Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” Luke 17:3-4 ESV What would you do differently if you knew that today is your last day on earth? Would you risk going before God with a trail of broken relationships that you could have fixed but didn’t? How would you justify the pain you may have caused to others without taking the initiative to make amends for those hurts? What will be your rationale for not forgiving someone who has hurt you? Human relationship is messy. We struggle to get a handle on how to maintain healthy relationships. For Christians, however, the issue is more complex because the word of God asks us to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Yet there are some people we struggle to forgive and some broken relationships we do not know how to fix or want to fix. Fixing broken relationships may have different requirements for the offender and the offended. For the offender, everything starts with genuine remorse for the hurt they caused. That remorse or contrition should include accepting responsibility for their words and actions without blaming, shaming, accusing, or making excuses. Next, the offender must confess what they did wrong in a spirit of humility. That confession must be sincere and heartfelt. It cannot be lazy and generic. The offended must hear that the offender specifically name the offense. That’s when forgiveness will start and the seeds for reconciliation can be sown. One of the most important steps to fix a broken relationship is atonement. It is because Jesus atoned for our sins at Calvary that we have been forgiven by the Father. In the same way, the offender must atone for their offense concretely and meaningfully. Simply asking for forgiveness is not enough. The offender should ask the offended the following questions: “How can I make things better?” “How can I make things right?” “How can I earn your trust?” I highly recommend an accountability covenant to demonstrate the sincerity of the offender to atone for their offense and repair the broken relationship. That covenant should be signed by both parties and should include steps that will be taking to prevent the offense from reoccurring. For example: • “Next time I will _____.” • “Next time we will _____.” • “Next time, will you let me know when _____?” • “I Promise not to remain silent or distant when your words or actions cause me pain.” • “We agree that all offenses will be exposed and addressed according to the word of God.”
It is important to note that the offended may not be ready emotionally to repair the broken relationship. That is a spiritual matter between God and the offended. Suffice it to say that all the offender is required to do is to initiate the process of restoration. They cannot force the issue. If, however, the offended accepts the invitation for the restoration of the relationship, the offender should follow up periodically with the offender to help ease the process of forgiveness and restoration. The following questions should be asked during the follow up: • “How am I doing with _____?” • “How are you doing since _____happened?” • “Is there anything you’re still thinking about concerning _____?” Most importantly, the offender should pray with and for the offended. They should not have any expectation of the offended. Nor should they anticipate things to return to normal expeditiously. They should be patient and cautious in their dealings with the offended because love is patient. It is not self-seeking. It always protects, trusts, hopes, and always perseveres. Prayer- Blessed Lord, please give us the emotional and spiritual courage to take the necessary steps to fix the relationships that are broken because of the pain we’ve caused to others.