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How to Start Repairing Broken Relationships Part 4 | "The Art of Reconciliation"

The decision to repair a broken relationship is extraordinarily important, and someone has to make the first move. It’s rarely convenient, but the payoff is great.

  1. Do you believe it’s possible to be at peace with everyone? Why or why not?
  2. What was your initial reaction when Andy shared the story about leaving your gift at the altar to first go back and reconcile with your brother? 
  3. Do you typically attempt to make the first move when repairing a relationship, or do you wait for the other person? Why do you think that is? 
  4. Looking back on the relationships in your life, is there any one where you’ve taken the welcome mat away and closed your door? What is one thing you can do today to reopen that door?

NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.

So as we’ve said throughout this series that repairing a broken or disrupted or awkward or damaged relationship, it’s not easy, and oftentimes, not all the time, but oftentimes we actually want to, if we just push a button and the relationship was fixed or the relationship was better, we would and even if we don’t really want to, oftentimes we know we ought to want to, you ever… Ought to want to, it’s like, if you ever pray and say, God, I know what I should ask you for, but I don’t really think that’s what I want, so I want to want to what I want to want to want. So when it comes to relationships, we want them to be fixed, or at least we know we ought to want them to be fixed, but it’s just so difficult, and one of the reasons it’s so difficult is honestly, we just don’t know how to. So want to is one thing, but how to is something else, and it’s not intuitive, as we’ve said throughout the series, we think it’s intuitive, but repairing a broken relationship is not intuitive and part of the reason it’s not is because repairing a broken relationship requires something that does not come natural to any of us.

It requires humility, and we are born, we come into the world anti… Resisting humility, putting somebody else first, making ourselves small, going to that smaller place, so because it kinda resist… Our nature resist it and we don’t know how to do it, oftentimes, those relationships, they just kinda dangle out there in this sense of awkwardness, and for some of you, your strained or broken relationship with somebody you don’t see very often, so it’s not front of mind, in fact, if you’ve been tracking with us in the series… You’re kinda looking forward to it being over. So you can put them back over in that box where you’ve kept them for years until I started talking about it, and suddenly you find yourself thinking about them and your mom or your husband, or your wife or a friend is like, Hey, maybe you’re like… And like, No, no, no, no. We just resist it.

And the other reason this is so difficult, and since it’s not intuitive, and a lot of us have never even seen this modeled well. It’s something we have to learn, it’s a learned skill, which means somebody has to learn us, teach us how to do it. And hopefully, this series has given you some handles or some steps in doing that, but again, the series, it’s just a series, there’s so much more to it, but ideally seeing this modeled is so helpful because as you know, some things are really more caught than taught, so if you’re a parent or you’re a grandparent, okay. And this isn’t gonna be like a message on parenting, but I just want to say something about this.

One of the best things we can do is teach our kids how to repair a damaged relationship. And one of the best things you can do in this regard, and I’m gonna move on, Is if you have ever done this successfully or you have ever tried and failed in this, you should share those epic stories with your kids, so again, they’re not only gonna watch you try at home, but they’re gonna hear how it worked out, how it didn’t work out, what you wish you had done. So don’t hide those things from your kids, it’s so important that we model and we teach it for our kids, and I’ll tell you, again I’m gonna move on, I’m gonna tell you where to start with your children, it all begins with a personal pronoun. You remember those? The personal pronouns, in fact, you might need a lesson in this particular personal pronoun, let me explain… So when we have three kids and when they’re all 20 months apart by accident or providence, but anyway, they’re pretty close together, and so when one would do something offensive to the other or hurt the other’s feelings or just be cruel to the other, we would do what every parent does.

