Myth #1: When you forgive, there must be reconciliation.
The misconception that reconciliation is required for forgiveness to occur causes some people to struggle. Often people will beat themselves up if the relationship is not fully restored. Many people feel like they have not forgiven if the relationship is still strained.
The truth is forgiveness does not always equal reconciliation. Jesus forgave the whole world for their sins, but some people will not receive it. They don’t want to have a relationship with Christ. Does that mean Jesus needs to do something else to express his forgiveness? No! A righteous man dying in the place of wretched sinners is more than enough. What it means is that the other person does not want to receive forgiveness. That is their FREE WILL choice. Love is only love if it is chosen, NOT FORCED!
“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”Romans 12:18 NKJV
Unfortunately, there are times when no matter what you say or do, restoration is unlikely. As long as your heart is receptive to reconciliation, you have done your part. There is no need to carry any guilt or shame because forgiveness didn’t repair the relationship. Jesus’ death on the cross didn’t repair His relationship with everyone in the world. Some people still reject Him, ridicule Him, and deny Him, yet He still loves them. His arms are always open to them, but He doesn’t force himself on them either.
It is a beautiful thing when reconciliation can take place in a relationship. I believe it is God’s heart whenever there is contention in a family, business, or friendship for loving harmony to be established. I know from my own experience, some of my richest friendships have come from restored relationships. The key to reconciliation is that both parties must desire to repair the brokenness of the situation. Relationships are reciprocal, not one-sided. For a marriage to last for years, it will require commitment from both parties. If one is committed and the other isn’t, then the marriage will eventually crumble.
Now some will bitterly say they have forgiven someone they still resent. Statements like, “I forgave them, but I don’t need to be connected to them anymore.” In these cases, they are deceiving themselves. The very fact that they are still bitter tells you that forgiveness has not had its perfect work in their heart. Forgiveness is a heart condition that is lived out through action.
Scripture is crystal clear on the subject of forgiveness.
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”Ephesians 4:32 NKJV
How did Christ forgive us? Did He say it and continues on with business as usual? No! He forgave us and took action. He left the royalty of heaven put on filthy flesh and paid the price for our sins. Here’s the key; His arms are still open to those who rejected Him. The moment they cry out to Him, He hears and receives them into His open arms with dancing and rejoicing. If you forgive like Jesus, you stay open to reconnection with those who have offended you.
Now understand if you are in an emotionally, physically, and mentally abusive relationship I am not saying to stay. All relationships require healthy boundaries. By no means are you to allow your abuser continued access to abuse you. Romantic relationships aren’t the only area where abuse can take place. You may have an abusive parent, sibling, and sadly sometimes an adult child. In those cases, you need to take the necessary measures to protect yourself. Protective boundaries do not equal unforgiveness.
Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud & John Townsend is an excellent resource for developing healthy boundaries in relationships. It is a great read for people who want to strengthen the health of their relationships, create balance in their life, and those who struggle with people-pleasing.
- You can forgive without reconciliation. Jesus is an example of forgiveness that is not always received.
- You can’t have bitter resentment in your heart if you have genuinely forgiven the person.
- You can always work towards reconciliation with a hopeful heart of love.
- You can forgive and have healthy boundaries that protect you from abusive relationships.
1. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to work His love in your heart for those that are hard to love. People who have offended you in the worst way are often the people in the greatest need of Christ-like love.
2. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to work love in their heart for you. I often pray for the Holy Spirit to open up an opportunity for reconciliation.
Just this past month, I was praying for an old friendship that had a bitter end. Our families would vacation together and take lots of pictures that are all over my home. Each time I saw her face I would pray for her, for us, and for our friendship. We haven’t spoken in over 4 years. Out of the blue, I get a phone call from her, just to say hi.
Pray, it is the most powerful tool in reconciliation. Don’t underestimate it! Bathe every relationship in prayer.
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