Restoring Broken Relationships
I’m still sharing some things I’ve learned from teaching Rick Warren’s book 'The Purpose Driven Life'.
Warren says relationships are always worth restoring. That because life is all about learning to love, God wants us to value relationships and make the effort to maintain them instead of discarding them whenever there’s a hurt or conflict. Much of the New Testament is devoted to teaching us how to get along with each other.
Philippians 2:1-2 If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
John 13:35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Since Christ wants His family to be known for love for each other: broken fellowship is a disgraceful testimony to unbelievers. Paul scolded the church in Corinth for all their infighting. In his letter he said, “You must get along with each other.”
If we want God’s blessing on our life and want to be known as a child of God, we must learn to be peacemakers.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:9 “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”
Work for peace, not just want it or like it. It’s hard work and I think definitely sacrificial. It’s not avoiding conflict and not just appeasement (backing down and becoming a doormat.) It takes communication with God asking for His guidance and what this book is all about, living life on purpose: slowing down enough to pay attention to what you are doing and what’s happening so that you can make good decisions and have the right attitude.
So how do you restore a relationship? Warren says there are 7 Biblical steps:
1. Talk to God first. He may change your heart. He may change your friend. But, He needs to be the first step. A lot of conflict is caused by unmet needs and some needs we have can only be met by God. Instead of looking to God though, we look to others, then get angry when they fail us. I think that’s why we have so many divorces, so many people with drug and alcohol problems. James says a lot of our conflict is caused by prayerlessness:
James 4:1-2 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.
2. Always take the initiative. Whether we are the offender or the offended, God expects us to make the first move. Restoring relations is so important Jesus commanded that it even takes priority over group worship.
Matthew 5:23-24 This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.
And he says don’t delay. Delay only deepens resentment and makes matters worse. Acting quickly also reduces the spiritual damage to us. The Bible says sin, including unrestored conflict blocks our fellowship with God and keeps our prayers from being answered. Plus it makes us miserable.
3. Sympathize with their feeling. Listen to them first. Focus on their feelings not the facts. Don’t be defensive, nod that you understand even if you don’t agree. He says feelings aren’t always true or logical; resentment often makes us act in foolish ways. But the Bible says in Proverbs 19:11, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience: it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” Again it’s a sacrifice to patiently absorb the anger of others, especially if it’s unfounded, but remember, that’s what Christ did for us.
4. Confess your part of the conflict. Jesus told us to get rid of the log in our own eye before we can deal with the speck in our friend’s eye. We should ask God to show us if we’re the problem. Or how much of us is. These are exactly the kinds of things good businesses tell their customer service people to do when customers are complaining: deal with it immediately, listen to them completely, let them know you hear them and see how much of it is your companies fault. It’s all Biblical!
5. Attack the problem, not the person. He says you can’t fix the problem if you are consumed with fixing the blame. In resolving conflict, how you say it is as important as what you say. If you say it offensively you’ll be received defensively. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire.” So, no condemning, belittling, comparing, labeling, insulting, condescending or sarcasm. We hear this in marriage counseling and also parenting courses, don’t we? Again, Biblical! Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
6. Cooperate as much as possible. Paul says in Romans 12:17 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Sometimes it will cost our pride, often our self-centeredness. But, maybe people will see you doing it and they’ll start doing it and we’ll all live in a nicer place!
7. Emphasize reconciliation, not resolution. People aren’t always going to agree about everything. We all think differently based on our personality and circumstances, so sometimes you can agree to disagree and show the other person you love them and want a good relationship with them in spite of some of your differences. I like what he wrote here: God expects unity not uniformity and we can walk arm-in-arm without seeing eye-to-eye on every issue.