Should forgiveness based on genuine repentance lead to reconciliation?

As we all know that forgiveness is the one of the central theme in Christian doctrine. Scripture clearly states that we need to forgive those who hurt us or harm us and we should get rid of bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander.

My question is, should forgiveness based on genuine repentance result in reconciliation with the person who has hurt or harmed us if he repents and asks for forgiveness?

Imagine a person tries to kill me but I escape. This person is caught and sentenced to a few years of imprisonment. As a Christian, I forgive him but should I reconcile with him when he comes out of the prison and asks forgiveness?

Or do you think forgiveness should be universal but reconciliation depends of repentance or is not mandatory?

The person who tried to kill me, comes out of the prison after serving his term, repents and make me believe that he is sorry and that he is a changed person now and he wants to reconcile with me. Should I reconcile with him?

What if this person is an unbeliever? How shall I reconcile with him as he is not aware of Biblical mandate on forgiveness and repentance? Would reconciliation with this person will be a bad choice?

What should we do if the person is a Christian or turned Christian in the prison during his imprisonment?

Here murder is just an example. Replace it with rape or abuse or any kind of serious crime against me/you.

How shall we reflect on this as a Christian?

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Awesome question Krishnam. Before I make any attempt to reply would you clarity a couple of things for me. When you ask your question, forgiveness following reconciliation did you mean to phrase it that way? My thinking says that your question should be the other way around. Should reconciliation always follow forgiveness if the person repents and asks for forgiveness.

The second thing I was wondering is how you would define reconciliation. To what level does this reconciliation develop? ie friendship, complete trust, love

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Hey @iamkrishnam, fascinating question! Many people consider forgiveness and reconciliation as one and the same, but I for one think they are two distinct and separate realities.

Take, for example, how Jesus responded to the paralytic man in Matthew 9. When the man’s friends brought him to Jesus, His first response was not to heal him (although He did eventually do so), but to encourage him by saying “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” Of course, the scribes in their company grumbled at this, because only God can forgive sin, but that’s another matter.

In any case, note that at this point, the paralytic had not committed his life to Christ. Likely, he knew nothing at all of Jesus except what everybody else knew – that Jesus was an awesome teacher and possibly a prophet. So at this point, Jesus was not his Savior so he was not yet reconciled to God through Jesus, and yet Jesus told him that his sins were forgiven.

Further, remember Jesus’ death on the Cross. He cried out to God, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Now, if forgiveness and reconciliation were the same thing, then Jesus was basically asking God to ignore their sin and simply be reconciled with them whether they repented or not, but that’s not what He was doing.

To say it simply, forgiveness is one-directional, and it depends only on the person doing the forgiving. Reconciliation is two-directional, depending both on the forgiver and on the repenter.

If it helps, consider your options in dealing with someone who you have a strained relationship with due to money that he owes you. If you were to forgive his debt, you’re saying that he no longer owes you the money, but that does not automatically mean that your relationship is restored or that you’re willing to lending him more money.

The same dynamic applies to any sort of forgiveness. Just because you wipe the slate clean does not mean that you are required to re-enter relationship with the individual, any more than you were required to enter relationship with him the first time.

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Hi Philip, you are right. I wanted to say, should reconciliation follow forgiveness. Once we forgive should we reconcile. Made few changes to my question to make it better.

Reconciliation in a sense, to move together or to be in fellowship or to move together with good terms or to continue friendship or the relationship.

Or is it okay to Forgive and forget and never have any kind of relationship or fellowship with that person.

@iamkrishnam. I was just thinking of that consideration this morning. Maybe asking the question in reverse can help. Have you repented if the purpose of repenting is to restore you back to the place your actions destroyed?

I have found when I have repented I must leave open the possibility that the relationship is forever changed. I think of how JESUS left forgiveness for us while He hung dying on the cross. The old relationships were forever changed. It is that way when we come to Him today. Everything changes. But for the good. That makes me conclude that forgiveness is not dependant upon repentance. And that repentance is a simple matter of providing a place to receive the forgiveness. Not an assurance that natural relationships return to their old standards.

I think it is human nature to utilize repentance as a tool of restoration. But don’t you think it is actually about becoming free of our sin not whether we will ever realize the old conditions or relationships?

