What Is Reconciliation? How Does The Bible Define It?

What Is Reconciliation? How Does The Bible Define It? April 16, 2015

All of us have been through times where we had a disagreement with someone. In many cases we are able to resolve our differences and continue with a normal relationship. In others, we made the best of the situation and tried to forget about it. However, sometimes the disagreement was never resolved and everyone involved went their separate ways being bitter and without reconciling their differences. For this reason, we will look at what is reconciliation and how does the Bible define it?

What is reconciliation? 

The common definition of reconciliation as it relates to relationships is (1): 1. The restoration of friendly relations. 2. The action of making one view or belief compatible with another.

We see from this definition that the words restoration and compatible are part of reconciliation. However, the root of reconciliation is the word conciliation, which is the action of stopping someone from being angry. When we have reconciliation, it means that we restore our relationship to one that enables us to be compatible and friendly with one another again.

How does the Bible define reconciliation? 

In the Old Testament the word reconciliation is the Hebrew word kapar, pronounced kaw-far’. This is one of the most theologically significant words in the Bible. In addition to reconciliation, kapar is also translated into English words such as forgive, purge away, and merciful as well as a few others. By far, the most commonly translated word for kapar is the English word atonement.

When the word atonement is broken down to its historical parts (a-tone-ment) it means a condition without tension. When Christ died on the cross for us, He removed the tension between us and God (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21.) His shed blood, reconciled the conflict between us and the Father. With this in mind, reconciliation has its Biblical foundation in the atonement of Christ.

What does the Bible teach us about reconciliation? 

The first thing the Bible teaches about reconciliation is that we must make it a priority to reconcile. This is stressed in Matthew 5:21-25 where we are told that if we have an unresolved disagreement with someone that we should resolve it as soon as possible, even before we go to church again. This is reinforced in Hosea 6:6, Matthew 6:6, and Matthew 12:7 where Jesus told us that restoring relationships are more important than religious practices.

The second thing the Bible teaches about reconciliation is that if we are approaching someone about a situation, we should do it in a spirit of meekness and keep it private (Matthew 18:15). The goal is to communicate that you want to resolve the problem, not make the other person look bad or put them in their place. When we take this approach, it communicates grace and love to the other person. This is reinforced in Proverbs 10:12, Galatians 6:1-5, and Ephesians 4:1-3, 25, 29-31 where we are told that love should be our motivation for reconciliation.

Finally, the Bible teaches us that reconciliation means that we must be willing to ask for forgiveness and forgive if asked (Matthew 18:21-35). The very term forgive is a word that was made up of the words force and giving. Together, they describe forgiveness as the process whereby the offended party “gives” up the right to “enforce” justice. Therefore, forgiveness involves a two-way transaction: the humbling and asking for forgiveness by the offender and the release of the right of the offended to enforce justice.

How should I make reconciliation with someone? 

Practically speaking, a person in the wrong should humble themself and confess to the other person that they have sinned against them. They should then ask for forgiveness for what they have done. The other person should grant forgiveness based on the fact that the person confessed their sin and asked for forgiveness. This is what Proverbs 10:12 means when it says: “Hatred stirreth up strife, but love covereth all sins.” Love enables us to forgive all sins!

Unfortunately, many people today do not follow this Biblical model. Instead, they just tell the other person they are sorry and move on. Apologizing is not part of the Biblical reconciliation process. This is because the original meaning of the word apology (apo-logy), means without the Word. An apology does not involve a two-way transaction and does not acknowledge guilt. Therefore, if someone does not want to Biblically resolve an issue, then the process given in Matthew 18:15-20 should be followed.

An example that I often use to demonstrate the use of forgiveness is as follows. Imagine that I borrow your truck and am driving it down the road and someone runs a red light and hits me in your truck. I am not found to be at fault so then I have done nothing wrong. Biblically, the situation should be handled “without the Word.” I have not sinned against you nor anyone else so an apology would be appropriate.

On the other hand, if I was the one who ran the red light, then I am guilty of sinning against you and the other driver by my actions. Biblically and legally you have a right to expect justice and restoration of your truck. Since I sinned, I need to confess my sin to you and ask for your forgiveness. Since sin is involved, an apology would be inappropriate.

Now for the hard part. Let’s say that I did $5000 damage to your truck. If you forgave me, do I have to pay for your truck? The answer is found in the following verses:

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:8-12)

Remember, reconciliation has its Biblical foundation in the atonement of Christ. When Christ forgives us, are we still accountable for our sin? No, our sins are forgiven, our debt is paid by the atoning blood of Christ! So, if I wrecked your truck and you really forgave me, you cannot hold me accountable for paying for your truck! Likewise, you are not allowed to bring it up again. This is because once sin is forgiven, it should be remembered no more (Hebrews 8:12, Hebrews 10:16-18).

However, because of your grace to grant forgiveness, I should be motivated by your love to do everything in my power to get your truck repaired out of love, not obligation. It is the same way with Christ, because He demonstrated His love for us while we were yet sinners we should want to have reconciliation with others out of appreciation for what He has done (Romans 5:8-9; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 5:21; 1 John 4:19).


Reconciliation is the process of restoring a relationship to one that is friendly and compatible with each other. God values the reconciliation of relationships more than religious practices. For this reason reconciliation should be a high priority and done in private with an attitude of humility and love. The person who has sinned should confess their sin and ask for forgiveness from the other person. Once forgiveness is granted and reconciliation is completed, the sin is no longer allowed to be brought up. Our motivation to reconcile with someone should be because of our love for Christ because of the reconciliation He gave us with God by His death on the cross.

Article by Dr. Michael L. Williams

Is Soul Sleep Biblical

Dr. Michael L. Williams is a pastor, author, Christian educator and Biblical counselor who has served in ministry since March of 2000. Dr. Mike holds under-graduate through post graduate degrees in Christian Education and formerly worked as a nurse. Dr. Mike is the Senior Pastor of Selah Mountain Ministries, which he founded in March of 2010 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA (selahmountain.org). In addition to counseling, he teaches how to overcome life issues Biblically on topics such as anger management, marriage, addictions, and other subjects typically referred to as mental illnesses. Dr. Mike is also a writer at What Christians Want To Know. Dr. Mike lives with his wife Pamela Rose and adult daughter Hollie Rose. He and Pamela have other adult children and several grandchildren as well. Learn more about Dr. Mike at his personal ministry web site Wisdom4Today

Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version. (1) Google. (2015). “Reconciliation”. Retrieved from Google, https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=reconciliation

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