Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift- Matthew 5:23-24
They are without question both the blessing and the bane of human existence.
When our closest relationships are healthy and thriving, life is good. When a close relationship goes bad there is literally nothing more miserable and angst-inducing.
In our chaotic, sin-sick world messy, fragmented relationships are pretty much the new normal.
Nearly, half of marriages end in divorce, friendships end as quickly as they begin, business relationships no longer stand the test of time and churches routinely split over the stupidest stuff imaginable.
Our culture has been steeped in a it’s “all about me” mentality of relationship care for decades now. This has created an environment where it feels natural, normal and healthy to treat relationships like disposable commodities. It is not at all unusual even for Christians to write-off relationships as “toxic” and move on with little thought to the consequences of doing so. We have forsaken the principle found in Proverbs that tells us we should never forsake a friend or even the friend of a family member (Proverbs 27:10a).
The Bible clearly teaches Christians bear an extra measure of responsibility when it comes to the care, keeping and healing of relationships. We are reminded over and over again in Scripture that human relationships are not always easy but the difficulties involved in developing and maintaining healthy relationships make us better people (Proverbs 27:6, Proverbs 27:17) and bring joy to our lives (Proverbs 17:17, Proverbs 18:24). Christians are directed to treat others the way they want to be treated and commanded to take the initiative when it comes to reconciling broken relationships (Matthew 7:12, Ephesians 4:32, Matthew 5:23-24, Luke 12:58). Repairing damaged relationships and helping others to do the same is probably the most basic task Christians are called to in this life (2nd Corinthians 5:12-18). The process begins with understanding and choosing to live out six principles:
If something feels wrong in a relationship assume something IS wrong-
Never trivialize or ignore the niggling sense you may have caused offense or alienated another person (Proverbs 18:19). When in doubt ask how the other person is feeling and/or modify your behavior. The earlier a damaged relationship is attended to the easier it is to repair.
Do not short-circuit the recovery process-
Anytime we jump to simply restoring a broken relationship without working through the issues that fractured the relationship in the first place we set in motion a series of events that will inevitably lead to even more brokenness and hurt. Problems need to be talked out, not glossed over if we want to see permanent recovery in the relationship and personal growth in ourselves.
Be willing to assume at least partial responsibility for any relationship fracture-
I truly loathe the adage: “perception is reality”. Mostly because if you really break it down it sounds like something a super crazy person would say. However, when it comes to hurt in relationships perception really is reality. It is critical we remember ALL human beings tend to be self-absorbed and blind to their own faults. For that reason, it is possible to hurt another person without knowing how we hurt them. Healthy, mature believers are always open to the idea that they may not understand how their words or actions have affected another person
Accept the other person’s opinions regarding the situation-
If someone lets you know the relationship has been broken or feels they were wronged by you it is not wise, kind or emotionally intelligent to write that person off as stupid, incorrect, easily hurt or just plain clueless. As Christians we owe it to God and people to find out why others feel the way they feel about situations that involve us—even when we truly believe we have done nothing wrong. Not caring about the other persons perspective is both painfully narcissistic and grossly sinful. The only time we are free from the obligation of exploring the other person’s perspective is if the individual flatly refuses to communicate with us.
Be willing to let some things go-
Our personal relationships matter to God partly because relationship health is a measure of our spiritual health and maturity level. It is also reasonable to say that from God’s perspective relationships are nearly always worth preserving (Proverbs 17:9). The key to achieving relationship health is a willingness to let some things go. Cruelty, gas lighting, unfaithfulness in marriage or flagrant disrespect for the other person is never okay. That said, most other issues can be worked through if both parties are willing to listen, change and forgive.
Choose to view relationship troubles as opportunities for growth-
No normal, healthy or sane human being likes to have problems in their personal relationships. That said, truly mature people view all problems including relationship problems as an opportunity for growth rather than a hassle or a personal attack.
The health of our relationships really and truly is the greatest measure of our maturity. It is also a powerful witness to unbelievers. A God who has the power to help a person have happy, healthy relationships is a God worth following. For that reason, alone Christians should do everything they can do to ensure their relationships are healthy and God honoring.