I (Mark Maulding) remember the first time I bowed my head and prayed for God to show me the people He wanted me to forgive. The Holy Spirit led me very specifically to write down with pen and pad several names. I forgave each person, but soon began to ask myself. “Does this mean I have to reconcile with these people?”
At Grace Life, we’ve found through the years that many people wrestle with the same question. Without a Biblical answer, it can stop you in your tracks and prevent you from forgiving altogether.
It’s helpful to remember that forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same. Forgiveness is something God always wants us to do according to Ephesians 4:32, which says, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (NASB). However, reconciliation is another matter.
Reconciliation is always God’s heart for two people. But, it is not always possible, because it takes both people to make it work. This is true even of God and people. He has done everything necessary for us to be reconciled to Him. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (NASB). However, someone’s reconciliation with God will never happen unless a person is willing to admit their need for Jesus and place their faith in Him.
There are essential elements if reconciliation is to take place between two people, including these six steps:
- Both parties must see a need to reconcile.
- Both parties must be willing to reconcile.
- Both parties must take responsibility for their part of the problem.
- Both parties must admit to what they did to the other person.
- Both parties must be willing to work on their part of the relationship.
- One or both parties must give time for trust to be rebuilt.
Because our identity is in Christ, our new heart’s deepest desire is to reconcile with another person. Being willing to do so is living from that new heart. It might help to review the six essential elements to see if we are ready on our side to pursue reconciliation, if it is possible. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (NASB).
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