Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Can this relationship be saved?

Is there a broken relationship in your life at present?  Whether it’s a mate or a coworker or a friend, think of the pain and pressure that has brought into your life.  Consider the ripple effect of broken and hurting relationships, not only on the people directly involved, but inevitably on many others as well. 

Are we doomed to have to live with these broken relationships?  What is our duty and responsibility in trying to mend a broken relationship?  Can – or should – all relationships be saved?

Jesus’ “Fix” for Broken Relationships

Consider what Jesus taught us to do when a relationship has been broken or wounded.

Matthew 5:23 - 24:

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Jesus said we are to go to anyone who has something against us.  That includes, to mention a few:
  • those whose feelings are hurt because of us
  • those with whom we’ve had a misunderstanding
  • those to whom we spoke hastily chosen words
  • those who feel we’ve treated them unfairly or neglected them
Notice that Jesus didn’t limit it to those who have something legitimate against us or those who have a right to have something against us.  No, he says if you know that someone has something against you, whether it’s your fault or not, then you take action.

Earthly counselors would be more likely to say, “If someone has something against you and it’s not your fault, it’s not your problem.  Let him or her make the first move.”  But that’s not the way Jesus would deal with a broken or wounded relationship. 

In that culture to “leave your gift there in front of the altar” and go would have been viewed as very unorthodox behavior.  Jesus was making the point that reconciliation is so important, we should drop what we’re doing to be reconciled.  Nothing is more important.

When we procrastinate in trying to be reconciled, the break in the relationship grows deeper and wider.  The reason for the break is exaggerated and amplified way beyond reality.  Innocent people are hurt; gossip sets in. Putting it off is just going to make things worse.

Humbling Yourself vs. Enduring Humiliation

It is obviously a very humbling thing to make the first move in trying to reconcile, especially if you feel you have done nothing wrong. But remember that the Bible teaches us that if we humble ourselves, we won’t have to be humbled.  Whenever I refuse to humble myself, I discover that sooner or later that humbling comes in a much more painful way.  So, humbling ourselves is easier than being humbled.

Humbling ourselves is not the same as submitting ourselves to humiliation.  God has not called us to suffer intentional abuse in our relationships.  There is no justification for allowing ourselves to become a doormat.

Where is the line between humbling ourselves and allowing someone to humiliate us?  That’s a question that would have to be considered in each situation, but if you will pray and sincerely ask God to give you guidance, and then perhaps seek some advice from trusted friends or counselors who are Bible-based, God will give you directions in your relationship concerning whether you are humbling yourself or allowing yourself to be humiliated.

No Guarantees for Success

Of course, there is no guarantee that your attempt to mend this relationship will be successful.  And that’s because you cannot control the other person.  All you can do is obey the Lord, do what we’re supposed to do, and let God take care of the outcome.

Romans 12:18 says:

            If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Of course, there are times where a relationship has been damaged so much that full restoration is not possible.  But to the extent that it can be restored, it should be restored.

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