Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13
In yesterday’s devotional, I highlighted steps the offender should take to fix a broken relationship. Although the offender carries the heaviest burden in repairing a broken relationship, the offended also plays a critical role in that healing process. In today’s devotional, I want to underline the responsibility of the offended in fixing a broken relationship.
At the outset, I want to make it clear that no relationship is beyond repair providing the offender is willing to follow the steps I discussed yesterday. In cases where the offender persists in their hurtful ways, it is best for the offended to abstain from having any connection with the offender. It is ill-advised to persist in a toxic relationship, particularly when there is physical or sexual abuse.
For the offended, the process for fixing a broken relationship begins with prayer. It is through prayer that God will soften the heart of the offender and the offended so they can have a mutual desire for a healthy relationship. This is both a prayer of confession and intercession. The offended should confess any-and-all negative feelings, thoughts, and attitudes toward their offender. Then they should pray for mercy for the offender as they ask God to transform the offender’s heart.
The next step is for the offended to write a letter or email to their offender to let the person know the hurt they’ve caused. That letter should not be written out of bitterness or resentment, though it can reflect the anger of the offended. In professional counseling, people are encouraged to verbalize their pain so they can begin to deal with the pain. In some instances, the offender may not know the depth of the hurt they caused. Putting the offense in writing and articulating the hurt experienced will help the offender see things from the perspective of the offended.
The Bible is God’s letter to us highlighting the offense we’ve caused and how we can fix our broken relationship with Him. Thus we read in Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Failure to forgive one another exacerbates our sinful offense to our Father in heaven.
The most challenging step for the offended in repairing a broken relationship is letting go of the hurt. We have to avoid the “file cabinet” approach to dealing with our offender. That is, we store the memory of the hurt in our hearts and refuse to let go and let God. Psalm 103:12 tells us that God does not use a “file cabinet” approach in dealing with our trespasses. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west through Christ Jesus. In other words, God does not see us as sinners, but as redeemed saints. Paul speaks to the same thought in Galatian 6:1-2: “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Restoring the offender gently is a critical component of fixing a broken relationship. What does that look like? Re-establish contact slowly without expectation. That means periodic check-ins during birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and other important events. Redeem the times when you are in the same space with your offender. For example, if you see the offender at a church service, a birthday celebration, or a family gathering engage the person in a conversation beyond small talk. Respect boundaries! That means avoid shaming or condemning the offender.
Everyone is a work in progress. The offended should not expect perfection from their offender. If the offender makes a mistake during the process of fixing the broken relationship that does not mean they are incorrigible. It simply means the offender must be made aware they are violating the accountability covenant that provides the basis for fixing the relationship and be extended an opportunity to repent.
Fixing a broken relationship is a spiritual matter. We need to invite God to saturate our hearts with His Holy Spirit so we can walk in reconciliation and restoration. God longs for us to treat one another as he treats us. The longer we stay out of fellowship with our offender, the longer we will be out of fellowship with God.
Prayer- Blessed Lord, please soften the heart of those that have been hurt or wounded so they may begin the process of healing and restoring their offender gently.