We’d say, Okay, apologize to your brother, apologize to your brother, and the apology would be so heart felt, it would bring us to tears, it would go like this. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Anybody ever heard the one word apology, just… Sorry, and Sandra and I are like… We’re such good parents listen we’re just… Just have a group hug, have a prayer, and we’re like, No, we would not let them get by with that, we’re like, No, you gotta add the personal pronoun, and this is the first lesson in humility, it’s… I’m sorry, and we would literally make our children look brother sister in the eye and add the I’m… I’m sorry, this is the early lesson humility, this is where it all begins, it begins with owning what we’ve done, owning our slice of the pie. Now, somewhere around middle school, it changed a little bit and went more like this, you know, tell your brother You’re sorry. Brother You’re sorry, right? Which is the point, Okay, this is not intuitive, and it bumps up against our stubbornness, and you know that thing in us that never wants to be wrong,

Now, throughout this series, there’s been a disclaimer, and I wanna say one more time because this is so important, when it comes to re-establishing or repairing or re-assembling an adult relationship, the goal is not reconciliation, the goal is no regrets. This is so important, if the goal is reconciliation, that means you are moving toward this person with an agenda, and an agenda in a relationship is like a third party in the relationship, I mean, when somebody has an agenda for you, do you draw closer, or do you kinda sit back as far as you can in the booth… Like, how long is this gonna last? Right.

So the agenda… The agenda from our perspective is not reconciliation, again, we don’t control all the parts, we don’t hold all the cards, the agenda is we just want there to be as far as we can control it and to the degree we control it. No regrets. We wanna know that we did everything we could and we’re gonna continue to do everything we can. We did everything we could, and we’re continuing to do everything we can, because reconciliation is a process, but also reconciliation is a posture. It’s dynamic, it’s ongoing. Because it’s relational. And the win, the win is to go to bed every night and know, you know what to the best of my ability, I have an open door policy, assuming that’s a safe person… We’re gonna come back to that in a minute. Now, the Apostle Paul gives us a theme verse,

he says, if… He’s such a realist, if it is possible, because again, you’re not holding all the cards, I mean this isn’t like a broken plate, I can get all the pieces and glue them back together, I mean, there’s another person involved, I mean you don’t have access to all the pieces, he says, If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, in other words, the parts that you have control over, and in the Greek, this carries the idea of, if you’ve got it in you.

It’s kind of a challenge. If you’ve got the grit, if you’ve got the determination, if you’re ready for this, be at peace with everyone. Then your English New Testament says, Live at peace with everyone, but that sounds kind of like both people who are involved, you have no control over that. The Greek text really kinda indicates… Be at peace, in other words, you do everything you can do. I do everything I can do to remove any obstacle to reconciliation, which doesn’t guarantee reconciliation because the other person has to be involved, but my responsibility is to remove every obstacle I can because… Re-assembly, you know this, it begins with us, it begins with us, regardless of who initiated the verse fuss...Now, we said throughout the series and re-assembling a relationship requires four decisions on our part, we’ve talked about two. I’ll review the first two real quick, and then we’re gonna jump into number three and four, the first decision was simply this, I will get back to… Not get back at. I will get back to not get back at… I am taking retribution off the table. There is no payback. This is… Get back to…

If you’re a Jesus follower, then we are to do for others what God through Christ has done for us. And you know what he did for us. Well, interestingly enough, the verse after the most famous verse in the Bible tells us… The most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, the next verse says this, listen to this, for God, talking about Jesus. He said, For God did not send Jesus, did not send His Son into the world to get back at us, but to get back to us. For God didn’t send Jesus in the world to pay us back, but to get back, he did not send him into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. He came to rescue us in spite of our behavior, he came to rescue and to establish a relationship in spite of the fact that we’ve been resisting the relationship all along.

And then Jesus comes along and he says, Follow me. Don’t just believe in me, I want you to follow me, and I want you to follow my example. Again, the Apostle Paul, after he explains To this group of Gentile, new believers all that God went through to create the possibility for their salvation, he says this, and this goes right to the point of this first decision, he says all of this talking about the process of having a relationship with God, all this is from God, here’s our word, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ. And then he gave us the assignment of reconciliation, and English text says the ministry of reconciliation, but Ministry is Such a churchy word, and the Greek term here existed long before there was a church, it really means the assignment or the opportunity to serve, he says we’ve been given the assignment or we’re supposed to provide the service of reconciliation. He did… We’re to do for others what he did for us, and then Paul finishes with, this is so amazing, that God was reconciling the world to Himself. God was doing everything he could to remove all the obstacles, that’s why he sent Christ in Christ, and then this part, not counting, people’s sins against them, because God knew what we know, that’s easy to forget and that we want to forget.

