made of two sinners. A marriage is the union of two completely different people, who are imperfect, and therefore problems are bound to occur. The challenge for godly people is not to pretend problems don’t exist, it’s to learn how to handle them in a way that honors Christ.
Christ tells us in Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” The people of God learn to make peace because we serve the Prince of Peace in a Kingdom of Peace and we are filled with the Spirit of Peace. The problem is, most of us have not been taught the way of peace. Most of us have learned the way of the world and when we live by the world’s ways, we are “Peace Breakers” rather than “Peace Makers”.
I’d like to draw your attention to the diagram on this page from Ken Sande’s book, The Peacemaker. This diagram has 12 categories of responses. The middle section are the peacemaking responses. These are the Christ-like responses. On either side are the responses that break peace: the Attack and Escape responses.
Attack responses hurt people with our words or actions. We might attack them with a direct verbal assault or we might attack them with behind the scenes gossip or murmuring.
The other side of the spectrum are Escape responses. Escape responses hurt people by denying them the opportunity to reconcile. We escape and never tell them about the anger boiling in our heart. We escape and never let them know that there is a problem We just leave emotionally or physically and we break peace as we pull away. Needless to say, these are the wrong ways to handle conflict. Even though we know they are wrong, most of us had had times when we’ve used these responses in conflict. Again, the goal is to not have these kinds of responses, and part of growing in Christ is recognizing when we engage in “attack” or “escape” responses and repent of them. The rest of this booklet will try to unpack how to do this.
RECONCILIATION OFTEN MEANS LETTTING Things Go
One of the first keys to reconciliation is to learn how to “let things go”. On the diagram, this is the “Overlook” section. Overlooking conflict means to simply “let it go”. Most conflict begins small and can be easily overlooked. People either resolve the problem or ignore the problem and the conflict stays small. But sometimes the two people involved won’t back down and tensions leap from one escalator to the next and small problems get out of hand. The most ridiculous example of this I came across is a true story about a five-dollar bar tab that escalated into $165,000 fine because two people could not handle conflict.
The story began on the night of February 29th, 1980. Dennis O'Brien was a pharmacology student at the University of Virginia. On the night of February 29th, he walked into a restaurant on the edge of town called The Mousetrap. O'Brien was looking for his friends. He found them, spoke for a few minutes and headed towards the door to leave. He was stopped on the way by a cashier. The cashier asked for his “red” tab. Turns out, when each customer came into The Mousetrap, they were given a red tab to keep track of their food and drinks. Since was only there a few minutes, O’Brien didn’t have any food or drinks. He looked into his pockets but couldn’t find the red tab. The restaurant had a policy for situations like this: anyone who lost their tab had to pay $5. This is a well-known policy and very annoying to the students. So, O’Brien refused to pay. The Mousetrap staff demanded he pay $5. He yelled back that paying anything would violate his rights because he had not eaten or drunk anything. He yelled louder and louder. Eventually the police were called in and he was dragged to the town jail.
O’Brien was not booked and he was allowed to go home. The matter could have ended there. O’Brien was ticked about the humiliation. So, he demanded that the Mousetrap issue a public apology. The restaurant did not comply. Instead they sent him a letter saying: "You would be very foolish to get a lawyer who is merely good. You had better get a superb lawyer if you are to avoid serious liability and expense to yourself."
This made O'Brien even more angry so he did hire a lawyer. He sued the restaurant for false imprisonment, abuse of process and defamation. He also posted signs around the campus inviting anyone who had had "a hassle with the Mousetrap over their red-ticket policy" to call him. Many people did call him. He also called newspapers to explain his complaint and many people sided with him.
Eventually, the lawsuit was dismissed. The Mousetrap won the case but they weren’t finished. They believed the negative publicity from O'Brien's protests drove them out of business. So they sued O’Brien. However, when the lawsuit began, the court count not find him and he was sued in absentia. The Mousetrap won $60,000 in damages. When O’Brien heard about the lawsuit, he wouldn’t pay. Instead, he flew to New Zealand. He worked there as a lecturer on Pharmacology.
Life seemed to quiet down until October 1991 when a court officer appeared on O'Brien's doorstep with papers saying that O'Brien owed the $60,000 judgment; plus interest. The fee was now: $165,000. The lawsuit came back to the states and this time O’Brien won because the case was dismissed on a technicality.
