Repairing Broken Relationships

Title: Repairing Broken Relationships

Bible Book: Matthew 5 : 23-24

Author: Paul E. Brown

Subject: Relationships; Broken Relationships; Grudges



Christians are people who have repented of their sins, have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and thus have been transformed and given newness of life. But even though our lives have been changed, and God makes available to us the resources for growing spiritually, we never fully “arrive” in this life, by any stretch of the imagination. Thus, we sometimes fumble and fail, we sometimes foul up by saying or doing things we ought not.

Sometimes that happens because of spiritual immaturity. Sometimes it happens accidentally, with no wrong intent. Sometimes it happens because we allow the old fleshly nature to rear its ugly head. One result of our saying or doing things we ought not is that hard feelings are often generated, in other words, relationships get strained or even broken. Whenever that happens, regardless of what caused it and regardless of where the fault lies, that strained or broken relationship needs to be fixed.

I want to challenge each one of us today to do some personal soul-searching. Is there some fellow believer with whom your relationship has become strained or broken? In other words, is there someone with whom you are “at outs?” If so, are you willing to do your part to “bury the hatchet?” I pray that you are, and I want to speak now on the subject, “Repairing Broken Relationships.”

I. The Neccessity Of Reparing Broken Relationships

A. Your Personal Well Being

For one thing, it is necessary for your personal well being. Look at what Jesus said, in Matthew 5:23- 24, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”

Making things right with your brother is more important to God than your engaging in worship. In fact, the implication here is that God simply will not accept your worship unless or until you’ve done your part to get right with your brother. Although there is no guarantee that the other person will agree to being reconciled, we are to make every effort toward that end. Paul wrote, in Romans 12:18, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”

The language in this passage seems to imply that in the case pictured here, the person addressed is himself the offender. But the principle seen here would also apply to cases in which the other individual is the one who has done wrong. The real point of the passage is that so long as there is a strained or broken relationship between you and some brother, and you haven’t made every effort to fix it, God is going to be displeased and you are going to be spiritually crippled.

So, if things aren’t right between you and some brother, you need to put everything else “on hold” and give priority to repairing that relationship.

By using the term, “brother,” Jesus may be referring to other people in general; but for certain his statement encompasses your relationships with your brothers and sisters in Christ, in other words, with fellow believers.

B. Your Personal Witness

Repairing strained or broken relationships is also necessary for your personal witness.

In Matthew 5:9 Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

The Bible makes it very clear that we become children of God through faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. But in Matthew 5:9 Jesus is telling us that it is by our efforts as peacemakers that we are called children of God--in other words, one major way that other people recognize us as children of God is by seeing us behaving as peacemakers. It logically follows, then, that if folks see that we are not at peace with some fellow believer, or at least haven’t done everything we can to make peace, they will not believe our claim to be Christians and any positive spiritual influence we might have had on them will be null and void.

That also carries over into the church as a whole, for as Paul said to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 5:6, “...Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” So, when we are “at outs” with some fellow believer we hurt our church and we hinder its efforts to attract lost people to the Lord, and its efforts to attract Christians to make this their church home; we hinder all of its ministries, within and without. So, if you care about your church as you ought to, you’ll make it your business to do everything possible to repair any strained or broken relationships in your life.

II. The Means Of Repairing Broken Relationships

Now we get down to “where the rubber hits the pavement.” The Bible makes clear the necessity of repairing strained or broken relationships, now let’s see what the Bible says about how to go about it.

A. Going In Obedience To The Other Person

As already alluded to, the first essential is to go to the other person. In Matthew 18 Jesus points up three consecutive steps to be taken in solving personal conflicts. Here is the first thing Jesus said, in Matthew 18:15: “Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.”

Jesus goes on, then, to tell us that if that fails, the second step is to take one or two others with you and then he speaks of a third step as a last resort, namely, bringing it before the church. However, my impression is that if the first step is taken faithfully and in the right spirit, the second step will seldom be necessary, and the third step will only be necessary in extremely rare cases. So, let’s focus on that first step:

1. Talking About Rather Than Talking To The Person

Jesus said to “go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone.” There is where we often go badly astray. What so often mars relationships is that instead of talking to that other person, we talk about him. That’s wrong. That’s dead wrong. That other person may have, indeed, done or said something wrong but you are also doing wrong by going around criticizing that individual to others instead of going directly to that person and just the two of you discussing the problem.

Proverbs 26:20-22: “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth. As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.”

2. Talking To The Person Rather Than Losing The Person

And notice that the purpose of going to him, as Jesus points out in the last part of verse 15, is to “gain thy brother--or, as Jesus expressed it in a verse referred to earlier, Matthew 5:24, “be  reconciled to thy brother.” It is not to “get him told,” or to score points, or to drive him further away. The goal is to restore the relationship. So, when you go to your brother, be sure that you bear that in mind, and let the awareness of that goal guide what you say and the manner in which you say it. If you’re upset, cool off first, then go. Proverbs 15:18 (NIV) says, “A hot tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.”

B. Going In Love To The Other Person

Here is a second essential for repairing that strained or broken relationship and all of these essentials are intertwined and overlap, but each one deserves separate mention. That second essential is that you remember to approach your brother with whom you are “at outs” with love.