That if I’m gonna reconcile with you, at some point along the way, I have to quit counting your sin against you, I’ve gotta take whatever you did to me and I’ve gotta get it out of the equation, or we are never gonna reconcile. And if you’re not a religious person, not a Christian, I can… Take the pieces and parts that you want, I have no…

I can’t say you need to do anything, I don’t have any authority over you. Nobody left me in charge of your life, but if we’re gonna take what the Apostle Paul said Seriously, if we’re gonna take what Jesus said seriously, we have been reconciled to God, that’s the essence of our message, that’s what it means to be a Jesus follower and a Christian, and if that is the essence of our message, if we’ve been given the message of reconciliation. How in the world do we carry that message into our world if we refuse to reconcile with the people around us? It takes us back to what Jesus said… Last week, I remember last week. Not me, I wouldn’t do it. He looked at us all, and said, If you don’t do this, you’re just hypocrites, you’re just hypocrites… You’re taking advantage of what God has done on your behalf, and you are not willing to do that for the people around you.

Second decision we’ve talked about is this one, this is last time I won’t spend time on it. We’ll, I will own my slice of the blame pie, I will own my slice of the blame pie, and I’m gonna look in the mirror and I’m gonna take the pie out of my eye and there may not be much pie in my eye, but before I try to get the pie out of your eye, I’m gonna take the pie out of my eye, I’m gonna remove the plank, remember this, I’m gonna move the plank, not so I’ll be a better person not so it’ll be a healthier person, I’m gonna remove… I’m gonna take… I’m gonna focus on what my role in disrupting this relationship was, and I’m gonna remove it so I can see more clearly how to move toward and reconcile with you.

Our third decision and our fourth decision today are things I’ve talked about throughout the series, I’ve kinda left some bread crumbs along the way, I’ve sort of sown this idea throughout the series, but I’ve not asked you to commit to it. So today, I’m gonna take something we talked about before, and I’m gonna turn it into a decision that I’m gonna challenge you to make. The third decision is this, I will make the first move regardless of who moved away first, I will make the first move toward reconciliation regardless of who moved away first, and humanly speaking, the reason you’re going to do this is because the most mature person in the relationship should take responsibility for the relationship. Right. And I know you, you are the most mature person in the relationship, isn’t that correct? I mean, when you tell your story about the things that he or she did, when you tell that story to other people, clearly you come off looking like the more mature person ’cause they did was terrible. What you did was you were just responding to something terrible and your part was so small when you rehearse the narrative about what happened to this relationship.

In your mind, aren’t you the most mature person? Yeah, I mean, when I rehearse these things, not only am I the most mature person, there’s a crowd in my mind, and I’m like talking to this person and I’m kind of giving them what… For explaining my side. And there’s a crowd, they’re going, You’re right, Andy. You’re right Andy. You’re right and then they all plan… I walk off and they look at this person like, you really… He’s right, you know? Because I’m right, you’re right. So if you’re right, if I’m right, if it’s mostly them, well, then we’re the most mature people in the room, and the most mature people should initiate reconciliation. That’s humanly speaking. But there’s another reason. In fact, this is so amazing to me, Jesus most inconvenient command, not his most extreme command, but his… Especially within the context of the first century, his most inconvenient.

It’s so inconvenient and it’s so tied to first century Judean culture, it doesn’t even leave a mark on us… Here’s what He said He was teaching, he said, Therefore, if you’re offering your gift at the altar, and he’s already lost us. It’s like, whatever, I don’t know what he’s talking about. Right. Here’s what he’s talking about. He’s referring to this extraordinarily inconvenient trek to Jerusalem through the narrow streets of Jerusalem, to the temple of the southern stairs to get in line to offer a gift at the altar.

Now, you may live in Jerusalem, but still, it’s a journey, right? And you gotta take time off of work and you’re dragging the kids and it’s hot as… It’s just really hot there, if you’ve ever been there… Right. And the kids are crying, and it’s just a mess and there’s no fast pass… I know, it’s amazing, he says, so this is that day you decide you’re gonna go and make a sacrifice at the altar, and Jesus is very specific here is again, it’s something we miss, he’s not talking about making a sacrifice for sin, this isn’t like, Oh, I’ve done some horrible thing. I’m gonna sacrifice an animal. Ask God to forgive me of my sin and cleanse.

