Summary: Though we can forgive without ever speaking to the offender about their offense, sometimes, God might lead us to do so.
Today, we are going to move from a consideration of forgiveness to thinking together about reconciliation. We have said that without
forgiveness, reconciliation is not possible. Reconciliation results with the offended person forgives and the offending person repents.
Forgiveness + Repentance = Reconciliation
Reconciliation with God is possible because of the forgiveness provided through the cross. The opportunity to be reconciled is possible because God took the initiative in providing our forgiveness! He has done everything He can possibly do so we might be reconciled. It is now up to us to we respond to the forgiveness He offers with repentance. When we respond to His forgiveness with repentance, we are reconciled with God.
Likewise, in our relationship with one another, we must take the initiative in reconciliation. But unlike God, who is perfect, in our being reconciled with a brother or sister, we might have to forgive, or repent or both. Which means, for example, that if God convicts us of the fact that we have offended someone, we are to take the initiative to repent of any offensive actions we are guilty of in hope that the other party is willing to forgive and we might be reconciled.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” - Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV)
Note, however, that this effort is made as a result of conviction from God. You are not obligated to respond to a person who has something against you, just because they have something against you. The fact is, if you are sincerely seeking to honor Christ, others will take offense.
“When people say bad things to you because you follow Christ, consider it a blessing. When that happens, it shows that God’s Spirit, the Spirit of glory, is with you. You may suffer, but don’t let it be because you murder, steal, make trouble, or try to control other people’s lives. But if you suffer because you are a ‘Christ-follower,’ don’t be ashamed. You should praise God for that name.” - 1 Peter 4:12-14 (Easy to Read)
John Piper has an interesting point to make in this regard as he refers to Matthew 5:11:
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” - Matthew 5:11 (NIV)
“What Jesus says is that sometimes people will hold something against you when they shouldn’t - insulting you, persecuting you, saying all kinds of evil against you falsely. What do you do in such circumstances? Do you stop worshipping as long as someone feels like this about you? If so, Jesus would never have been able to worship in the latter years of His life. He was constantly opposed. They sought to trip Him up in His speech. They tried to kill him. They tried to shame Him. Was He responsible for this? Not only that, He said that the same would be true for His disciples. In Matthew 24:9 he said, ‘You will be hated by all nations on account of my name.’ In other words, if you are faithful to me, somebody will always have something against you.”
Now, the point is that if someone has something against me, it had better be because I have sought to behave in a way that honors God. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. And when God convicts me of how and where I contributed to the problem, I am duty bound to take the initiative in seeking reconciliation with the offended party.
But what if the shoe is on the other foot? What if you are the one who has been offended?
In one Peanuts comic strip, Lucy demands that Linus change TV channels and threatens him with her fist if he doesn’t. “What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?” asks Linus. “These five fingers.” says Lucy. “Individually they’re nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold.” “Which channel do you want?” asks Linus. Turning away, he looks at his fingers and says, “Why can’t you guys get organized like that?”
Sometimes, we may feel like Linus, not sure when or how to reply to an offense. So let’s talk about it. When is it right to approach someone who has offended us? Let’s look to our passage for today as we organize our thoughts on this subject.
As we have said, when we have been offended, we must forgive, which we can do without saying anything to the offender. In fact, the Bible says it is a good thing if was can forgive and then overlook an offense.