Over the past few weeks, we have affirmed a simple fact that most of us were already aware of, and that is that repairing broken, damaged, or disrupted relationships is not an easy task. It is something we want to do. We know it is something we ought to do. But it can be so difficult. And sometimes, if we are honest, we would have to say we just don’t know what to do or how to do it.
The ability to heal or repair a broken relationship requires something that does not come naturally to any of us. It requires HUMILITY. We all came into the world humility averse and that is because we are inclined toward selfishness. In fact, or sinful nature is rooted in selfishness. We think of ourselves first and it is difficult for us to humble ourselves and choose to put others ahead of ourselves. This is one of those topics we don’t like to discuss.
We really don’t like to admit the ugliness that often exists in our heart. We have been talking about the important matter of reconciliation in relationships. Reconciliation is not something most of us have been taught. It is not intuitive. Few of us have seen it modeled effectively.
Sometimes we say something is more caught than taught. If that is true, what did you catch growing up? Did you see healthy examples of reconciliation, or did your family struggle to find a way to get along? Or did they give up on the struggle and simply walk away? And if they, or you, walked away, where does that relationship stand now?
PSA – It is very worthwhile for you to teach your kids and your grandkids how to repair broken or damaged relationships. Who knows? By teaching them how to repair broken or damaged relationships, you might be helping them be in a better position to know how to repair their relationship with you someday. If that is the case, I am sure you will be glad you taught them.
Let’s face it…It is not easy to stay on track relationally with everyone all the time, is it? Sometimes it would be easier to just walk away. But walking away is not what is right, and it certainly is not what is best. Some of you might have grown up in environments where conflict, turmoil, and division were the order of the day. It seemed normal because it was all you knew.
We had some neighbors, in another city and state, who didn’t consider it a holiday until the police showed up. Yelling, fighting and arguing with each was the order of the day.
It was all they knew. Preserving, protecting, or reassembling relationships will require work. But it is possible, and it will be worth it.
Reconciliation requires EFFORT and INTENTIONALITY
By learning how to handle the relational challenges that come our way in life, we are making a significant investment in the future of our family. This investment can make a difference not only now, but for generations to come. If you have navigated relational challenges successfully, and even if you have tried and failed in some instances, I think it is a good idea to share these stories with your family. Allow them to benefit from the things you have learned.
So much is at stake. I hope you will consider the incredible difference this could make in the life of your family today. Share your personal experiences – the good, the bad, and even the ugly. Let them know what worked and what didn’t when it came to repairing relationships that were strained or broken. They can learn, not only from your successes, but even from your mistakes.
Looking back on my own life, I would have to take personal responsibility for certain situations that had evolved in my family. I don’t like to admit it, but I was to blame for the way things were. I was the one with a log in my eye. For there to be a change in the relationship, I knew there needed to be a change in me.
You may find yourself in a similar situation. That is why I encourage you to keep your heart open before the Holy Spirit. He can reveal things in our lives that we would never see on our own. To be honest – Reconciliation often begins with a PERSONAL PRONOUN – “I”.
This is one of the first lesson we tried to teach our kids about humility.
Kids – Tell your brother or sister you are sorry. They would want to get by with saying just one word – “Sorry.” We would say, “No! You need to say I am sorry. Their apology needed to be personalized. And it is not, “I am sorry your feelings got hurt by what I said…but I am sorry for what I said.
What would it look like for you to admit what you have done to damage that important relationship in your life? And what would it mean for you to do what you can to fix it? Do you need to tell someone you are sorry? This is not about what they said, or what they did. It is not about them being sorry. It is about you and me, taking personal responsibility, and owning what we need to own.
Do you need to take responsibility, make the first move, and admit that you were wrong and that you are sincerely sorry, not only for what happened, but for where things are today? We can all be so stubborn. I like to refer to it as being determined. That seems to have a more positive connotation. But sometimes, if I am honest, I can be stubborn. I bet you can to. And we don’t like to admit that we are wrong. Surely, it has to be somebody else’s fault. How could it be me?