I know people who live with a measure of resentment because their “I’m sorry” did not return them to their old position. That makes me conclude that repentance is not repentance when it comes with conditions and expectations. That is about control.

It seems easier to just revert back to old and the familiar. The problem being, the old and familiar could very well be the catalyst that led to the need for repentance and forgiveness.

What comes after forgiveness and repentance is clearly a matter resolved in prayer. I would only take those marching orders from the heart of GOD. And nothing would transpire until I had that assurance. How to be with others is a GOD matter. It always was.

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It may not be necessary whether reconciliation can or should be excluded from forgiveness

Love is commensurate with reconciliation

… As I apply the model of forgiveness without reconciliation to God’s demonstration of forgiveness it would sound like this: Just because God wiped the slate clean doesn’t mean he’s required to re-enter a relationship with the individual whom He’s forgiven any more than he was ever required to enter a relationship with them.

Interestingly, God didn’t set out to demonstrate his forgiveness he demonstrated his Love toward us (Romans 5:8) and in that, he found a way for us to be reconciled to him.

So, when God demonstrated his love for us his desire was for reconciliation. Forgiveness was just a necessary means to make that happen.

God wasn’t required to reconcile us to him. He made a way because he truly loved us.

Observing these dynamics I’m thankful God’s motive was purely true Love.

I would not like to have been forgiven by God “on paper”, but the relationship still un-restored and somehow un-reconciled.

I would ask that If this is the case, does it then stand to reason that we might be persuaded to forgive after the same model?

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@iamkrishnam Forgiveness and reconciliation. Each one multifaceted and each one requiring its own lengthy discussion. There are lots of resources available for you with which you can dig deeper into the subject. Life Church online is currently doing a series called the grudge as well as a study entitled The Bait of Satan just to name a couple.

Forgiveness is a habit I believe we should develop and apply to all people all the time. Even if it is not asked for. That’s easy to say but not always easy to put into practice. It does however become easier with practice. There are times when its relatively easy. i.e. Someone cuts you off in traffic, you forgive, forget and get on with life. Here there is neither the requirement nor the expectation for reconciliation because you did not know each other to begin with.

There are times when forgiveness is hard. It takes time, sometimes years for our hearts to truly forgive and allow God to begin to the healing process in our hearts. The memory remains but the pain, that raw emotion has subsided. There is a saying that forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. It means remembering without the pain.

I would suggest that each of us deals with forgiveness differently. And because of our unique dynamic, reconciliation will look differently to different people in different circumstances. I would hesitate to make a blanket statement in that regard. Yes, I believe that within the context of the local church we need to all get along and reconciliation should at least be attempted.

It is a process, like forgiveness. For one person the move toward a restored relationship is easy. For another depending on the level of pain, quite hard. Here I would agree with @timotto. From my own personal experience, I would suggest that reconciliation is not always necessary or even practical. Reconciliation requires with it a certain level of trust. Trust that you will not hurt me again. That is a process that can take time and perhaps will never be fully realized.

There is also the other side of the question as well. If I am the one that committed offence, (whatever that might have been) having truly repented and sought out forgiveness, I need to be considerate of the pain that I caused. I need to understand that perhaps it would be best for the person I sinned against that I move on and to not seek reconciliation. Hope that makes sense.

Forgiveness, yes always, even without being asked. Reconciliation, good idea but way too many variables and so - no not always.

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There’s lots of discussion of pain in our psychology. It is a valid issue but I think I would stand absolutely contrary to a few of the points you make. I admit that core issues along these lines can be as hairy as the root-ball of an oak tree (involving several other topics of study) but I would ask that fact to not become a stumbling block to the simplicity (not the over-simplification) that is plainly understood in the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ’s demonstration of love on our behalf; and that His example is the essential model for us to follow.

I have nothing to gain by urging you to reconsider your thoughts. But I would ask you to give a bit more thought to what I pointed out in my first response. I appreciate the practical clarity you’ve added by saying certain things like:

Love is an act of courage because pain is inevitable in true relationships. Wise and experienced men would never trust if they lacked the courage and character to take the risk and give it yet… another shot. Jesus himself endured and embraced not just pain, but anguish and suffering in exchange for a joy and a hope and the glory that was set before him. As believers we are not in the business of pain-mitigation. But we, like Jesus, are called to embrace pain and suffering not unwisely, but courageously… our healed wounds are reasonable marks of a soldier who has put his entire self into the battle… and for those who have truly loved when the going got insanely tough.

