Each Lord’s Day, as we come to the Family Table to commune, we are admonished to forgive those who have sinned against us. This is such a priority that Jesus says: “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24). True reconciliation takes two parties being willing and ready (even eager) to be reconciled with one another, which also requires an honest dealing with past sins. Reconciliation, however, can take place very quickly.
True reconciliation is far more than a truce between two parties. Rather, it’s a full restoration of fellowship and communion. Sometimes we might choose just to be wronged; to overlook an offence (1 Cor. 5:7). In such cases it’s important to just accept the wrong and get quiet about it; no lingering bitterness or holding a grudge. Otherwise we have not accepted the wrong. When we extend forgiveness to another, either by directly granting forgiveness for a sin that was repented of or by covering a sin with love (1 Peter 4:8), then that forgiveness needs to be all the way to the bone, forgiving in the same way that Christ forgives us (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13). Jesus doesn’t forgive us and then say “…but I want nothing to do with you.” If there is remaining bitterness or even tension, then true forgiveness has not been granted. Sometimes this is harder than hard; for us it can even seem impossible. Nevertheless, Christian maturity (i.e., Christ-likeness), calls us to this supernatural response. Forgiveness means picking up the tab and paying someone else’s bill. Once it’s paid, it’s paid; no more debt.
It’s easy for our churches or families to become places littered with un-reconciled people; places of tension, or even animosity. There is a time and place for cutting off a contentious person (Titus 3:1), but we must remain open for opportunities to pursue peace and to be truly brought back together in full fellowship and loving communion with one another. “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled” (Heb. 12:14-15).
I have been blessed to see many fine examples of this kind of Godly reconciliation, even in some long-standing and very difficult situations. The grace and kindness of God toward us is unlimited and so too should our grace and kindness be toward others.