Finally, the issued seemed done; but not for O’Brien. In 1996—16 years later—he sued the lawyer for defamation. This time, the courts were sick of having their time wasted. Not only did O’Brien lose, he was fined $6,000 for a frivolous lawsuit. The judge said, “In all my experience as a judge and as an attorney, I have never seen a case where there was less foundation on the issues. In my view, the only reason (O'Brien) is in court with Mr. Lowe is because he doesn't like Mr. Lowe and he wants revenge.”
So, a $5 bar tab escalated into all that heartache. O’Brien’s inability to handle anger led him to a 16-year feud. That night, he could have paid the tab. He could have kept his cool and not been so obnoxious the police were called. He could have overlooked the matter. He didn’t have to demand a public apology. He didn’t have to post signs around town. From the very start he could have overlooked the offense. But he didn’t. Instead, he reacted out of anger and it lit a fuse that began a 16-year feud that started and ended with him looking like a fool.
The point is, nearly all so called “offenses” can be remedied by overlooking the matter. To overlook a matter is to deliberately not take offense. It’s simply having a heart to let this one go. Maybe they left the fridge door open. We let it go and don’t shout. Maybe they asked us a question that seemed more like an accusation. We overlook the offense and simply answer what they’ve asked. We could go on, but everyone has to learn the skill of overlooking an offense.
This principle is even more critical when no offense was intended. I find that few people are actually seeking to harm others. I find that in the course of daily life, nearly all “offenses” are due to personality habits that produce actions that negatively affect the other person. Just going through the course of each day exposes us to countless opportunities for people to inconvenience or disappoint us. During these situations, our challenge is to respond with humility rather than pride. It’s to recognize that it’s more important to maintain peace than to win the argument. Hence Proverbs 17:14 says, “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.”
Now, this is a great principle for harmonious relationships, but what if we are not able to overlook the offense? What if bitterness has taken root in our heart? What if a true wrong has been committed? How do we handle it then? “Peace Fakers” will ignore the problem and hope it goes away. “Peace Breakers” will slip into the “attack” or “escape” responses on the diagram. Peacemakers start by overlooking a transgression and when they can’t overlook it, they move on to the Second Step of the peacemaking Process: they “Go” to the person to be reconciled.
Reconciliation Means Going “Ready” to Reconcile
When there is conflict, Peacemakers take the initiative to reconcile. They don’t wait for the other person to come to them. They don’t let their problems sit and fester. They take it upon themselves to reconcile.
As we enter into this topic, we need to clear up a common source of confusion. People often confuse forgiveness with reconciliation. If we are to be able to reconcile, we need to understand the difference between these two principles.
The English word “Reconcile” comes from the idea of being “re-concealed” Concile is from the Latin word “conciliare” or “concilium” which means to “be together with someone.” It’s the idea of two people walking along the same path. If you’ve ever gone on a hike with someone, you know what it’s like to walk along together. You’re both headed on the same path, going in the same direction. Likewise, when two people are in a state of “conciliation”, they are on the same path; they have the same purpose for the relationship, they are going in the same destination and will take the same route to get there. Relationships have this sense of “conciliation”. Both people agree to the terms of the relationship. They agree with where it is going and how they will get there.
Now, I find that in life, most relationships start off from this natural place of “conciliation” because most people enter most relationships with a sense of goodwill; this hold true whether we’re meeting someone for the first time in school, at church, at the grocery store, etc. We generally understand the terms of the relationship and the socially acceptable “rules” that we’ll follow.
But even the best relationships have points of disagreement. When both people disagree in a manner that fits their understanding of how to disagree, they’ll work through the challenge well. But sometimes, when an dispute arises; one or both people will use tactics that bothers the other person. They may be offended by the tone; hurt by the words; indignant over the accusation. And thus, the argument escalates into something more serious.
When this happens, both people need to work that much hard to re-concile—to come back to the place of agreement about the path for the relationship. Thus, reconciliation is about returning back to a relationship of harmony. Initially, both people were “conciled”; but something damaged that relationship and now they need to be reconciled. They need to reestablish and re-agree on the common path forward.
When I counsel couples, I often ask them to list what they believe a relationship should be like. Often, they will agree in principle: There should be love and respect. There should be patience and understanding. There shouldn’t be ridicule. There shouldn’t be deception.
