Corporate Forgiveness and Reconciliation
Our Lord’s exhortation to be merciful, just as our Father is merciful (Luke 6:36) applies not only to personal forgiveness, but also to corporate forgiveness in the body of Christ. Paul exhorted the Corinthians to forgive and comfort a brother who repented after being disciplined by the church (1 Corinthians 2:6-11). The biblical basis for personal and communal forgiveness and reconciliation is the gracious work of Christ on our behalf: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
In our earlier discussion of relational spirituality, we noted that forgiveness is not forgetting or pretending that the wrong done to us does not matter. Instead, forgiveness is a choice; it is a willful decision to treat another with mercy and grace. It is costly to acknowledge the hurt and to live with the consequences of other people’s sins, but personal and corporate forgiveness is the necessary path to healing and reconciliation. Without this choice, we will bear a burden of bitterness and diminish our experience of God’s love and forgiveness.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). Because of the wealth of human diversity, some forms of interpersonal conflict are natural and beneficial; we can grow through diversity, and this is why unity is not the same as uniformity (Ephesians 4:1-13). In the economy of God, people’s rough edges can be unintentional sources of our sanctification.
Other forms of conflict stem from sinful motives and actions (Mark 7:20-23; James 4:1-2). Even here, conflict can give us an opportunity to love and serve others and to be more conformed to the image of Christ. When a situation merits attention, it is healthy to seek reconciliation by having the courage and integrity to approach the other person instead of talking to others about that person (Matthew 18:15). If we make this approach in gentleness, humility, concern, compassion, and a genuine desire to understand the other person’s perspective, resolution is far more likely. We may even discover that repentance and confession are needed on our part.
In serious situations, when resolution is not achieved through personal confrontation, it may be necessary to go on to the second or third stages outlined in Matthew 18:16-17 by involving other members of the community. The biblical intention behind corporate discipline should never be punishment, but reconciliation.
Taken from Ken Boa’s Handbook to Spiritual Growth