Most of us have experienced the agonizing hurt of a broken relationship. It is devastating to have a once intimate relationship severed by offense, misunderstanding, pride, bitterness or unforgiveness. In our nation over half of all marriages end in divorce. Many famlies are divided by what has been termed "irreconcilable" differences. It is easy to "ignore"seemingly small offences allowing them to become the seeds of bitterness in our hearts which lead to eventual relational separation.
How should we as Christians deal with this problem in our lives? To answer this question we must look to scripture to see how God has dealt with this exact problem in our relationship with him and how he instructs us to walk in continual peace and harmony with Him as well as with those who have offended us.
All relational problems can be healed and the relationship restored if both parties are willing to humble themselves, admit their fault and are willing to submit themselves to God and ask Him for the grace and strenght they need to change.
With people this can be difficult because even if you are willing, you may find the other person does not care enough or is unwilling for one reason or another to put forth the effort.
With God however, this is never the case. Although we were the ones who were guilty of wrong, He loved us enough to send his own Son to shed His blood as a sacrifice for our sin. God has done his part. It is finished. He is always willing and waiting for man to do his part in restoring the relationship that was lost in the Garden of Eden. So what is our part?
For our part we must first "believe". This is an act of faith, not of works so that we are not able to boast that we have done something to earn God's gift of salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 says "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast". This belief and realization of who God is and what He has done, leads to a humble confession and repentance (or turning from) our sin and a turning to the love, forgiveness and restoration that God offers to all people. 1 Peter 3:9 says, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance". This relationship is maintained through a life of humility, confession and repentance whenever we realize we have offended God through our sin.
I recently had someone who had deeply offended me (and whom I had certainly offended as well) say "lets just pretend none of this ever happened and start afresh". While in some ways this sounded appealing, I knew that simply "sweeping offense under the rug" is not God's way of restoration. It is reminiscent of cutting off a weed at the surface and leaving the root. It may look good for awhile but unless the root is removed, you will only create a more serious problem in the future. My response to this person was that we needed to pursue reconciliation God's way. As both of us are willing to humbly confess, repent and forgive the "root will be removed" and the relationship will be "born again" and will grow and become strong as it is nurtured by mutual love, respect and trust.
It is always right to humble ourselves, confess our sins and ask forgiveness whether or not the other party reciprocates . We have done our part to obey the admonition which says "if it be possible, as much as lies within you live at peace with all men" (Romans 12:18). We can walk with a clear concience before men and God when we have done this, even though full and complete restoration has not occured.
As we take Communion in celebration of our restored relationship with God and with others through the body and blood of Christ, we can do so with a clear conscience before God and man if we have followed the pattern of relational restoration outlined in scripture. There is no greater joy! There is no greater peace!
May God's grace be with you as you follow HIS pattern in your relationships. Jeff