We live in a fallen world full of imperfect people, thus, every single one of us will experience conflict with others. We will offend people, and people will offend us. It is important to remember that the church is not immune to these relational difficulties. Positionally, real followers of Jesus are saints, yet practically, the Scripture makes it clear that even believers still sin (1 John 1:8). Many times, that sin causes great tensions between individuals— even in the local church. It is not a matter of if, but when contention will come; we must learn to handle conflict in the most God-glorifying way.
Most believers understand that offering forgiveness is part of our Christian duty. By forgiving others, we refuse feelings of vengeance and ill-will towards those who have hurt us. We even— by God’s grace— pray for and bless our offenders (Luke 6:28). Forgiving others is not optional (Matthew 6:15)!
We do well to forgive, yet, the Bible instructs us to move beyond forgiveness. Jesus has called us to seek reconciliation with our Christian brothers and sisters who have offended us (Matthew 5:23, 24). Does it glorify God to forgive another believer, yet ignore them and refuse to do ministry with them? Is it Christ-exalting to forgive, yet run from church to church, to avoid having further contact with those whom we have forgiven? No and No! Yet, these very situations occur frequently throughout the body of Christ.
There are some major differences in forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is instantaneous, whereas reconciliation can take time. Being reconciled involves rebuilding trust; this doesn’t always happen overnight. Forgiveness can be one-sided, whereas reconciliation involves both parties. Forgiveness can occur without confrontation, whereas reconciliation demands confrontation. Though it is difficult, reconciliation is well worth the extra demand of time and energy.
To be reconciled to another believer is to have a restored relationship. To be sure, this should always be our aim within the body of Christ. Reconciliation is not easy, but it is wonderful and God-glorifying. I pray it happens more frequently in our churches.