Jesus said, in John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” He said it again, in John 15:12: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” He also repeated it in John 15:17: “These things I command you, that ye love one another.” Throughout the entire New Testament the importance of loving one another is emphasized.

1. The Command To Go In Love

Notice that to love one another is not a suggestion, it is a command and a command is not primarily an appeal to the emotions, but rather to the will. In other words, in order to love others you don’t sit around waiting for some warm, fuzzy feeling to come over you. Rather, you make a hard-nosed decision. You say to yourself, “God has told me to love that other person, and here and now I make up my mind to do so.” Then you speak to and behave toward that person accordingly, regardless of what you feel, and as you faithfully speak and act lovingly, in time God will cause your emotions to “shape up.” There are times when you have to lead with your head, and let your emotions catch up when they can.

In 1 John 3:14 we read: “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” 1 John 4:7-8 says: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” In 1 John 4:20 are these words: “...he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

2. The Consequence Of Going In Love

It is profoundly important that we incorporate that attitude of love into the way we talk to other people. Ephesians 4:15 puts it like this: “speaking the truth in love.” When we speak the truth in love, that rules out being sarcastic or harsh or “short” with people. Regardless of how faithfully we attend church, and regardless of how many good things we do in the service of the Lord, if we let our speech get out of hand and resort to sarcasm or harsh criticism, we greatly cripple, and sometimes absolutely nullify, our effectiveness.

So, please, I plead with you, whatever you do, be sure to guard your tongue. Don’t talk about people with whom you have a problem, talk to the people--and please do so in a loving, kind spirit, with the goal of reconciliation in mind. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue....” Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” Verse 4 says, “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.”

C. Going With Confession To The Other Person

It is also tremendously important that when we go to the other person, we go with a willingness to confess, and ask his forgiveness for, any wrong that we’ve done to him whether by saying something we should not have, or doing something that was hurtful to him. He may, indeed, be guilty of an offense but so may we. In James 5:16 we are admonished to “Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another....”

For some people, the three hardest words in the English language to say are these: “I was wrong.” But the fact is that all of us are wrong at times and if we don’t have the humility to acknowledge it, confess it, and ask forgiveness, then we’re in bad shape, and we desperately need help from the Great Physician.

D. Going With Forgiveness ToThe Other Person

Then, there is another enormously important essential for repairing that strained or broken relationship, closely related to what has already been said, and we see it in Colossians 3:12-15 (NIV): “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive  whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called in peace. And be thankful.”

God commands us to forgive one another, even as the Lord has forgiven us. That’s a sobering thought. What if God decided to hold every wrong thing we’ve ever done against us? How thankful we are that he hasn’t done that; but, rather, 1 John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” So, in light of all that God has forgiven you and me of, it behooves us also to forgive those  who have wronged us, or in some cases who we think have wronged us.

Warren Wiersbe said, “...the world’s worst prison is the prison of an unforgiving spirit. If we refuse to forgive others, then we are only imprisoning ourselves and causing our own torment.”

When we fail to forgive we are disobeying God, and thus placing ourselves in a precarious position. Jesus said, in Matthew 6:14-15: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your  trespasses.” As someone has expressed it: “When we fail to forgive others, we burn the bridge over which we ourselves must walk.”

Corrie Ten Boom was a survivor of the holocaust. She and her sister had been placed in a Nazi concentration camp for concealing Jews in their home during the Nazi occupation of Holland. After the war, she had just finished speaking one day in a church in Munich, Germany, when she was startled to look out and see coming toward her out of the congregation a man who had been a guard at that concentration camp. Memories of that horrible experience came flooding back with a rush.

She remembered how she and her nearly starved sister were brought into a huge room with harsh overhead lights, and the shame of how they had been forced to walk naked past this man. This was the first time since her release that she had come face to face with one of her captors.

He came forward and told her that since those days he had become a Christian. He said, “I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, ”…and he extended his hand, ”will you forgive me?”

Corrie Ten Boom, in relating that experience, said, “And I stood there--and could not. Betsie had died in that place--could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?” She said that it could not have been many seconds that he stood there with his hand held out, but, she said, “to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.” She said, “For I had to do it - I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us,” and she quoted what Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15.

She said, “Still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” She silently prayed, “Jesus, help me. I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling."

“And so woodenly, mechanically,” she said, “I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And  as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. “I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’ For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.”

Now I want to ask you, and myself, a question: If Corrie Ten Boom could forgive what had been done to her, cannot you and I forgive whatever has been done to us or said about us? Of course we can, if we are willing. If we make up our minds to forgive, God will help us to implement that decision.

In the last analysis, it all boils down to this: The ultimate key to getting right with other people is to first get right with God. So, the crucial question for every one is this: Are you right with the Lord? First, are you saved? Have you repented of your sins and committed your life in faith to the crucified, risen Christ? If not, this would be the ideal time to get that settled. If you’re already saved, this would be a great time to face up to sins that need to be confessed, and new beginnings that need to be made. In short, this would be a good time to pray this prayer:

Lord of the years that are left to me, I give them to thy hand;

Take me, break me, and mold me to the pattern thou hast planned.

Then, having made things right with God, you need to begin immediately taking the necessary steps in repairing any strained or broken relationships. That will be the proof that you’ve truly gotten right with the Lord.

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