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Forgiveness: Forgiveness and Reconciliation  part 3 of 3
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Forgiveness: Forgiveness and Reconciliation  part 3 of 3

I’ve talked about how too often we focus on people’s feelings when we talk about forgiveness. And I’ve admitted that our emotions are often involved whenever we go through a situation in which we are asked to forgive someone.

We know that remorse is not repentance; repentance requires a change in behavior. But what is forgiveness? And where does reconciliation come in?

Forgiveness is not the absence of anger at being injured. I think it is normal for someone to be angry when they have been injured in some way. Nor is forgiveness the willingness to release someone from experiencing the consequences of their actions. Our God is just, and justice requires that offenders experience the consequences of their choices. What, then, does it mean to forgive?

Let’s go back to Matthew 18. After Jesus gives the disciples a process for resolving differences, including an outcome in which a member of the community is ejected from the community, he goes on to talk about the power of community.


It is here where Jesus says to his community of followers, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”


I hear the last sentence quoted most often when a small group of people gather to worship. But Jesus is not talking about worship; he is talking about making decisions about forgiveness within the community of believers. He is promising that God will open their eyes and hearts to what God wants them to do and give them the power to do it. He is also promising that God will hold them accountable for their decisions.

This passage is followed by the parable of the unforgiving servant. Jesus makes his meaning crystal clear: you have been forgiven everything and so you are to forgive everything. But Jesus does not expect an emotional shift; he expects an action.


Forgiveness is neither focused on the victim, nor on the perpetrator. Forgiveness is focused on God’s grace freely given to us through Christ and the Holy Spirit.


We have been forgiven. Completely. Forever. And in joyful recognition of that realization, we are committed to living the way Jesus wants us to live – willing to love others enough to give them another chance every time. And that means we will lift our anger and hurt up to the Lord 10,000 times a day, and ask for him to carry us through.


Now, our willingness to give the offender a second chance doesn’t change the offense, its consequences, nor even the offender. it just means that our willingness to love as Jesus loved frees us from our bitterness if not all our pain. Forgiveness offers the offender a chance to receive God’s grace through us. If they choose to continue offending, we are not required to continue to be victims. But we also will not seek revenge, only consequences.


This leads me to reconciliation, which I think was Jesus’ deepest hope for his followers. Reconciliation occurs when the offender’s eyes and heart are opened to the reality of the harm they have done. They truly repent, and take action to change. Their apology is sincere because they really work to change. Forgiveness needs only God and the victim; reconciliation involves all three.

Reconciliation brings deep joy, because it means that God’s love is expanding in the world. Its healing grows exponentially because it is God’s doing, not ours.


I think the early church grew like wildfire because they were so willing to forgive one another and be reconciled. They didn’t just “rise above” their pain – they engaged it together, and sought God’s power to resolve the hurt. Their ability to reconcile after discord released an enormous wave of God’s love and grace into the world around them, and outsiders couldn’t help but notice.


Forgiveness and reconciliation are hard work, to be sure. But the joy that is unleashed is the most powerful force on earth. It has changed the world over the last 2,000 years. It is my prayer that American churches, so rife with strife, will rediscover their power and be renewed.


Pastor Vivian, Executive Pastor

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