Faith Column: Restoring broken relationships
April 17, 2015
Relationships are always worth restoring! Because the Christian life is all about learning how to love, God wants us to value relationships and make every effort to maintain them instead of discarding them whenever there is a hurt or a conflict. God has given us the ministry of restoring relationships! That's why a significant amount of the New Testament is devoted to teaching us how to get along with one another.
Paul taught that our ability to get along with others is a mark of spiritual maturity.
Romans 15:5 (MSG) May God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other.
Since God wants His family to be known for our love for each other, broken fellowship is a disgraceful testimony to unbelievers.
John 13:35 (KJV) By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
What peacemaking is NOT:
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• It is not AVOIDING the problem. Running from a problem, pretending it doesn't exist, or being afraid to talk about it is cowardice. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, was never afraid of conflict — sometimes he even provoked conflict!
• It is not APPEASING the problem. Always giving in, acting like a doormat, and allowing others to run over you is not what Jesus meant. He refused to back down on many issues, and stood his ground in the face of opposition.
How to restore a relationship:
1. Talk to God before talking to the person. If you pray about the conflict first instead of gossiping to a friend, you give God a chance to change hearts — yours, theirs, or both! All our relationships would go smoother if we would just pray more and talk less about them. Read the psalms and you will learn David's secret: VENTILATE VERTICALLY! God is never surprised by your feelings anyway. Most conflict is rooted in UNMET NEEDS. Any time we expect anyone to meet a need that only God can fulfill, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and bitterness.
2. Always take the initiative. It doesn't matter whether you are the offender or the offended — God expects YOU to make the first move! Don't wait on them. Restoring broken fellowship is so important that Jesus said it should take priority over worship! In conflict, TIME HEALS NOTHING! It just causes hurt to fester.
3. Sympathize with their feelings. Here's a good rule for life — use your ears more than your mouth! Begin with sympathy, not solutions. Focus on their feelings, not the facts. Listen while they unload without being defensive. You can understand even when you don't agree. Wisdom comes from hearing the perspective of others, even when we do not agree with them.
4. Confess your part of the conflict. Admitting your own mistakes always help you see things more clearly. We all have blind spots, and if we're not careful, how we handle a conflict creates a bigger hurt than the original problem.
5. Attack the problem, not the person. You cannot fix the problem if you're consumed with fixing the blame. You must choose between the two. In resolving conflict, HOW you say it is as important as WHAT you say. If you say it offensively, it will be received defensively. You are never persuasive when you're abrasive.
6. Cooperate as much as possible. Peace always has a price tag — sometimes it costs us our pride, and almost always it costs us our self-centeredness.
7. Emphasize reconciliation, not resolution. It is unrealistic to expect everyone to agree about everything! We can reestablish a relationship even when we can't resolve our differences. We can disagree without being disagreeable. Resolution focuses on the problem, while reconciliation focuses on the relationship. When we focus on reconciliation, the problem loses significance and often becomes irrelevant. This doesn't mean that you give up on finding a solution, it just means that you do it in a spirit of harmony. Reconciliation means that you bury the hatchet, not necessarily the issue!
Who do I need to restore a broken relationship with today?
Tony Bohrer is the pastor at Apostolic Lighthouse Church in Craig.