Although they will both agree on a path, the relationship looks very different; and that’s why they’re meeting with me. My goal is to help them find the same path and learn how to walk that path with peace and harmony. Along the way, this will often include teaching on how to walk with the Holy Spirit, the biblical principles for marriage, how to extend grace and forgiveness and restore trust. Every relationship violates these principles; how we handle them has a huge impact on the ability to reconcile. Once again, to “reconcile” means to be on the same path that both people want and agree on. It’s a path of peace and harmony.
Going to our text in Philippians 4; this is the path that Paul urges Euodia and Syntyche to find in verse 2. In verse 2 Paul says, “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.” The Greek behind Paul’s phrase “to live in harmony” is more literally: “to think the same thing”. Thus, for them to “think the same thing” will require that they sit down with each other, talk with each other, listen to what the other person thinks and work through the issues. Reconciliation begins with a mindset that is “other” focused as we seek to understand the other person’s perspective and seek to find common ground and a path going forward that both people can agree upon.
Peter gives a similar principle for married couples in 1st Peter 3:7 when he says, “Husbands in the same way, live with your wives and an understanding way.” Husbands are called to know and understand their wives and just like Euodia and Syntyche. Again, this is best accomplished simply by sitting down and listening to each other. This means hearing them out; understanding them; looking for ground to agree upon.
Notice that in Philippians 4:2, Paul doesn’t lay this responsibility on just one person. He says it to both Euodia and Syntyche. It’s for both people. Paul urges both women to get together and be of the same mind. They couldn’t just sit back and wait for the other person to come to them, it was their responsibility to go. That’s because reconciliation is a two-way street. Reconciliation takes both people being willing to be “reconciled” to each other.
Thus, Paul challenged both Euodia and Syntyche to do their part in the reconciliation process. They each had a role. They each needed engage and go and reconcile. Neither woman had the freedom to thwart the work of God to bring them back together and neither woman could stiff-arm the process of reconciliation.
Perhaps part of the problem was that one or both women gave up on trying to reconcile. This is common but tragic. Someone will be offended and not be willing to meet. They might say they are willing but they avoid the person at all costs. They avoid them at church. They avoid them at events. They’ll throw up so many preconditions of things that must happen before they will meet that it’s impossible to get together. This is not the heart of God’s people. God’s people have fellowship with the God of peace and therefore they want peace with their fellow citizens.
Several passages call us to go and be reconciled to our brothers and sisters in the Lord. For instance, Matthew 5:23–24 says, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
I find this is one of the most frightening verses in Scripture. Jesus’ point is clear: if we are not reconciled with our brother or sister in Christ, then essentially our worship is invalid. John builds on this principle in 1st John 4:20 when he says, “If someone says, “I love God” and hates his brother, he is a liar, for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” Worship is the overflow of our relationship with God, but 1st John 4:20 says we can’t love and worship God if in our heart, we hate a brother.
Back in Matthew 5:23, when Jesus said, if you “remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother…” He is calling us to go to that person with a heart that is ready to reconcile. Often, this will mean being willing to sit down with our spouse and find the same path we can agree on. It may mean we are willing to sit down with that person at church and find the path that we agree upon. It may mean we are being willing to take the first step and “Go and be reconciled”.
Christian should always have the attitude of being ready to reconcile. Ephesians 4:26 says, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” I usually think of this verse in terms of husband and wife. When I was in Bible college, one of my professors admonished us to never go to bed angry with our wives. Corinne and I have lived by that rule, and it’s made for some very late nights. But it has forced us to learn how to reconcile and learn how to forgive. Yet, this principle really speaks to all relationships. For a coworker that may mean a quick apology before the day is over. For a church member, it might mean a short conversation in the parking lot before going home. For a husband and wife, it might mean apologizing while you’re doing dishes together or a conversation before you fall asleep.
This often requires tremendous effort on our part. Effort that is not fun or easy. Effort that requires personal sacrifice and for us to overcome our own character challenges. When Jesus says “Go” It’s in the present tense. The present tense implies that right now we need to take immediate action. The present tense also implies repeated attempts to reconcile. I find one of the most common “Peace Breaking” techniques are for a person to try get together just “once” and then give up. Sometimes they’ll make just one phone call, or send one email. And when the person doesn’t respond right away, they will wipe their hands of responsibility. Another “trick” of peace breaking is to actually meet, but if it doesn’t go well that other person will forever say: “I tried to talk to him but he won’t listen.”
