Reconciliation is a wonderful thing. Reconciliation is peacemaking: bringing an end to conflict and renewing friendship between alienated parties. There is nothing to be said against reconciliation.
Yet reconciliation is a difficult thing. It involves justice being done and repentance being real as well as forgiveness being genuinely given. So often in our desire for reconciliation we seek to take the short cut of forgiveness without justice or repentance.
On minor issues the omission of justice and repentance do not matter. It is important not to turn the proverbial molehill into a mountain. If somebody steps on your toe in a crowded bus it does not require justice, repentance or even an apology for you to ignore the offence. When the people take offence over slight and unimportant issues they are in the wrong. They have lost perspective. They have forgotten their own sinfulness. They have forgotten the kindness of God in forgiving them. It is like the man in Jesus’ parable who, having been forgiven much, insists on extracting full payment from his own minor debtor.
However, on major issues the omission of justice and repentance will matter. We cannot just step over the offence and ignore its consequences. To ignore injustice is to be unjust. The damage that is done has to be paid for by somebody. There is no reason why the victim should be the person who pays. The guilty should pay. The outrage of the offended party will be not be easily assuaged by simple apologies. Apologies need to come in the context of justice being done as well as repentance being real.
There is no way that we could ever pay for our rebellion against God. There is no way that we could ever really repent of our deep-seated hostility to living under his authority. There is no way that we could turn aside his righteous anger towards us for all the damage we have done to him, to his world, to his creatures, to each other.
That is why God became man in the person of Jesus Christ – in order to bring genuine reconciliation.
… in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19)
It is by Jesus’ death and resurrection that this reconciliation happens. For there the justice of God and the mercy of God met. His anger was turned away as the just payment for sin was paid. He, God, was reconciled to us.
This is expressed for us in second of the Thirty-nine Articles
…the Godhead and Manhood were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead and buried, to reconcile His Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.
It is because God has been reconciled to us – in the sacrifice of his Son – that the New Testament now calls upon us to be reconciled to God in repentance.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
God is the great reconciler. Christ is the Prince of Peace. But God’s peacemaking is not by cheap and easy apologies that ignore the reality of sin, the requirements of justice or the need for changed hearts. His reconciliation comes by the death of his own Son: the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us.