The Christian doctrine of reconciliation rests on the central “grand narrative” or “metanarrative” of redemption. The story begins with the creation of humans in the “image of God.” Humans initially lived in harmony with God and all of nature. De Gruchy writes of this early relationship of trust and companionship as a covenant. However, humans broke the covenant by disobeying God. As a result of the Fall, humans are alienated from God and nature; they long for healing and wholeness. To restore the covenant, God the Creator chose to redeem humanity by offering Jesus of Nazareth as Christ, the anointed mediator. It is through Christ that humans are restored or reconciled to God and to one another.
The symbol of the cross merges the sacred and the secular. It recalls the experience of Christ as a human victim on earth sent to redeem the world through vicarious suffering. This is the model of reconciliation for humans, according to de Gruchy. To heal broken human relationships, one must forgive unconditionally without resentment and without wreaking vengeance.
The injured person who forgives the offender initiates reconciliation. This is a gift inasmuch as true forgiveness cannot be coerced. Forgiveness promotes restoration of social relations by allowing the offender to feel remorse and to offer amends. After the offender confesses and the injured forgives, the two can enter into a covenant to restore harmony. On the other hand, if forgiveness is withheld, reconciliation is unlikely. People who forgive are keeping faith with Jesus’ plea to love one’s enemies, but others find forgiveness impossible. This is why Christ Incarnate pleads on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34, King James Version). Christ mediates forgiveness and reconciliation when humans fail.