Most of the time, when you buy something that requires assembly, it comes with instructions. How many of you are like me, and you decide to install or assemble it yourself, but about halfway through, you wish you would have gone ahead and paid to have someone else do it?
I still haven’t learned my lesson with instructions. I don’t always read them, but even when I do, I don’t always read them thoroughly. I do a quick overview. You might say I am a skimmer when it comes to reading the instructions.
A few weeks ago, I installed a new GARAGE DOOR OPENER. There were 14 Steps in the installation guide – I decided I would try to do them in order for a change. I had it all done. I was so excited. The install was problem free. Then I tried to raise the door and it wouldn’t go all the way up.
Apparently, if you have a 8 foot garage door, you have to buy and extension for the track. That wasn’t in the instructions, but in the small print on the bottom of the box. The entire unit had to come down. The wires were too short now. I had holes where holes were not needed. It would have been so much easier to do it right the first time.
Assembling things can be a challenge. But fixing things is usually a greater challenge. Assembling things is usually easier than fixing things. That includes relationships. Most people are pretty good at starting relationships. Most of us can maintain or continue relationships reasonably well. But when a relationship breaks, that is where we get in trouble. We struggle to know how to handle it when things become awkward, distant, or uncomfortable.
Even when we do try to fix or repair the relationship, we often attempt do it the wrong way because of a lack of knowledge or understanding. As we said last week, there are FOUR GO-TO TACTICS we use when people don’t see things our way. We typically try to Convince, Convict, Coerce, or Control the other person. These are the default tools we reach for when relationships are not going well. These methods don’t work in relationships because nobody likes to be convinced, convicted, coerced, or controlled.
Even though we know that most of us quickly move to one of these four approaches, whenever we are in a relationship that is facing turmoil.
CONVINCE – We begin building our case by explaining all the right reasons and providing all the right information. This is a logical perspective.
CONVICT – This is where shame, guilt, and manipulation come into play. Blame is often a factor here. Here is a key phrase that might sound familiar here…“After all I have done for you…”
Or we try to COERCE the other person to get them to do what we want. We may try to force things in the “right” direction, for the “right” reason, but nobody likes to be coerced.
And who doesn’t enjoy being CONTROLLED? We all love that, don’t we? These four approaches to relational turmoil, all have something in common.
The Final Outcomes, with all four methods, are basically the same. Closed hearts – Closes minds – Communication comes to an end
People withdraw from us whenever we attempt to Convince, Convict, Coerce, or Control them. them. They become less accessible emotionally and we undermine our influence when we use these tactics.
That is primarily because we all want the same thing…We all want to be LOVED and ACCEPTED. We all want to feel like we are valued. We all desire love and acceptance. But we seem to forget all this when it comes to repairing broken relationships.
That is why we said that reassembling a broken relationship is a LEARNED skill. Sadly, most of us have never seen it done well and nobody taught us how to do it. That is why most of us can point back to so many broken relationship we have either witnessed or experienced personally.
When it comes to broken relationships, we were taught to square off, go to our separate corners, repeat our story to everyone but the one we should really be talking to, and wait for the other person to make the first move. The good news is that most of us want ruptured relationships to be repaired.
We want things to be fixed. We want the relationship to be reassembled. We just don’t know how to do it. Nobody likes the tension. We may have gotten used to it on some level, but most don’t like living in conflict. We want things to be better, we’re just not sure what we can do to get there.
We don’t like the guilt We don’t like to pretend. We don’t like the awkwardness this causes around the holidays. And we certainly don’t like the yuck we feel when we think about those relationships that are not where they should be. We know things are not right. They know it too. But neither party can seem to let it go.
We are only as HAPPY as our core relationships are HEALTHY
That is because broken, unhealthy, dysfunctional relationships take a toll on us. There is a physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual price to pay when we are facing relational turmoil.
Nobody has ever gone to a counselor or therapist and had them say, “the emotional problems you are facing right are directly connected to the overly healthy relationships you have with your parents and siblings.” Has any doctor every told you that your healthy relationships are contributing to the ulcers, high blood pressure, and stress you are facing in your life?
