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.”