Sometimes spouses will use this against each other. One spouse will go out on a limb and try something that is dear and personal to them. However, the other person won’t receive it or understand or even seem to listen. The rebuffed spouse will be crushed; and they’ll go into their shell and not peek out. Although their pain is understandable, that response doesn’t fit what Jesus says when He says “Go” in the present tense with repeated action. We have to be persistent in our attempts to reconcile.
There was a time when, as a pastor, our church had broken fellowship with a person. We sought to reconcile with them but they refused to meet. They refused to answer emails. We even sent them a registered letter which was returned to us unopened. In a very literal sense we had tried everything we could to reconcile. So when that registered letter came back refused, we stopped. However, we still had a heart to reconcile. Many years later that person’s heart changed. Circumstances changed. They were finally willing to sit and talk; and so I sat with them for hours working through a problem that seemed like ancient history; and yet it was necessary for true reconciliation. It wasn’t an easy conversation and it wasn’t a joyful reconciliation. But we had brokered the terms of peace and a path we all agreed upon. I think God was glorified by our actions and attitude throughout the process because we sought to demonstrate His heart to reconcile.
This last story is an example of how the principle of reconciliation does not always mean the relationship can go back to what it once was. Reconciliation does not automatically mean restoration. Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” If possible, as far as it depends on us, we should be at peace with all people. There should be a path that we agree upon. But sometimes we cannot return to that former level of intimacy or friendship; and that’s where our next point is important to understand.
Reconciliation Requires Forgiveness
Sometimes people say they want reconciliation but they are really pretending. They don’t want reconciliation because they have not forgiven the person. Thus, even if they agree to meet, it’s not to find reconciliation but to give a piece of their mind. These kinds of meetings focus on running through all the evils they’ve received. They want to defend why they were in the right, and the other person was in the wrong. That’s not the way of peacemaking. Peacemakers don’t accuse and defend because they are seeking to reconcile and forgive. So far, we’ve established that reconciliation means being on the same path. Now let us talk about what it means to forgive.
One of the most helpful passages on forgiveness is from Matthew chapter 18:21-35 which shows us the incredible forgiveness we have received from God and how we should extend that same kind of forgiveness to others. Matthew 18:21-35 says:
“Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Jesus has just taught the disciples in verse 15 about going to a brother that has sinned against us and here in verse 21, Peter asks Jesus to elaborate on the topic of forgiveness. And so, Jesus gives a parable in verse 23, He says 23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 “When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 “But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 “So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ 27 “And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. 28 “But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29 “So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ 30 “But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31 “So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32 “Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34 “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
In this parable, Jesus makes that the correlation between forgiveness and debt. The main slave owes the king an incredible debt. Verse 24 says that debt is 10,000 talents. In the ancient days, 10,000 talents were over 10 years’ worth of taxes collected from that entire region. That’s a serious debt. In modern days, it’s a staggering sum. A talent weighed 75.6 pounds. The slave owed 10,000 of those. So, quick math says that 75.6 X 10,000 equals 756,000 pounds of gold. That’s over 12,096,000 ounces of gold! Gold was selling for $1174 per ounce when I wrote this article. So, in today’s terms, that slave owed the king over $14,200,704,000. That’s a serious debt!
The point Jesus was making was the slave owed the king a sum so vast that no one person would be able to pay it back. It’s a picture of our own debt to God and the King is the picture of God’s response to our debt. And so, in verse 27 it says the King “felt compassion and released [the slave] and forgave him.” That’s the heart of God towards sinners. God doesn’t hate sinners, He has compassion for them. The word “compassion” means to experience deep love and affection for someone. This was used by Christ in Luke 10:33 to talk of the Good Samaritan who saw the beaten man left on the side of the road. Because of his deep compassion, he took the man and cared for him and paid the price for his recovery.
This is the heart of Jesus—He is a God of compassion and He shows us His heart in this parable to release us from the debt we owe Him just as the compassionate King released the slave of his debt. The word “release” means to let a person go or untie them. When the slave was released of his debt He was released from the payment he should have been making. That’s the key to forgiveness: to forgive means to release a person from the obligation to repay what was owed. The King cancelled the debt. It wasn’t paid by the slave. The King released him from the obligation to re-pay it.
