So lets define the difference between apology, forgiveness and reconciliation. The following definition is from the Webster Dictionary. Apology is a formal justification, defense, excuse; an admission of error accompanied by an expression of regret. It implies an attempt to avoid or remove blame or censure. Steve Cornell posted on the web a really great insight into the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Here he summarizes a key distinction:
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“It’s possible to forgive someone without offering immediate reconciliation. It’s possible for forgiveness to occur in the context of one’s relationship with God apart from contact with his/her offender. But reconciliation is focused on restoring broken relationships. And where trust is deeply broken, restoration is a process-sometimes, a lengthy one”.
So why the importance of distinguishing the difference? Steve continues to explain why recognizing the difference is important:
“The process of reconciliation depends on the attitude of the offender, the depth of the betrayal, and the pattern of offense. When an offended party works toward reconciliation, the first and most important step is the confirmation of genuine repentance on the part of the offender (Luke 17:3).” So another word that can be used for reconciliation is ‘Transformation’. So when we sin we separate ourselves from God’s love or put a barrier between God and ourselves. We have deliberately, by our own free will, performed an act of disobedience against God. We can apologize to God, but it does not hold the person accountable to change or transformation of oneself. But if we ask for forgiveness resulting in reconciliation, we then are asked by God for a commitment to change in which a transformation takes place of ones lifestyle.
The sacrament of reconciliation can also be used as a sacrament of healing. A healing of not only our spiritual self but also our emotional and psychological being. Sin leaves ugly scars on a person. These scars can be emotional and psychological which can have physical effects. A person can go to a physician and be healed from the physical aspect but if the scars go deeper into the spiritual being of a person then one is not completely healed. A good example are women who have had an abortion. No term can adequately express the heartbreak that abortion causes, but for the purposes of identification we will call it Post-Abortion Trauma. Common feelings associated with Post-Abortion Trauma include guilt, grief, anger and regret. These feelings frequently manifest themselves through anti-social, self-destructive, and other abnormal behaviors. Many who suffer from Post-Abortion Trauma experience flashbacks, nightmares, and varying degrees of depression. The woman who holds a Christian worldview is very likely to begin, at some point after her abortion, to feel like a “second-class citizen” in God’s economy, even though she may know this to be incompatible with Scripture. She usually will either turn away from the church completely or try to “prove herself” by being good long enough until God will finally forgive her. Many post-abortive women, as we have already described, are secretly convinced that their transgressions are literally in a class by themselves, beyond the reach of God’s forgiveness. The more important task, then is to accept on an emotional level what they may already know on an intellectual level: that God’s forgiveness is already available, and that they must decide to reach out and grasp it firmly. There are three important aspects to this “firm grasp” on forgiveness: (1) knowing Who ultimately has paid the debt, (2) allowing intimacy with God to be restored and (3) understanding the difference between punishment and consequences.
The Bible clearly teaches that God has made provision for the forgiveness of wrongdoing. But the post-abortive woman often has a very difficult time believing that forgiveness is available for her selfish and catastrophic choice. Thus, in apparent contradiction to (or ignorance of) her own theology, she cannot accept God’s forgiveness. Instead, she continues to live in a compartmentalized state in which her head knowledge and her heart knowledge do not match. Like the person described in the Matthew 18 parable, she has been told of her Lord’s forgiveness; but her guilty emotions still demand that she pay her debt herself.
Restoring intimacy is the second aspect of forgiveness, and it is perhaps best understood in the parent-child relationship. When a child chooses to do something wrong, a healthy, loving parent needs only to know that the child is genuinely sorry for her actions for reconciliation and intimacy to be restored. In the same way, God only needs for us to verbalize our responsibility and sorrow for our action in order to restore intimacy with Him.
Finally, the third aspect of forgiveness has to do with understanding the difference between punishment and consequences, which are all too easily confused. For the post-abortive woman. a consequence might be infertility. It is tempting for her to interpret this as a sign of God’s continued judgment and rejection. Instead, she needs to understand God’s care for her, and His limitless capacity to redeem the fallout from unwise choices in a fallen world. God, as a loving parent, is as grieved as we are about the losses brought on by our choices. But living with the consequences of our choices is a key part of the uncoerced relationship God desires to have with us.
The sacrament of confession unveils us and humbles us before God. Confession removes barriers of sin so that the love from the Father can be completely received by us and then we in turn are strengthened to return that beautiful unconditional love back to the Father and share it with others around us, particularly our spouse. Christ conquered the death of sin at the cross- He became sin itself, died and defeated it through the resurrection. Ironically, it is through Christ, that our sin brings us to new life. The more we reveal of ourselves, the more we are forgiven- where there is much forgiveness there is much love and gratitude. Our anger dies, our bitterness dies, our resentment dies, our critical spirit dies, and our desire for revenge dies. We are now set free so that we ourselves may forgive and live a joyful, fulfilling marriage in and through the grace of Christ. It may be that at one time or another we have found the sacrament of Reconciliation a burden. Perhaps we even can remember an occasion when we said, “I wish I didn’t have to go to confession.”
But certainly in our saner moments we find Reconciliation a sacrament that we love, a sacrament we would not want to be without.
Just think of all that the sacrament of Reconciliation does for us!
First of all, if a person has cut himself off from God by a grave and deliberate act of disobedience against God (that is, by mortal sin), the sacrament of Reconciliation reunites the soul to God; sanctifying grace is restored to the soul.
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At the same time, the sin itself (or sins) is forgiven. Just as darkness disappears from a room when the light is turned on, so too must sin disappear from the soul with the coming of sanctifying grace.
When received without any mortal sin on the soul, the sacrament of Reconciliation imparts to the soul an increase in sanctifying grace. This means that there is a deepening and strengthening of that divine-life-shared by which the soul is united to God.
And always, any venial sins which the penitent may have committed and for which he is truly sorry are forgiven. These are the lesser and more common sins which do not cut us off from God but still hinder, like clouds across the sun, the full flow of his grace to the soul.
It is a spiritual medicine which strengthens as well as heals. That is why a person intent upon leading a good life will make it a practice to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation often. Frequent confession is one of the best guarantees against falling into grave sin. It would be the height of stupidity to say, “I don’t need to go to confession because I haven’t committed any mortal sins.”
All these results of the sacrament of Reconciliation-restoration or increase of sanctifying grace, forgiveness of sins, remission of punishment, restoration of merit, grace to conquer temptation-all these are possibleonly because of the infinite merits of Jesus Christ, which the sacrament of Reconciliation applies to our souls.
Jesus on the cross already has “done our work for us”. In the sacrament of Reconciliation we simply give God a chance to share with us the infinite merits of his Son.
“Your sins are forgiven.”
t was many years and many struggles later that I realized that it is in the solitude of the confessional when I most live by the way (or power) of the cross. It is in the confessional that I become soulfully naked and surrender my sinful life to God. He then gifts me with new life (His Grace). It is through God’s grace that the possibilities for life become endless and exciting. Philippians 4:13 reads “I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.” Realize the sacraments are living. God is actually present in the sacrament of reconciliation through His grace (the power of the Holy Spirit). God loves humility so when I completely reveal my weaknesses and failings to God in the sacrament of reconciliation, God gifts me with His grace and through His grace HE inwardly strengthens me against future sin and temptation. The Holy Spirit fills me with love, joy, peace, true happiness and a feeling of being content no matter what my life circumstances may be. Ultimately, in the confessional, I am slowly being set free from the bondage of sin because in my deepening love for God I loose desire to sin.