What Does The Bible Say About Reconciliation Between Believers?

by Dr. Michael L. Williams · Print Print · Email Email

Everyone has experienced a time when they had a disagreement with someone else. Most of the time, we work out our differences and move on. However, sometimes we do not work out our differences and either try to forget about it, or we hold bitterness and anger toward the other person. As believers, God has provided us with clear guidance on how to resolve our issues. Therefore, it is important to understand what does the Bible say about reconciliation between believers?

What does it mean to reconcile with someone?

To reconcile with someone means we try to restore friendly relations so that we can get along with or have reconciliation with each other. Reconciliation is defined as (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 reconciliation involves restoring friendly relations so that we can get along with one another. However, the motivation differs between the Christian and non-Christian.

Reconciliation is the process of restoring friendly relationships with one another so that we can get along.

Reconciliation is the process of restoring friendly relationships with one another so that we can get along.

How is reconciliation different for believers?

For the believer, the restoration of friendly relations demonstrates the peace and unity that we can have in Jesus Christ. Reconciliation also fulfills what Jesus said would be a key element in demonstrating to the world that we are Christians, that we love one another (John 13:34-35; John 15:12). Likewise, reconciliation shows us that relationships are more important than religion.

Jesus spoke about this when he was having dinner at Matthew’s house and others questioned why he was there with tax collectors and sinners. In Matthew 9:12-13. Jesus said to them, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” By these words, Jesus emphasized that repenting and restoring relationships were what was most important to God (See also Hosea 6:4-10 and Matthew 12:7).

Another thing that makes reconciliation different for believers as the Old Testament Hebrew word for reconciliation. The Hebrew word for reconciliation is kapar, which is pronounced kaw-far’. It is most often translated into the English word, atonement. It brings to mind that when Jesus died on the cross for us He provided an atonement for our sins with the Father (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21).

The English word for atonement literally means a condition without tension. Therefore, the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross removed the tension between us and God. No other word could serve as a better example of what reconciliation should mean between believers. Our reconciliation with one another has its Biblical foundation in the atonement of Christ.

What can believers learn about reconciliation from the Bible?

The Bible teaches in Matthew 5:21-25 that reconciliation should take place as soon as possible. It even tells us that if we are at church and realize that we need to reconcile with someone, we should leave church and immediately go to them. Then we can return to the church after reconciliation has taken place.

This is reinforced in Matthew 18:15-20 where the process of reconciliation for believers is described. It tells us in verse 15 that when we go to make reconciliation, we should go alone and keep it private. Unfortunately, in most cases when there is a dispute between two parties in the church, everyone in the church knows about it before the parties involved. The rule of thumb should be that if someone is not part of the problem or part of the solution then it should be classified as gossip to speak with them about it.

If the other person refuses to reconcile or discuss the issue, then Matthew 18:16 tells us to take one or two others so that both sides of the story can be confirmed. Again, the issue is kept private at this point. However, if there is still no reconciliation, then and only then should it be brought to the church (Matthew 18:17). We are told in verse 17 that if the party or parties refuse to listen to the church, then they should be removed from the congregation.

Unfortunately, most churches do not follow this process and the issue creates major dissension and often causes a split in the church congregation. Paul pointed out the wickedness of not following the Biblical model in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8. He said that the local church should be resolving issues that many people brought to civil courts. He pointed out that even the least esteemed person in the church was a better judge than an unbeliever. Sadly, the same holds true today, believers would rather sue one another than have the local church decide what is right.

What should be our approach when reconciling with someone else?

The Bible teaches that when we approach someone else with a problem, we should do it in a spirit of meekness. Our motivation should be to communicate the problem in a way that attacks the problem and not the person. This communicates grace and love to the other person and a willingness to restore the relationship. (See Proverbs 10:12, Galatians 6:1-5, and Ephesians 4:1-3, 25, 29-31).

In addition to this, we must be willing to ask for forgiveness and forgive if asked (Matthew 18:21-35). To forgive means that we give up our right to enforce justice when we have been wronged. Asking for forgiveness is different than apologizing. An apology only applies when no wrong has been done because the root of the word apology means “without the Word.” This makes an apology only appropriate when no Biblical offense has taken place.

Forgiveness involves a two-way transaction between the individuals. The offender(s) humbles themselves and ask for forgiveness and the person who was offended grants forgiveness. When we grant forgiveness we release our right to enforce justice and bring up the topic again. Our motivation to forgive is based on the fact that God forgave us of our sins and removed them from our account when we confessed our sins to Him.

Theologically speaking, the penalty for our sins was not dismissed, but transferred to Jesus Christ when He died upon the cross. Because of His great act of love, we are able to love and forgive others (Psalms 103:8-12; Proverbs 10:12). They should motivate us to do everything in our power to restore our relationships with others even if we’re not the person who has done wrong. In the same way, Christ did the same for us (Romans 5:8-9; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 5:21; 1 John 4:19).

Practically speaking, believers have an advantage over non-believers because they share the Holy Spirit who empowers them to humble themselves and to seek the will of God. Likewise, the more time we spend in God’s Word as a believer, the more the Holy Spirit changes our mind to think like Christ. This makes reconciliation easier for believers, but only if they seek the leading of the Holy Spirit.


Reconciliation is the process of restoring friendly relationships with one another so that we can get along. The Bible teaches that reconciliation should take place as soon as possible. The Bible also provides a process for believers to resolve their differences. When this process is followed, it will lead to reconciliation if both parties are seeking the will of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ is the motivator for believers to reconcile with one another. Finally, believers have an advantage over nonbelievers when it comes to reconciliation because of the power and leading of the Holy Spirit.

More about forgiveness here: What Does the Bible Say About Forgiveness?

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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