Forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration are not stand alone concepts. They are three significant steps in living out what Christ followers say we believe. To help comprehend this truth, notice the following:
As Christians, we are commanded by Jesus to forgive which is a requirement for the ministry of reconciliation; a reaction of walking in the Spirit as we seek the response necessary for restoration.
Forgiveness is understood as the choice given to acknowledging the hurt and allowing it to no longer stand in the way of relationship. Many analogies and metaphors have been used to seize this concept. Notably, something about a hook and letting someone off of it. Another uses poison to point to the personally decaying power of un-forgiveness. Regardless of metaphor, the proper context for forgiveness is simply obedience. Forgiveness is a command. Obedience the only right response.
Immediately upon forgiving someone, believers assume a jump to restoration. Restoration being that awkward concept of returning the relationship to where it once was. Some even believe the relationship needs to be on better footing than it was before the offense. Common responses are to speak holy sounding platitudes to allow more time to heal wounds, or to put boundaries in place to protect one from experiencing more pain in the future. More energy is spent in finding ways not to relate than to seek healthy responses to allow regrowth of relationship.
Reconciliation is the missing step between forgiveness and restoration. Reconciliation is the spiritual willingness to afford God His transformative work in both you and the offender. It is the offended believers’ responsibility. Rephrased, it is our response-ability to create a spiritual climate for healthy restoration to occur. Between the choice to forgive and the restoration of relationship comes the intentional ministry of reconciliation.