All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (II Corinthians 5:18-21 NIV)

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV)

Offering forgiveness or asking for forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Jesus directs us to both ask for forgiveness for our sins and to offer forgiveness for others sins. But reconciliation requires both parties to be willing to set aside the offense, offer forgiveness to the offending party, and to enter into a friendly relationship once again. Reconciliation restores the relationship.

Let’s look at some examples from the Bible. In the book of Genesis, there are two stories of reconciliation between family members who have broken relationships. Genesis 33 tells us the story of Jacob returning to the land of Canaan and meeting his brother Esau for the first time since Jacob had previously stolen his birthright and blessing. Genesis 37 tells of Joseph, his dreams, and his 10 brother’s jealousy. As a result, they sell him into slavery in Egypt. But Genesis 50 gives us the end of this story, where Joseph – now the second person over all of Egypt – tells his brothers, “‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them,” Genesis 50:19-21.

The story of Joseph and his brothers is a beautiful picture of forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration, and healing of broken relationships. Reconciliation is not possible if either party persists in insisting on revenge, or insists on the need for retribution. Administering justice is God’s job – not ours. “It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them. The LORD will vindicate his people,” (Deuteronomy 32:35-36a).

The story of the lost son in Luke 15:11-32 tells us about reconciliation between the father and the younger son. But the end of the story leaves us wondering how the older son will respond. Take time to read this parable over carefully. Look at the seeking of forgiveness and the offering of forgiveness. Notice the reconciliation and the lack of it with the two brothers. Search your heart. Ask God to show you what you need to see in your own relationships. Seek forgiveness, or offer it. Seek reconciliation as He directs.