Blog Archive

Friday, March 11, 2011

Question of the Week:
Forgiveness or Reconciliation?

by Anne Lang Bundy

What is the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation (in the context of being vulnerable to further abuse)?
~ Anonymous

Once again, a question is posed which defies adequate explanation on a lone page. This week, five contrasts from the Bible will be presented. Next week will look at how biblical truth plays out in relationships.

Accountability & Forgiveness:

"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more ... if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen ..." (Matthew 18:15-17 NKJV)

"Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." (Matthew 18:21-22 NKJV)

Holding someone accountable for doing wrong to you, with a goal of reconciliation, is separate from the unrelenting forgiveness of heart that Jesus teaches.

Non-resistance & Escape:

"But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also." (Matthew 5:39 NKJV)

And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?" ... Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him. (Acts 22:25,29 NKJV; other examples of escape are Acts 5:17-20; 9:23-25;12:7-10)

Jesus both taught and set the example of accepting abuse without retaliation. But we should avoid injury when possible.

Marriage, Separation, Divorce:

A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife... If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And [likewise] a woman ... if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. (1 Corinthians 7:10-15 NKJV)

God hates divorce. If separation is necessary, Christians are instructed to remain unmarried and work for reconciliation. Only if the non-believing spouse divorces is the believer released from the marriage. (An exception is divorce for sexual immorality—see "Can Marital Sex be Sinful?")

Willing Suffering:

But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps. (1 Peter 2:20-21 NKJV)

There really are some circumstances when suffering is preferable to quitting a situation or quitting a person. God's will and guidance are necessary for discernment.

Peace With Others & Peace Within:

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:17-18 NKJV)

Reconciliation doesn't always happen after we offer forgiveness. As much as depends on us, we must offer peace—and then be at peace.

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This post originally appeared at Bullets & Butterflies. To see ongoing dialogue in comments posted there click here.

What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below (anonymous questions welcome), or email buildingHisbody [plus] @

© 2011 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
Image source: "Reconciliation in Sri Lanka"


  1. I’ve been following and enjoying your blog for a while now and would like to invite you to visit and perhaps follow me back. Sorry I took so long for the invitation.

  2. I needed to read this today again.

    1. Nataša, another reading of this post did me well also. Please know that I prayed for you when you posted this, and I'm praying for you again today. Our hope in God is for eternity. Hope in God is also for the here and now, when others crush our hope in them. May God give you strength to persevere and wisdom to sustain peace. My love to you.


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