The Bible tells us, “we all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2). You can’t live with someone very long before they will step on your toes. That doesn’t mean the relationship is broken. You say “ouch”, he or she says, “I’m sorry” and it’s over.
But there are other times where someone seriously and/or repeatedly sins against us. There may be betrayal, infidelity, deceit, abuse, or chronic indifference, and with these sins, contrite words are not enough.
Relationships are broken, strained, and stressed when there is repetitive and serious sin. What are we to do when we are the recipients of such destructive behaviors?
Relationships are important to God and reconciliation is an important theme in the scriptures. God calls us to be active in working to reconcile relationships that have been damaged but what does it take for actual reconciliation to take place?
Are we mandated by God to reconcile with someone at any cost? Or on any terms?
The answer is NO!
The Bible calls us to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers or peace-fakers. Jeremiah warns against a superficial reconciliation when there is continued rottenness underneath. He says, “Prophets and priests alike all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. Peace, peace when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).
Paul tells us that God has given us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Therefore, let me help you understand what that looks like in messy and ugly relationship problems.
When someone has seriously sinned against us and we seek reconciliation, we’re not merely looking for an apology, we are looking for a change of heart.
Below are three evidences or fruits of a changed heart. John the Baptist said it well when he said to the religious leaders, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (Luke 3:8). When someone is truly repentant, he or she will:
1. See: They will acknowledge and see the hurt they’ve caused you.
2. Take responsibility: He or she will work to change the things they have done that have hurt you and the relationship. They don’t blame you for their sinful behaviors or attitudes.
3. Make amends: They will work hard to rebuild trust. They don’t expect instant restitution when trust has been damaged.
A great biblical example is Joseph (see Genesis 37-49). He was betrayed by his brothers. They sold him into slavery because of their own jealousy.
When Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt seeking food from Pharaoh because of the famine in their own land, Joseph immediately recognized who they were although they did not recognize Joseph. We know that Joseph had forgiven his brothers because he was kind to them and gave them food, but he did not reconcile with his brothers. He waited. He watched their actions to see whether their heart’s had changed. It was only after Joseph saw their changed behaviors, did he trust them enough to offer reconciliation.
For additional help on this topic, read Sometimes Words are Not Enough
And watch my YouTube Video, How Do you Know Someone’s Truly Sorry?
PS: Empowered to Change, our six-month on-line group-coaching program (offered only once a year) will be opening for registration very soon. If you are interested or would like more information when it becomes available, click here. Spaces are limited and spots fill up quickly.