What is it? How do we do it well?

Written by MayBell Developments – October 29th, 2021

In Canada, reconciliation is a word that has been thrown around a lot lately.  If you have been paying attention to the news and media outlets you have heard about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The TRC made 94 calls to action for reconciliation which was released in 2015 and has not yet been adhered to by the government. Their report states 94 action steps that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is encouraging various levels of government in Canada to follow through on in order to mend the relationship between the Aboriginal people groups living in Canada and the government systems.  Canada’s TRC was created to inform all of Canada about the experiences endured during the period of residential schools.  The many stories of residential school survivors and their family members are stored with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

It is important to note that Canada was not the first country, nor the last, to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  There are 36 total countries with individual commissions being used to resolve conflicts and human rights violations that were committed against various people groups.  One of the more infamous is South Africa’s TRC created in part by Desmond Tutu and commissioned by President Nelson Mandela. 


Define Reconciliation

Miriam-Webster defines reconciliation as the act of causing two people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement. 

However, this seems to be a superficial form of reconciliation.  It is not difficult to “become friendly” with another after an argument and there is likely very little closure or satisfaction for the offended party.  Let’s go deeper.


Biblical Definition of Reconciliation

Our English Bibles are translated from Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). We can use these translations to discover deeper meaning within the text.  The word “reconcile” or “reconciliation” is translated from the Hebrew word “kaphar” and the Greek word “katallage”. 

Kaphar is a verb meaning to cover over, to atone, or to make atonement. We can think of this as mending or repairing what was once good but then become broken. In the Old Testament, we hear many instances of people atoning for their sins. Atonement was often made through offerings and animal sacrifices until Jesus made the final atonement for our sins through His death on the cross.  You can feel the heaviness in this meaning.  There is nothing superficial about this level of reconciliation. It is a deep, sometimes painful moving from injustice to forgiveness. It is a reconciliation that requires sacrifice.

Katallage is a noun meaning adjustment of difference or restoration to favour.  Where once there was brokenness now the broken has been restored, approved, and even preferred. 


Reconciliation to God

God reconciles us to Him. It’s seen throughout the stories of the Bible: David and Bathsheba, Prodigal son, Saul, and the entire Gospel message. God’s reconciliation is transformative. 

At the time of creation, we had no need for reconciliation. We were living in perfect harmony with God in the garden of Eden with no disparity between us. 

The fall created a chasm between us and God. A distance created by our own sin that we could not overcome on our own. Thankfully our God is a loving God.  He reached through that chasm with His Son, Jesus Christ, and allowed us a way to repent and to be brought near to Him again. (Romans 5:11) God is transforming our hearts and closing that chasm, moving us closer to how we were created.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17


Reconciliation is a Choice

Reconciliation cannot exist on its own. It is inherently relationship-based and, by definition, requires two people or groups to occur.  We are not able to reconcile as one person or one group, it simply will not work. 

Though reconciling is a choice, it’s not one we can make on our own. For true reconciliation to happen both the offender and the offended need to participate in the reconciliation process.  

When we look at reconciliation between God and ourselves the choice is solely ours as God eternally and graciously offers reconciliation. 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

– 1 John 1:9

Such simple steps: We confess, we repent, God forgives, we are cleansed and made new.

God’s goodness and mercy make it easy for us to be reconciled to Him.  He does the heavy lifting if would simply ask and allow Him to work in us.

Reconciliation with another person or group of people may be messier but is always beneficial if both parties are willing to put in the work. The steps look similar to the steps above.

First, we seek forgiveness.  The offender confesses their hurtful actions to the offended and genuinely repents. The offended offers forgiveness. Both parties move forwards together, living their lives with a new understanding of each other’s circumstances. 

Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

– Luke 17:3-4

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

– Colossians 3:12-13


Putting It Into Practice

Sounds perfect right? Why then is reconciliation is such a challenging task? The truth is many people aren’t willing to put effort into repairing their broken relationships. We see this in the increased rate of divorce and the onset of “cancel culture”. It’s easier to pretend that someone doesn’t exist than to repair the broken relationship.

“Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.”

― Desmond Tutu

As Christians, we are commanded to reconcile with those in our lives even before bringing our gifts and offerings to God.

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,  leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

– Matthew 5:23-24

I would encourage you to try restoring the broken relationships in your life. If everyone attempted to reconcile one relationship in their lives whether with the Lord, a family member, or even an old acquaintance then the opportunity to love one another would be increased exponentially.

MayBell focuses on building healthy relationships across groups of people that might not otherwise have the opportunity.  If you would like to join us in relational restoration, “learn more” about becoming an ally below. 


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