Today we are going to continue our You Asked For It (Again) series by looking deeper at the topic of forgiveness, but we are also going to unpack the distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation, because although these ideas are closely related, sometimes we begin to think of them as the same thing. And before we get started I do want to say that both forgiveness and reconciliation are important in our Christian walks, so I’m not going to say one is better or more important than the other, I just want to make the distinction between them and look closely at the implications that distinction has in each of our lives.
The best way I can describe the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation is the difference between a one-way street and a two-way street. Forgiveness is a one-way street. The act of forgiveness is something that we do on our own. It is done in our hearts. So, when someone does wrong against us, whether we forgive them or not is determined in our own heart. When we forgive someone, true forgiveness means that we decide not to hold whatever they did against them in our own hearts. This is entirely up to us, and it requires no action on the part of the accused. In other words, whether someone apologizes to us or not does not necessarily determine whether we forgive them or not. So, if someone does something to us, and then they make no effort to apologize for whatever it is they did, we cannot use that as an excuse not to forgive, because forgiveness happens in our own hearts.
On the other hand, reconciliation is a two-way street. The best way I can think to define reconciliation is that it is the reopening of the possibility for relationship. And that is what God has done for us.