I have read studies that connect some forms of cancer and heart disease to the tension that is so often experienced in troubled marriages. Healthy relationships are NEVER the root cause of our mental, emotional, or physical problems.
Last week we said the goal of reassembly is NOT reconciliation. That is because you cannot control another human being. You can only control yourself.
Our goal in troubled relationships is to be able to live with NO REGRET
That is something we can all control for ourselves. When it comes to reassembling something that is broken, you may have all the pieces. You can control the process. But that is rarely if ever true when it comes to relationships. That is also why attempting to convince, coerce convict, or control doesn’t work.
We don’t have control over all the parts. But it is good to know that you have done everything in your power to make things work in every relationship. I think that is what Paul said…“Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18 (NLT)
Reassembling a broken relationship requires some important decisions. It requires that we be proactive. And even though these decisions do pave the way toward reconciliation, there is still no guarantee the relationship can be restored.
We are going to consider the first of four important decisions we need to make today. Even if you are not a Christian, what I am about to tell you is helpful. These things can make a positive difference in your life and in your relationships. But if you claim to be a Christian, if you are a Jesus follower, this is what is required of us. We are to do for others what God, through Jesus Christ, has done for us.
Philippians 2:5 tells us that we are to have the same mindset, outlook, perspective, approach to relationships that Jesus had. Here is the problem. If you know anything about Jesus, the Bible, and especially the Gospels, you will know that…Jesus was ALWAYS the offended. He was NEVER the offender. Even though He was always the offended, and even though He was never the offender, in every relationship, including His relationship with us, He ALWAYS makes the first move. He humbled himself on a level that is difficult for us to understand.
The big obstacle in our relationship with God was sin. It was an obstacle we couldn’t do anything about. So, God took the first step. He chose to remove the obstacle that stood in the way of our relationship with Him.
If I claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ, reassembly must begin with ME. Even if it is 100% their fault. Even if they are the one who walked away. If there is even any hope for reassembly or reconciliation, if we intend to follow the example Jesus set for us, then we need to realize that process begins with us.
This not easy. We want to explain why this is a bad idea, and why it is unfair, and why it should not be up to us, and why it is their fault, and whatever. I forgive them. I want the relationship to be restored. But I don’t know about moving in their direction. I don’t know about taking the initiative or me trying to fix a relationship that they broke. I think I will just stand back and wait. It is up to them.
But here is the problem. Jesus took the initiative in our relationship with Him. We are to do the same in our relationships with others. Waiting on them to do it is often a subtle form of GETTING BACK AT them. And that may mean you are more like them than you would ever want to admit. That brings us to the first of
Four Decisions That Pave the Way Toward Reconciliation.
These decisions don’t guarantee that reconciliation will take place, but they help open the door for reassembly or reconciliation to happen. In some situations, these decisions may have to be made again and again. DECISION #1 – I will get BACK TO, not get BACK AT ____________________. This is what it looks like to be like Jesus.
The Apostle Paul was talking about this with a group of believers in the church at Rome. He was writing to them with some very specific relational instructions. This is what it looks like to embrace the mind of Christ when it comes to relationships. It is not circumstantial. Paul provides no exception. He begins with this blanket statement.
“Love must be sincere.” – Romans 12:9a (NIV).
There is no pretending. If you are pretending, faking, putting on the smile, you may have some work to do. The goal is to get to the place where we see the other person(s) the way THEIR HEAVENLY FATHER sees them. They may have taken something from me. They have hurt or offended me in some way. It may feel almost impossible to love them sincerely.
Paul says…“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” – Romans 12:9 (NIV) You get to allocate your hate. You can hate a SOMETHING. Just don’t hate a SOMEONE. Most of us would never say we hate someone. But sometimes our attitude, our actions, and even our words tell a different story.
What if you were able to allocate your hate toward what happened? What if you were to hate what you have lost? Hate the fallout or the consequence of what took place, rather than hating the person. You can hate the what, just don’t hate the who.
