Does Forgiving Require Reconciling?

Today I’m addressing Myth #7 taken from my post, 7 Biggest Myths of Forgiveness, “If I forgive, I must reconcile with my offender.”

Forgiving & Reconciling

This one really should be titled, “If my offender is a perpetual boundary buster, then the nice, Christian thing to do to is be like Jesus, ‘turn the other cheek,’ and remain in a toxic relationship.”

Yep, a bit too long for a title, I’d say!

But long title or not, it’s just not true!

Besides, if you know anything at all about Jesus, you know He was no pushover and could set boundaries better than anyone I know!

I discussed Jesus’ boundary setting strategy from Matthew 18:15-17, when I addressed Myth #5, If I forgive, I lay down any right to protect myself.

But to recap: clearly in v. 16 Jesus says that if your offender won’t listen to you, go to the next level by including two or three witnesses. In v. 17 Jesus says that if he still won’t listen or change, then take it to the leaders of your church. If he still resists, then you are to withdraw from your offender.

There are other verses that support the reality that reconciliation might not be possible, such as …

“As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled to him on the way … ” –Luke 12:58

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” –Romans 12:18-19

I find that there are at least three reasons this myth is embraced:

  1. Forgiveness without reconciliation seems incomplete. {I address more of this here.}
  2. Forgiveness without reconciliation seems insincere. {I address more here.}
  3. Fear that people will believe that forgiving an offender is all that’s necessary to obey God and won’t try to reconcile. {Read more here.}

In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus makes it clear that He wants us to reach out and reconcile whenever possible, especially since he urges us to interrupt our worship in order to immediately deal with any conflict when we’re aware of it. Jesus’ words convey a sense of urgency here that I think we sometimes gloss over. Ouch! Yep, did that one step on your toes like it did mine? ;-)

Even the apostle Paul conveys the need to extend the olive branch in Hebrews 12:14-15, but he also makes it clear that it is an “effort” and not a “sure thing” when we attempt to reconcile.

One of the reasons this myth is so dangerous is because the last thing victims want to do after forgiving is allow their offender to do harm to them again, so they resist both forgiving and reaching out to reconcile. Throwing the proverbial “baby out with the bathwater.”

So how do you rebuild that broken relationship? It’s not a task to take lightly! That’s for sure!

I’ll be delving into just how and whether to rebuild a wounded relationship, especially when we’re married to our boundary busting offender, as our focus on forgiveness continues in the weeks to come.

 

Is there someone you need to make efforts to be reconciled to, but haven’t yet? If so, why?

 

What have you done to protect your heart in a boundary-busting relationship?

 

Click on this link to read the previous post in this series, “Myth #6 If I forgive, my offender must recognize his/her wrong against me, or it’s invalid or not “total forgiveness.”

 

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  • http://www.creeksideministries.blogspot.com/ Linda@Creekside

    mmm … producing fruit ‘in keeping with repentance’ is a biggie. And so is ‘by their fruit you shall know them.’ These verses imply that there is time and space between the forgiveness piece and renewing a relationship. There is a watching, a waiting to see if a new walk replaces old talk. Rushing toward one who has gravely wounded us is unwise. Let’s wait patiently …

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  • http://www.beckykopitzke.blogspot.com/ Becky Kopitzke

    Thanks as always for your wisdom here, Beth. I look forward to the follow-up to this post! Your insight is definitely helpful!

  • Marie Steinhardt

    Setting boundaries is such an important piece in any relationship, but even more so in a toxic or abusive one. I think with God’s strength, we can forgive, but I don’t believe reconciliation is an absolute. As Christians, we are fortunate to have a loving God for guidance.

  • http://momstheword--livingforhim.blogspot.com/ Nan

    I think boundaries are totally important. And I think we can be friendly but I don’t think we always have to be friends. There is one person who was very angry, hurtful and even threatened some mean things. After that I have closed the doors to friendship. I am friendly if and when we meet, and will talk friendly. But I will not bare my heart or share my confidences, so to speak, or hang out with them, because I know it might and possibly would be used against me. I have forgiven (even though no one asked for it), but the craziness and anger and threats mean I do not feel it’s a safe environment for friendship. Thanks for another great post and for hosting!

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    I tried to reconcile with a family member who tried to poison me, and who watched and waited while I was having a drug reaction, thinking they were the beneficiary of my life insurance.

    Yes, I’ll go write “I was an idiot” a thousand times.

    The embarrassing point here is that what I saw as “Christ-like forgiveness” was actually a point of pride for me – it was designed to enhance my own self-image.

    Now that I have some degree of self-awareness…well, ok, honesty…have I forgiven this individual? No. But I do hope this individual is forgiven by God. At least, most days I do.

    On the Cross, Jesus asked The Father to “forgive them, because they don’t know what they’re doing”. I hardly think that His intention was to go out for a beer with the people who were crucifying Him.

    And that is where I think we can live – forgive if we can, ask God to forgive as our locum if we can’t – and don’t worry about reconciliation, because it’s a whole ‘nother issue.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2014/03/when-your-mate-loses-faith.html

  • Mary

    Thank you for this series and for this last myth-busting post. I was in a situation that I was not able to reconcile with my offender due to the fact that he passed away. However, throughout your series I have learned the importance of the relationship between forgiveness and reconciliation. God sent people like you to me to teach me forgiveness which was an area of huge hurt for me for many years. Happy Wednesday and happy week to you, my friend!

  • http://www.ugochi-jolomi.com/ Ugochi

    I believe they are related in some way… so we all have to press for it, but we must set healthy boundaries like you have mentioned.
    Thanks a lot for these series Beth, and for hosting us to.
    Have a super blessed day!
    Love

  • Lisa Raub

    This is a wonderful series, Beth! There are so many myths about forgiveness, it’s almost hard to think of them all, but you’re doing a tremendous job!

    It’s so true that sometimes it is impossible to reconcile with the offender, as in the case of death. In those cases, turning toward your offender in heart and forgiving them is really all you can do.

    Thankfully I’ve never been in an abusive relationship, so I’ve been spared from having to make some very difficult decisions.

    Thanks for this great series, Beth, and for hosting WW!!

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  • http://judithwholeheartedhome.com/ Judith

    This is excellent!! Thanks so much and thanks too for the linkup party. I am praying for you, Beth.

  • bluecottonmemory

    It makes sense that because God is multi-dimensional, that Forgiveness would also be multi-dimensional because not situations are the same. The one thing that is a must is forgivness given. I am really hoping you are going to turn this series into a book for my library. Because it is such a multi-facted thing – I need to constantly review to what I am experiencing. Thanks Beth for the work you are doing here!

  • http://intentionaltoday.com/ Ngina Otiende

    It’s funny Beth, before I even read your first question, I was already thinking in the direction :) Mhhh..certainly something to chew on there! thank you for yet another post, this is such a great series.

  • http://secondchairleadership.com/ Matthew Johnson

    Great points Beth. Sensible and Christlike. Jesus forgave those who put him on a cross but we don’t see him going to the Pharisees again after his resurrection to try and reconcile. He had been accosted by them numerous times before finally being crucified.

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  • http://thejayneses.blogspot.com/ Amanda Jaynes

    Very wise words! I’m saving this because I know it’s something I’ll want to come back to in the future.

  • JosephPote

    Another excellent post on this topic, Beth! I find myself wanting to ‘turn the page’ to the next chapter before the next post in the series is published.
    I’ll definitely be pointing folks over to this post.
    Thank you for sharing the wisdom God has given you in this area.
    Blessings to you, my friend!

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