It’s a fact people are not God and therefore flawed in different ways. A perfect human being does not exist. All have sinned and fall short.

Given that Jesus said

“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
Luke 6:27‭-‬38

He knows what can be in man so

He also said “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
Matthew 10:16 NKJV

That said my responce should be like His. He forgave us while I was yet His enemie. My repentance brought reconciliation and restoration to fellowship with Him. Is this perfect everytime NO for us yes for Him. The other party involved has the same responsibility.
Looking at all this I see why the love Chapter exists. Our fight with the flesh is a real battle.
Trusting in the Lord
Mike

Beautiful and lovely @ps32vs8. Thanks for your thoughts. Profound. I will study this further and look into the resources that you mentioned.

@iamkrishnam, I found a lot of insight in the book: Forgiving and Reconciling: Bridges to Wholeness and Hope by Everett L. Worthington. I would give you some examples from the book, but I’ve loaned it to a friend.

Reconciliation is about relationship. There are certainly forgiven sins between people who were in relationship before it was damaged by sin. There are also times when we need to forgive those who we were not in relationship with when the trespass occurred, your example of a crime is a good example. So if a woman is sexually assaulted by a stranger, does she need to forgive that stranger, yes. Does she need to reconcile? I don’t see why as there was no relationship to begin with. Does she have the opportunity to pray for that person’s salvation and reconciliation with God, absolutely. She may even have the opportunity to meet with that person and witness to them which could potentially lead to a relationship as brother and sister in Christ. But is reconciliation necessary in that circumstance? What are your thoughts?

But what if she is sexually assaulted by a family member? Let’s say it’s a female teen assaulted by an uncle. Now here is a family relationship that has been severely harmed and a sin that will cause ongoing damage. Assuming the crime comes to light (and often it does not), how should the parents feel? Even if forgiveness exists would the parents ever allow the uncle in her proximity again? If the teen forgives, she will be living with the repercussions of what was stolen from her – trust, purity, intimacy, etc. It isn’t just a matter of facing pain, it’s a matter of a life that is now misshapen by the event – this sin will echo in every relationship she has going forward. This sin will affect how she parents, whether she will trust anyone with her future children. So you can see it’s a very complex scenario that will require many layers of healing.

Years ago I remember a pastor preaching on forgiveness. He gave the example of being bitten by a dog. He said just because you forgive the dog does not mean you have to stick out your hand to be bitten again. Even though it’s simplistic, that kind of stuck with me. So in our scenario with the teen should the family try to fully reconcile? Will there ever be trust again? Ultimately God wants us all to be saved. My thought is that only through God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit can the Uncle be saved and change to the point that the family would again trust. Only through God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit can the many layers of healing come about that would bring the girl and her family back into a position to trust and reconcile. All of this could take many years.

But I think it would be harmful to the girl (the victim) if others, be they family or church, expressed that she must be (or should be) reconciled with the uncle BEFORE she has had the opportunity to be fully healed. I think the community around her must allow her to be ready and led by the conviction of the Holy Spirit to seek out the Uncle for reconciliation.

The good news for believers is that we all will ultimately be restored in eternity with Jesus. I pray that in real life situations, where real people have perpetrated crimes against others, that they will find Jesus, repent, be forgiven, and be fully restored IN CHRIST. I pray that the victims of those real life situations will also find Jesus, forgive those who have harmed them, received the healing only God can bring, and be fully restored IN CHRIST.

This is a great topic @iamkrishnam. I think we as the body of Christ must seek the wisdom through the Holy Spirit and exercise godly compassion when communicating with those who we know need to offer forgiveness to others. It’s very easy, even as caring and well meaning Christians, to compound the harm that sin has brought to peoples lives.

I’m struggling with that very thing right now, how to pray for my niece that is living with unforgiveness (although NOT from the fictitious scenario noted above). Peace be with you, brother.

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Hi @timotto, you made some valid points and they make sense. I have to look into this further. This is a very deep subject.

I like what you said - // When God demonstrated his love for us his desire was for reconciliation. Forgiveness was just a necessary means to make that happen. //

Thank you @Jennifer_Judson. Great insights and good examples. There is a lot to grasp and understand.