That is another step toward removing the obstacles that prevent reconciliatio That is moving in the right direction relationally and it will make it easier for you to cling to what is good. “Be DEVOTED to one another in love. HONOR one another above yourselves.” – Romans 12:10 (NIV)
To honor someone is to defer to them
It means I have chosen to put them first. We can’t control what other people do or how they respond. We can’t control the past.
But we can control our devotion to one another, and we can control our decision as to whether we will honor them or not.
And when you choose to honor the other person, you are intentionally placing them ahead of your pride, ahead of your feelings, ahead of your emotions, ahead of your preferences, and ahead of your ego.
Instead of trying to convince, convict, coerce, or control them, you decide to learn how to better understand them. You choose to defer. You choose to honor.
You choose to put them first. These are things you ca control.
Skip a few verses…“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” – Romans 12:14 (NIV) Bless those who persecute you. What does that mean? Maybe it means we are not to talk about them the way they may be talking about us.
Jesus said the same thing in the beatitudes. Bless those who curse you. This goes completely against our natural inclinations, doesn’t it? But Paul tells us to do this because we are followers of Jesus. We do what we do as an expression of faith, and gratitude for all that God has done for us.
Remember, we are to have the same mindset, and the same perspective as Jesus, when it comes to the important matter of relationships. This is what it looks like to follow Jesus relationally. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” – Romans 12:15 (NIV) This is difficult for us to do. And if we don’t want to do it, doesn’t that reveal something about our heart?
If these things are not something we are doing, or something we are willing to do, it reveals that we have some work to do in our journey of being refined in the image of Jesus. This is something that is almost impossible to do on your own. We need God’s help to get this right. And once again, this is something we can control because we can choose to allow God to go to work on us, in us, and through us.
So much of what we tend to focus on we cannot control. What if we decide to go to work on the things we can control? Through the power of His Spirit, He can show us what is wrong. We can own it. And with His help, we can change it.
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud.” – Romans 12:16 (NIV)
If we want to be honest about it, pride is what ignites and fuels all four of the C’s.
Convict, convince, coerce, and control. All four are an attempt to prove that I am right, and you are wrong. Which means all four of them are rooted in pride.
If people would see the world like we see it, and if they would live like we live, and if they would think like we think, the world would be a better place and we would all get along so much better.
We joke about these things, but they are at the root of so much of the turmoil we face, and if we are honest, we would have to admit they are rooted in pride, selfishness, and sin. And pride, selfishness, and sin, are outside the will of God for our lives. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.” – Romans 12:17 (NIV)
Paul is showing us how to FOLLOW the example of CHRIST. When we repay someone evil for evil, it is about getting even. We want to pay then back for what they did. It may seem justifiable from a human perspective. It is normal and natural to want to get back at them. And it is this part of our nature that the Holy Spirit wants to redeem, to purify, to cleanse, and to transform. Because God’s goal for us is that we become more and more like Jesus.
This internal transformation that the Spirit brings into our lives is what allows us to think, act, and live more like Him. That is why it would be fair to say that it is the WILL OF GOD for us to get back to, not get back at, the people who hurt us. After all, that is what our Heavenly Father did for us. That is what He desires for us. And that is what we mean when we say reassembly is required for those who follow Jesus.
If you will be intentional in looking for ways to get back to instead of getting back at the other person, that will prevent you from going halfway when it comes to restoring broken relationships. Halfway might mean folding my arms and saying, “I forgave him/her. Now I am going to wait. It is up to them now.” That is not the posture of Jesus.
And aren’t you glad God did not stop at forgiveness with you? God’s forgiveness is a means to an end and reconciliation was the end. God made the first move. He moved in our direction. His goal was to get back to us, or better said, get us back to Him. This is what love requires of us.
We can FORGIVE from a distance, but we cannot RECONCILE from a distance
Allow the Lord to examine your heart. If there is something in you that wants to forgive and wait for them to make the next move maybe you haven’t forgiven as completely as you think. One last thing to consider. Sometimes…
Before something CHANGES in the relationship, something may need to change in ME
Are you open to that possibility? This is about focusing our attention on the things we can control. And it is about living with no regret.