As we come to the close of the series, I need to issue one more DISCLAIMER –
I have said it every week. The goal for a broken relationship is not RECONCILIATION…but instead NO REGRET. If the goal is reconciliation, that means we are moving toward the other person with an agenda.
But we don’t control the relationship. We don’t have all the parts and we don’t hold all the cards. Our goal is to live with no regret. We want to know we did everything that we could possibly do, and we want to continue doing everything we possibly can to restore the relationship and we want to live with no regret.
Reconciliation will be an ongoing PROCESS throughout our lives
And we need to understand that it is a moving target because it can impact so many different relationships, on so many levels, in so many different ways. That is why I want you to remember a key verse that has application for all of us. Because there will always be relationships that require reassembly. Here is the verse to remember… (Romans 12:18)
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18 (NIV)
It is not completely up to you, but as much as it depends on you, if you have it in you, if you are willing to do this, live at peace with everyone. REASSEMBLY REQUIRES FOUR DECISIONS:
Decision #1 – I must decide to get back to, not get back at the other person.
Retribution and retaliation are off the table. God is our great example in this. All of us have sinned against a perfect and Holy God. God’s response to our sin, was to get back to us, not get back at us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (NLT)
We sinned. We were the initiators of wrong. Because sin separates us from God, we were the ones responsible for severing the relationship. Pay close attention to the example God provides in the next verse…“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” – John 3:17 (NIV)
God sent His Son to the ones who had broken the relationship. God did not send His Son to get back at us. Jesus came to get back to us. He came to rescue us and reestablish a relationship with us that was broken. “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” – 2 Corinthians 5:19
For reconciliation to take place, at some point, I must decide to take what you did to me out of the equation. I decide to release it and let it go. This can bring so much health and healing to so many relationships starting right now!
Isn’t that what God has done for us? He removed the obstacle to reconciliation before we even knew about it. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8b (NIV) While we were yet sinners, while we were still sinning, God sent His Son to die for us. He removed the obstacle of our sin so that reconciliation could take place.
My question is this – How are we doing at following His example? If we are followers of Christ, who have been given this message of reconciliation, how can we go on living in relationships, where as much as it depends on us, we have not done our best to live in peace or to reconcile? As a dedicated follower of Christ, it is impossible to justify an unwillingness to reconcile with the people around us, unless there is a reason that would be unsafe or unwise for us to do so.
But as I have said before, these instances are usually the exception. We want to do our best to get back to, not get back at the people involved in the conflict.
Decision #2 – I must accept my personal RESPONSIBILITY for the relationship.
I will get the plank out of my own eye before I try to get the speck out of your eye. This is what it means to focus on my role in disrupting our relationship. I need to determine my responsibility. Everyone is so quick to point out everyone else’s part in disrupting the relationship. What is your/my part in the relational rupture? I need to focus on getting the plank out of my own eye so that I can focus more clearly on what I can do to move toward reconciliation in this relationship. What that means is…
Decision #3 – I will take the first step toward reconciliation, regardless of who took the first step away.
We would all agree that the most mature person in the relationship is the one that should take the most responsibility in the relationship. So, who is the most mature person in the relationship? It is you, isn’t it? That is the way it sounds when you tell others what happened.
Let me ask you a question – Should being a disciple or follower of Jesus change the way you act, react, and interact in relationships? Absolutely! If Jesus is our example, and we say we are following Him, shouldn’t that make a difference in how we approach relational turmoil? Just look at how Jesus interacted with people who mistreated Him, all the way up to and including crucifixion. Even from the cross He prayed, Father, forgive them.
Maturity requires that we step up and do what we can to make things right. As believers, it is our responsibility. This is optional for everybody else. But for believers, it is required, and especially so if I consider myself to be the most mature person in the relationship.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it very clear that this is one of the most important things we can do. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV) He doesn’t say what the problem is, or whose fault it is. He simply says it is up to us to do our part to fix it. We often want to put it off. We want to take a wait and see approach.
