Forgiveness without Reconciliation

I was recently asked what marriage to an abusive man would look like if he never changed–if the only confession and plea for forgiveness was tied to approval instead of authenticity. That’s a big question. What would it look like to live, willing to forgive, but unreconciled?

My initial thought was Jesus’ teaching:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

That’s hard. Impossible. Supernatural.

And the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Skip ahead to the last meal Jesus shared with His disciples before His crucifixion. When He announced that one of them would betray Him, each one (including Judas) asked, “Surely not I, Lord?” (Matthew 26:22). Jesus’ treatment of Judas was no different than His treatment of the others, even though Judas had already received 30 pieces of silver in exchange for betrayal.

The strained behavior, words, guilt, and shame rest soundly with the one who has sinned and refuses to repent. The one who is forgiven by God in Christ is free; faith-filled, peace-full. She can choose, walk, talk, and live with a clear conscience before God and others. Reconciliation affects the fellowship they have, but it does not bear on her relationship with her abuser or with God.

Again, the guilt and sin is the responsibility of the one who uses others to his advantage. The soul who sins will die. (Ezekiel 18:4). That’s each one of us–apart from Jesus. But in Christ, there is the ability to love others independent of their behavior; to love others in a way that seeks their best; to love others in a way that honors God with my heart, mind,  body, and soul.

Simply trusting every day;
Trusting through a stormy way;
Even when my faith is small,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

Refrain:

Trusting as the moments fly,
Trusting as the days go by,
Trusting Him, whate’er befall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

2 Brightly doth His Spirit shine
Into this poor heart of mine;
While He leads I cannot fall,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

3 Singing if my way be clear,
Praying if the path be drear;
If in danger, for Him call,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

4 Trusting Him while life shall last,
Trusting Him till earth is past,
Till His gracious advent call,
Trusting Jesus, that is all.

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