In this two-part message about broken relationships, we took an in-depth look at what Jesus told us to do when we find ourselves dealing with a wounded relationship. Let me again quote from Matthew 5:23 – 24:

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.

Jesus gives us very explicit directions—not suggestions, but directions—on our responsibility to try to be reconciled to someone who has something against us. I pointed out that this is a high priority and we should not put it off. Jesus said it’s so important that you should leave your religious duties undone, if necessary, and go find that person with whom you need to be reconciled. And he teaches us that we are to initiate this action, if at all possible, even if we are not the guilty party.

Being reconciled to others is so important. It’s important to us and the other person involved. But it’s also important to our testimony for Jesus Christ. How harmful it is when people who both claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ refuse to be reconciled. Just recently I learned of two well-known people in Christian ministry who refuse to be reconciled, and indeed seem to be carrying a vendetta against each other. That just boggles my mind. How could any of us be so proud or so stubborn that we are unwilling to at least try to mend these broken relationships? It is in direct disobedience to the teaching of Jesus, as we’ve just read.

It may be that there is someone in your life who refuses your desire to reconcile, even though you’ve really tried. Please make sure that you are not carrying around some load of false guilt because the relationship is still broken or wounded. Keep praying, doing whatever you can to mend it, but God doesn’t want you to live under a cloud of guilt if you have truly tried to reconcile. Remember that sometimes the best healer is time, so give it even more time and just keep praying. Never give up asking God to restore that relationship.

Now what approach should you use with someone with whom you are seeking reconciliation? While we are to speak the truth, it is always to be done in love. So, your approach is important. Make sure you’re “prayed up” before you go, ask God to give you pure motives and to be very sensitive to the other person’s feelings and understand their perspective, as much as you can.

If possible, you want to have this conversation in person. That is highly preferable, but if that is not possible, use Facetime or Zoom or however you can best communicate. How you begin the conversation is critical, so I would not recommend that you begin by repeating all the mistakes the other person has made, nor defending yourself and explaining why you are not at fault. Nor is this the time to recite how you have been hurt or harmed, or to lecture the other person.

Rather, it is the time to lovingly accept blame for whatever you have done that has contributed to the bad feelings and talk about what you are willing to do to mend the relationship. Keep in mind that reconciliation is not for the purpose of airing your grievances; it is rather to cease hostility. Anything that might cause hostility to increase or continue should not be a part of your efforts to reconcile.

I find it’s always helpful to carefully plan my words for these types of conversations, even writing it out so that I think ahead of time of the best way to begin. Your choice of words can make a big difference in the response you receive so don’t choose finger-pointing or condescending words. Rather choose words that do not seek to place blame, but rather seek to find common ground.

By writing it ahead of time, even though you’re not planning to read it, you will be much better prepared to get started on the right foot, as we say, and that should help toward a successful conclusion.

Notice I said “help” toward a successful conclusion. There is no guarantee that your attempt to mend this relationship will be successful. And that’s because you cannot control the other person. All you can do is obey the Lord, do what you’re supposed to do, and let God take care of the outcome.

Romans 12:18 says:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Don’t ignore the imperative of this verse which says, “. . . as far as it depends on you. . .” If you have a broken relationship, make certain that you have done and are doing everything you can to mend it. Don’t let yourself off the hook easily. Go the extra mile, humble yourself, initiate the reconciliation, be willing to swallow your pride. . . whatever it takes for true reconciliation.

However, please keep in mind that being reconciled does not include being someone’s “doormat,” enduring abusive treatment of any kind, compromising your Christian principles of integrity or lowering your standards of behavior. So, I’m not talking about peace at any price. But you should never be the person who is holding up the reconciliation. If you’re holding up a reconciliation with someone for anything but a good biblical reason, then you’re at fault, regardless of the circumstances.

Many harbor hurt feelings far too long and hinder a reconciliation because they don’t want to humble themselves—and it is humbling, especially if you feel the other person bears most of the fault. But remember that God’s Word teaches us to humble ourselves, and when you do, God will lift you up, as we read in James 4:10. Just think of God lifting you up—lifting up your spirits, encouraging you, holding you firm in his hands. That’s in store for you when you are willing to humble yourself and seek a reconciliation.

Of course, there are times where a relationship has been damaged so much that full restoration is not possible. But to the extent that it can be restored, it should be.

If you’ve done all you can to be reconciled and the other person refuses, don’t live in false guilt about that relationship. Remember, the principle is, as much as it depends on you, live at peace with all people. Many things are out of your control, and that is what you have to accept and trust to God’s care.

As I close this topic of dealing with broken relationships, consider how Jesus dealt with one of his closest friends who failed him miserably. I’m talking about Simon Peter, who fled and left Jesus to be arrested and denied he ever knew him. Certainly Peter had damaged his relationship with the Lord by his cowardly behavior and lack of loyalty. And I’m sure Peter was ashamed of himself and wanted to be reconciled to the Lord. But what should he do? What could he say?

Notice that Jesus initiated the reconciliation between himself and Peter. After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to Peter and made it clear that he was putting the past behind him. You remember how Jesus asked him three times: “Simon, do you truly love me?” And then he gave him a commission: “Then feed my lambs” (John 21:15-17).

Now, Jesus could have legitimately said to Peter:

“Peter, I can’t begin to tell you how painful it was to hear you deny me three times in the midst of that mockery of a trial. And why did you run away at the Garden of Gethsemane when I needed you with me?”

“Peter, I was so disappointed in you, because you were the one who promised you would never leave me even if you had to die with me. You were supposed to be my rock, the one on whom I could always depend. Yet you were the first to deny me.”

Or he could have said, “Peter, if you want to be my disciple, you’re going to have to prove yourself to me. It will take time, Peter. After the way you treated me, you can’t expect everything to be like it was, can you?”

Jesus had a right to say any of these things to Peter. But his purpose was reconciliation and restoration. He wanted to help Peter get past his terrible mistakes and move on to be the man Jesus knew he could be.

Jesus kept his eye on the big picture, he knew how important it was that his relationship with Peter be fully restored, and made sure that the reconciliation took place. He leaves us a wonderful example of how we must approach our wounded relationships.

If there is someone in your life who has failed you, are you holding the hurt over their head, reminding them again and again of the harm they inflicted on you? Or can you follow the example of Jesus, who dealt so lovingly with Peter, even though Peter had failed him miserably?

Or conversely, have you failed someone so badly that you just don’t know how to approach them or what to do? Don’t let that embarrassment keep you from going to them for forgiveness and restoration.

By God’s grace, we need to follow in the steps of Jesus and lovingly restore our broken and bruised relationships as much as possible.