Try as you may, there’s always a chance of one or more of the relationships in your life falling apart. When fallen, fallible humans are in any sort of relationship with other fallen, fallible humans, the opportunity for offense is ever present. As God’s people, we are the product of reconciliation, and are called to cultivate reconciliation whenever it’s possible. If you have some damaged relationships in your life, consider these steps to rebuilding, repairing, and restoring those broken relationships.
Not every relationship in your life is meant to last a lifetime. That’s not the kind of thing we like to think about or accept, but it’s true. Think back to the beginning of your childhood, when you went to school for the first time. Perhaps you came home from school on the first day and excitedly told your parents how you made a new best friend.
Sure, in that moment, you assumed that you and that other person would always be part of one another’s lives. You couldn’t wait to get back to school to see your new friend, and you truly believed that the two of you would always be close.
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As time passes, life happens, and you and the other person may have grown up and turned into different people. This isn’t an unhealthy step. In fact, changing and growing into different people is a natural part of life. There’s a high possibility that you and the person who you were best friends with after your first day of school barely interact today, if you interact at all. Some relationships simply “fizzle out” over time.
However, fizzling out isn’t what we’re going to talk about today. While God doesn’t expect every relationship in our lives to last forever, it doesn’t mean that He wants us to go through life leaving a trail of broken, damaged relationships in our wake. God understands that you may not be close to everyone who you’ve ever been close to. However, He is a God of reconciliation and relationship. In the same vein, He wants us to be people of reconciliation and relationship.
Before we begin today’s study, take some time to carefully evaluate the relationships in your life, including the ones that you consider a thing of the past. Undoubtedly, you’re going to think about some relationships that simply don’t exist anymore. Whether it happened through natural growing and evolving, there will be some relationships that you needed in one season of your life that you have simply outgrown in the season that you’re now in.
However, this self-examination may also bring to light some relationships that are broken, damaged, and seemingly beyond repair. There’s no guarantee that you will ever be able to get them into the place that they were in the past, but those relationships don’t have to be considered ruined. As God’s people, we can take some steps to repair and restore the damaged relationships of our pasts.
Looking for Unity
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1 Corinthians 1:10-13 (NIV)
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some form Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?
In most cases, if you have a relationship that has failed, there has been a difference of opinion between you and the other party. Perhaps you were close friends with someone, but the two of you started arguing about things that seemed minor, resulting in the erosion and eventual end of your relationship. In some cases, these disagreements and debates can deteriorate a family relationship to the point where family holidays and other major functions are no longer pleasant.
One of the first steps to repairing the broken relationships in your life is to identify where things went wrong. In the verses we just read, Paul pointed to some of the topics that were causing disagreements among the believers in the Corinthian Church. In addition to recognizing where things had gone wrong, Paul encouraged those believers to not only identify their differences, but to move to a point where there would be no divisions among them.
Before you can move past division, you have to identify division. When you’re evaluating why the relationship that you’re trying to repair has fallen apart, don’t do some from a place of casting blame. Instead, look for things that you may have done that contributed to the end of the relationship. Once you’ve identified the things that caused the rift, see if there are things that you can do on your own to repair it. Yes, the ultimate restoration of the relationship will take both people, but you can decide to remove divisions from your own mind once you’ve recognized why the relationship failed. This will set you on the path toward reconciliation.
The Path to Reconciliation
Matthew 18:15-17 (TPT)
“If your fellow believer sins against you, you must go to that one privately and attempt to resolve the matter. If he responds, your relationship is restored. But if his heart is closed to you, then go to him again, taking one or two others with you. You’ll be fulfilling what the Scripture teaches when it said, ‘Every word may be verified by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ And if he refuses to listen, then share the issue with the entire church in hopes of restoration. If he still refuses to respond, disregarding the fellowship of his church family, you must disregard him as though he were an outsider, on the same level as an unrepentant sinner.
Christ was passionate about His people restoring their damaged relationships with one another. That’s why He took the time to teach on the pathway to reconciliation. He knew then (and He still knows today) that we are fallible humans who are prone to get mad, lash out, and sever relationships. However, He also understands the importance of rebuilding the relationships that have fallen apart.
The roadmap to reconciliation isn’t filled with hard concepts. Instead, Christ said that the first step is to simply go to the person who you’re at odds with and have a conversation. That conversation may not be comfortable, but that’s the command of Christ. Don’t leave things to chance and interpretation. This means that instead of texting or messaging the person, you have an honest, face to face (if possible) or verbal conversation with them. Things like context and tone can get lost in text, but it’s much harder for there to be misunderstandings when you speak directly to another individual.
There is a chance that the person doesn’t want to talk to you. If that’s the case, the Bible gives us a new course of action. Reconciliation and the repair of broken relationships is at the very heart of God. That means that if the person doesn’t want to hear you, you’re not supposed to just give up. Instead, Christ said that you should take two or three believers with you to talk to the person. That’s not done so these people can take your side, but rather, so they can serve as witnesses and intermediaries.
Open, honest, prayerful dialogue is the most important part of restoring broken relationships. When you can go to the person who you’ve fallen out of relationship with and be honest, there is a chance of the relationship being restored.
A Closing Prayer:
Father, I know that You are a God of reconciliation, and that You want Your people to facilitate the same. Help me to restore the broken relationships in my own life. Most of all, give me the words and the courage necessary to help rebuild them. In Christ’s name I ask these things, Amen.