Let that sink in for a minute. That’s the heart of forgiveness. Forgiveness is compassion driven by a deep love where we release a person from the obligation to pay us back. Ken Sandy says that forgiveness makes four promises: 1) I will not dwell on this incident. 2) I will not bring up this incident and use it against you. 3) I will not talk about this incident to others. 4) I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship. On top of these principles is that we are offering this forgiveness without any requirement to be paid back what is owed to us.
This definition of forgiveness clarifies the confusion many people have with forgiveness. Sometimes a someone will say, “He or she needs to earn my forgiveness” but when they say this, they are confusing forgiveness with reconciliation. Forgiveness is not something earned. By definition, the very term “forgive” means to “give” freely when cannot be earned.
When somebody pays us back, that is called “restitution”. For example, a wife might be mad at her husband and she might give him the cold shoulder until he “earns her forgiveness”. Maybe she will require him to say “I’m sorry” a certain amount of times. Or buy her flowers. Or do the dishes. Or do something else. When she requires some payment she’s not forgiving him, she is seeking to satisfy the debt he owe. That’s restitution. Forgiveness says “you don’t have to pay me back, I will restore this relationship without any payment. I don’t need an apology. I don’t need you to grovel. I’ll forgive you and release you without any payment at all.” That’s forgiveness.
Now, tragically, sometimes the conflict between a husband and wife can be so severe that one spouse declares the debt is so high it can never be repaid. Therefore, they have no intention of releasing the other person from their debt. That may be understandable, but that goes against what Jesus is teaching in Matthew 18.
Think about the debt we have racked up against God. Think of our need for forgiveness. Think of how many times we have violated His good will. Think of what He has forgiven us of. We’ve been like teenagers with their first credit card, racking up debt after debt against God. Each debt against an infinite God requires an infinity to pay it back; let alone the millions of sins we commit against Him every year. Our true debt against God makes the $14 billion in this parable look small.
If we do not understand the depth of our sin, then we do not understand the Gospel. The message of the Gospel is the message of how our sins have offended a holy and infinite God. Our personal, individual debt could not be paid by us. Thus, like the king in this parable, God paid for our sins Himself. The infinite God of creation took His infinite nature and inhered it to humanity and He took on flesh and dwelt amongst us and lived a little perfect life and went to the cross as a substitute for the sins of His People. When He paid the debt they owed, He purchased them from the destiny of hell and offers them forgiveness and reconciliation through His work on the cross. That is our model of forgiveness.
Our Lord has a heart to forgive. If we are in Christ, He has forgiven us. As people who have been forgiven by Him, we are also reconciled to Him. As people who are reconciled, His Spirit dwells within us and will give us His same heart. This is why verse 35 tells us we’re obligated to forgive one another. Verse 35 says, “my heavenly father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
When you think about your relationship with other an believer, any sin they commit against you was paid for by Christ on the cross 2000 years ago. If they are believers too, then they have already been forgiven by God when His Son was nailed to the cross 2000 years ago. Jesus bore that sin upon His own righteous body. He took their penalty they deserved. Thus, it begs the question: Why hold a sin against them when God does not?
The Peacemaker has an attitude that is ready to forgive. The moment a sin occurs they are like white blood cells seeking to bring healing to that situation. They are like Stephen in Acts chapter 7, even as he was being crushed to death by the stones that were thrown by the angry mob, he called out to God, “Lord, do not hold the sin against them.” In the same way when Jesus was on the cross, He cried out to the Father “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Let’s pull these pieces together. Reconciliation is being on the same path. Forgiveness is the releasing the person of debt that they owed. In most cases, both principles work hand-in-hand. We forgive a person and we reconcile with them. We can let the past go and agree to a new path.
Yet, there are many times when the new path will not look like the old path. Usually change is required. As the two people work on finding a new path, they work through the changes necessary to achieve harmony on the path going forward. As they go forward, they will often trip and stumble. During these times, we still seek to have a heart of forgiveness with the other person, when the offense is minor, we overlook it. When it is more serious, we deal with it; always with a heart to forgive as we have been forgiven by our Lord.
God is a God of forgiveness towards us; and when we are filled with His Spirit, He will enable us to extend forgiveness to those in our lives.