Our thought is to do it later. But Jesus says, this is urgent. It is so important. Don’t put it off. We get things out of order. In Jesus’ example, reconciliation took precedence over worship. He said, do this FIRST – This is a matter of first importance. Go and be reconciled. This is not about putting the person before God. This is how you put God first.
You put God FIRST by RECONCILING with the people God loves
You put the invisible God first by reconciling with your visible mom, dad, son, daughter, in-law, neighbor, friend, etc. If you want to be right with God, do your part to get right, and stay right, with the people God loves. If you really want to be right with God, do your part to reconcile, even with your enemy.
Wouldn’t it be nice to just forgive them in our minds and never say anything to them about it? God knows my heart. Now I can just move on with my life. I can say I forgive them. Then I’ll forget about what happened and move on with my life. I don’t want to say a thing. Why bother? I don’t want to be around them. In fact, I would prefer to avoid them. I feel like I have done my part. Isn’t this enough?
When it comes to our relationship with Christ, there is a big difference between believing and following. And this is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to following Jesus. Believing is important. But following Jesus, and doing what He says, that is where belief intersects our lives in a way that brings transformation.
If we are truly going to follow Jesus, we must learn to do what Jesus did. Think of how far Jesus went to reconcile God’s relationship with you. He died on the cross. While we were still sinners. This is how we glorify God in the way that we live.
Internalized religion is easy. It lets us off the hook. But when you have to live out the things Jesus taught in real life, that is where things get dicey. Jesus invites us to a much better way of LIVING that makes the world a much better PLACE to live. And this is how we live out the essence of what we believe as Christians.
As God reconciled with us, we have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to do everything we can possibly do to reconcile with others. God did not stop with forgiveness. He went the extra step to reconcile with you. He forgave and He reconciled.
As Christ followers, we have surrendered our right to close the door on other people. If we are going to live by the Golden Rule, we will do for others what we would want them to do for us. And none of us want the door to be closed on us. God, the Father, reconciled with us so that He could have a relationship with us. Shouldn’t we do the same for others? I will make the first move toward reconciliation, regardless of who took the first step away.
Decision #4 – I will do my part to keep the DOOR OPEN and the WELCOME MAT out.
This is just the right thing to do. It is an intentional choice we can all make. My question is, have you decided to do it? I am definitely not recommending you do this for someone who is unsafe for you to be with either physically or emotionally. But aside from those extreme situations, this may be a daily decision with some people.
If we are honest, many of us would have to admit that this issue is a decision we have to intentionally make every holiday with certain members of the family. And there is a constant hazard. You may be tempted to say, “I am over it. I don’t have time for this!”
We have to remember that the goal is not to fix them or fix it. Again, the goal is no regret. This is a decision that will help you stay healthy. It keeps the hurt connected to a source. What would “that” relationship look like now, if you decided to do the Romans 12:18 thing, and you decided that as much as it depends on you, you are going to do your best to live at peace with everyone? That is the way to live with no regrets from this day forward. I believe this is how, with God’s help, we can write a new story that ends with no regret.
When I think it is too much, and that I have stretched as far as I can stretch, I want to remember what my Heavenly Father did for me. And by His grace I want to do for them, what Jesus did for me. Sometimes a broken relationship is the catalyst for a broken faith. That is difficult to admit. Maybe the dots are connected.
While I certainly hope you will reconcile with your mom or dad, one of your siblings, that close friend, whoever, my greatest hope is that you will reconcile with your Heavenly Father. This is what the apostle Paul was talking about when he wrote to the church at Corinth. He said…“We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20b
It is easier to talk about reconciliation than to do something about. I hope you won’t let that happen in your relationship with Him or your relationship with them. We have talked a lot about living with no regret in this series. That is something we can control, but I have no doubt there are some who are feeling regret about a relationship that was not reconciled, and it will never be reconciled, because the other person has died.
I want to invite you to bring that hurt, the sadness, and the pain you feel right now to God. He is the One who can heal, He can cleanse, and He can forgive. And you can decide to learn from the lessons of the past. God will give you the wisdom and the courage, to live life forward, and to apply what we have heard as we seek to be not just hearers of the Word, but doers as well.