We must recognize that there are many moving parts to being “restored” to our brother or sister. The origin point of the problem is conflating all the parts into one single concept, or boiling it down to a single transaction, such as “I’m sorry.”
We’ve all been there: someone has done something to deeply harm or offend us, and they’re standing in front of us having just spoken the words, “I’m sorry.” But something is off. You can’t quite put your finger on it. It doesn’t seem like there has been an adequate understanding of the damage done, nor does it seem like there is a genuine sorrow over the sin. Instead, they have spoken paltry words like a talisman aimed at making all things better, and there you are, forced to respond, feeling the pressure of Christ’s command to forgive, but not knowing how to formulate your next sentence. Do you say “It’s okay,” even though it’s far from okay? Do you say “I forgive you,” even though the person has not repented nor have they asked for forgiveness? And what does this mean moving forward? Is all just forgotten and now the relationship has to “go back to normal”—whatever that means?
This all-too-common illustration of our lives reveals that Christian circles have a long way to go in reclaiming a biblical understanding of relational restoration. Sadly, in the evangelical and reformed world, there is a troubling oversimplification of the reconciliation process. How do we begin to regain ground in walking through repentance and forgiveness in a Christ-honoring way?
In the first place, we must recognize that there are many moving parts to being “restored” to our brother or sister. The origin point of the problem is conflating all the parts into one single concept, or boiling it down to a single transaction, such as “I’m sorry”. That “sorry” is meant to bear the weight of confession, acknowledgement of wrong done, and asking for forgiveness—all in one fell swoop. Such a short sentence—nay, a single word—cannot possibly bear such a load. But in speaking of these components, we’ve already begun to tease-out some of the elements of what Christ would have us work through in the reconciliation process. The main aspects of biblical restoration are at least as follows: