@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.