I’ve decided that a relationship is like a bank account. You must make deposits to be able to draw anything out. And trust is one of the crucial factors that hold a relationship in tact. When a friend or family member does something which is totally untrustworthy, they bankrupt the account. And “sorry” isn’t enough to fill it back up.
A wise friend of mine counsels married couples. Usually he finds that they are struggling because of an affair or gambling or some behavior which has broken trust entirely. The person who made the offense will say they are sorry to their spouse and expect that their relationship should be back where it was before. This offender does not understand the relationship bank account system! When they broke trust, they bankrupted their account. They are basically starting over as a couple, having to build the trust back up in the account. And that always takes time.
I am amazed when I hear others who know about these type of situations saying things like, “Well, if she had really forgiven him, she wouldn’t be treating him that way.” Or “If you really forgave her, you wouldn’t mind if she came to the family event. Let’s just all get along.” But what they won’t say is the rest of the sentence, “… even if she hasn’t ever acknowledged she stole $100,000 from you or that she did anything wrong.”
People want forgiveness without reparation, especially if they were not the ones who were offended. But forgiveness, although merciful, also requires reparation. For example, if your son breaks the neighbor’s window, marching him over to the neighbor’s house to ask forgiveness is just step one. Step two is the neighbor saying, “You are forgiven.” Step three is having your son mow the lawn for the summer to pay off the cost of replacing that window.
Somehow, in today’s world, we let go of step three. We just expect others to forgive and call on God’s mercy as the reason why. Yes, God is all merciful, but He is all just, too! The justice part is overlooked when we don’t make reparation. Scripture tells us that we are called to forgive our neighbor over and over and over. However, we are also told to pay back any debts owed and right any wrongs. Mercy and justice go hand in hand. They are the one-two punch of forgiveness. Without these two together, I think you end up at that lukewarm notion called tolerance.