This is the second in a two-part series on reconciliation. Last time, we talked about the concept of the onion: healing from a deep wound is like stripping away the layers of an onion. After we’ve healed from one layer and stripped it away, another dimension of the wound may become more obvious. It was always there, but perhaps it was hidden by the first layer. 

We also talked about the definition of reconciliation, prerequisites that need to be in place before we attempt to reconcile with someone who has harmed us, the commitment required by both parties, and the way that love interacts with the reconciliation process. Let’s continue the discussion.


The reconciliation process can be complex. Though the wounding person may have recognized some of the wrongdoing, they may not understand all of it immediately. Likewise, the wounded may not recognize the inner layers of the onion, and will have to commit to forgiving each layer as it's revealed. 

Often, the wounded will recognize more of the wrongdoing than the wounding party.


It will likely be necessary for the wounded person to hold back some information on all of the wounding that has taken place. This is to safeguard the well-being of the wounding person. If the wounding person is exposed to everything they have done all at once, this may crush them. Instead, the wounded holds these things "in trust" for the wounding person [1], prayerfully dispensing them in dribs and drabs as the wounding person is able to handle them.

Each time, it's necessary to wait between revelations so that the wounding person can experience forgiveness and increased peace and security in the relationship for a while before the next stage.

This holding "in trust" is a way of us "bearing one another's burdens" [2] in Christ, so that all are preserved and restored in the kingdom of God. Indiscriminately laying a crushing burden on our brothers' backs is not the way of love. Yes, we should long for the truth, but the truth spoken without love can be devastating and, if done knowingly, cruel.

"Holding in trust" is not the same as "keeping a record of wrongs" [5]. The things we hold back are not meant to foster bitterness; they are simply held back until the proper time so that our brother is not crushed.

In 1 Corinthians 13:5, the Bible commands us not to keep score on other people's wrongdoing. 

The difference between keeping in trust and keeping score really boils down to the reason why we are doing it. 

Keeping in trust is meant to preserve the wounding party. It does not mean that we will keep these things to ourselves indefinitely. Eventually, all of the wrongdoing will be released into the care of the wrongdoer. Keeping in trust means that we are forgiving everything that we have not yet told the wrongdoer, and are not holding these things against them. However, in order for reconciliation to take place, the wrongdoer will eventually have to recognize what they have done and repent of it. 

By contrast, keeping a record of wrongs means that the wrongdoing is stored up in the heart of the wounded person indefinitely. There is no plan to release these things. Instead, record-keeping is a source of bitterness and anger. This is sometimes a way of the wounded person making themself feel superior to the wounding party.


God, too, takes a dribs-and-drabs approach to reconciliation. It's a far more painful method than I originally recognized. It is painful because, if the wounding party doesn't recognize the wrong, they are likely to continue it and may even presumptively assume that everything is now okay in the relationship when there is still much to resolve.

When God takes this approach, the reconciliation process doesn't just require a few months or years. It lasts a human lifetime. We are so sinful that we would be crushed by the weight our sin if God were not so patient with us, and willing to undergo such massive pain for our sakes. 

The pain God experienced on the cross was only the beginning of the forgiveness process. His pain continues through each of our lives by means of the reconciliation process. Because sin is so rampant in our hearts, this process is not completed until we reach our perfected state in heaven.

Just as human reconciliation requires a high level of commitment to the relationship, so does our reconciliation with God. Becoming a Christian is, in essence, a commitment to working towards reconciliation with our Heavenly Father. To be successful, we have to be willing to work towards understanding our sins across different dimensions, and repenting of them through each deeper iteration of understanding. In this way, the gaping wounds in our relationship with God can be healed as we peel back the layers of the onion.


A passage in 2 Corinthians talks about reconciliation in a way that helps illuminate more of this topic.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, 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 5:17-19, ESV)

Verse 17 is a key that unlocks the rest of this passage:

  • "old things have passed away"
  • "new things have come"
  • "new creature"

(NASB wording)

We don't strive after the things of the past. We don't waste time looking back. We allow God to re-create us. We recognize that the old things have been lost, but we have a sacred choice available to us now: who do we want to be in the future?

As we communicate, recognize sin, repent, forgive, re-orient, and grow, we are reconciled, not only to each other but to God.

By the time the last item in trust is released to the wrongdoer, there is no heavy burden for them to carry anymore, because it has evaporated on the winds of forgiveness and healing.

So, too, verse 21 becomes deeply meaningful:

For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

(2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)

As Jesus bore the burden of our sins so that we might be reconciled to God, so we are called to bear our brothers' burdens with them, so they will not be crushed but restored.


[1] Without telling the wounding person how much more there may be, or even that there is more at the moment. We don't want to foster anxiety in the wounding person's heart.

[2] See Galatians 6:2.