This is not that. He’s very specific, this is a gift, this isn’t an “I owe God an apology.” This is a gift, this is someone who’s just grateful, this is someone for whom God answered a prayer. this is a gift, this is a voluntary sacrifice… Expressing devotion to God, I just wanna be closer to God. So he says, okay. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and when you get there, you remember that your brother or sister has something against you…

And Jesus is so brilliant. He is intentionally ambiguous. He didn’t say what it is, he doesn’t even say whose fault it is. He says, if you get there or as you’re arriving there or maybe you found your place in line, and Suddenly, you remember there’s an interrupted conversation, there’s an unresolved conflict.

Well, the way we think, the way Jesus’ audience think, thought was this, well, no problem, I’ll deal with that later. I’m gonna stand in line, I’m gonna make my gift to God. Let God know how grateful I am, then when I go home, I’ll deal with that.. So to their shock and awe, he says, when that situation comes to mind, I want you to leave your gift there in front of the altar. And like… Wait, wait. Did he say grieve? But he didn’t say leave. Did he say grieve? I think he said, wait, what you want us to leave it? Wait… We’re already there at the altar, like we have… We’ve been… It’s been days, maybe it’s been hours, maybe it’s been a while, and we’re finally all the way to the place where we’re… One two three four…

We’re seventh in line, honey, just seven, just seven more people, we’re almost there. And then I remember this thing back at home, and I’m supposed to just leave my gift there? If I leave it there when I get back, it may not be there when I get back. It may have wandered away. What do you mean just leave it there? And Jesus says, yeah, because the reason you’re shocked, the reason you’re dismayed, the reason this is so inconvenient is because you have things out of order. You’re still thinking like a religious person, you’re still thinking like an internalized religious person, first, first. As in, of first importance, as in more important than what you came to do. Go and be reconciled to them.

Here’s what they heard. Wait, Jesus, wait, Jesus, Jesus, wait, you want me to put them before God? And Jesus would say, no, this is how you put God first. This is how you put God first, by reconciling with those whom God loves. You put invisible God first by reconciling with your visible brother, brother-in-law, sister, that neighbor, the guy at work, the lady at work, and it wasn’t a big deal, but you can tell what you said wasn’t…

And he says, yeah, if you wanna be right with God, you just get right and stay right with the people God loves, you put invisible God first by reconciling with the people around you, and then if you want brownie points, you put God first by reconciling with your enemy. I mean, this was complete category scramble for them. As it is for many of us. He said, oh, don’t leave you hanging. And then once you’ve done that, come back, maybe somebody will hold your place in line, maybe they won’t, and then you come and you offer your gift to which we say in our modern world… Okay okay wait wait wait wait, can’t we just forgive them in our heads and believe in you in our heads? Can’t we just kind of keep this all in our minds? Can’t we just, I have forgiven and I’m not gonna have a thing to do with them, I’m certainly not gonna reach out, but I have forgiven them, so I forgave them in my mind and I believe in you in my heart. Isn’t that enough?

To which Jesus would say, throughout the Gospels, well, if you wanna be a believer, but not if you wanna be a follower. And heads up, believers didn’t change the world, believers didn’t shape Western civilization. It wasn’t people who believed things that captured the imagination and the fascination of the Roman Empire. It was the followers. So if you’re gonna follow me, that means you have to do what I did.

Internalized religion lets us off the hook, doesn’t it? Read the Gospels. Neither Jesus nor his brother James, read his letter, had anything good to say about that approach to God. Jesus is actually inviting us… This is what’s so powerful, he’s actually inviting us to a better way of living that makes the world a better place to live. So number three, is I will make the first move regardless of who moved away first. And then the fourth decision, again, we’ve talked about it all along, I’ve just not challenged you to decide. The fourth one is simply this, I will in fact, keep the door open and the welcome mat out. I’m deciding. I know it’s the right thing to do. I’ve thought about it. It’s difficult, but you know what, have you decided? And when this person comes to mind or this group of people, have you decided? I’m deciding, I’m gonna keep the door open and I’m gonna keep the welcome mat out.

Now, to be clear, I don’t ever recommend, and nobody in their right mind would ever recommend you try to reconcile with someone who is unsafe, physically or emotionally. But those people aside, this is an extraordinarily important decision from… Several reasons. Number one, this has to be a daily decision for some of us as it relates to some people, ’cause the hits just keep on coming, don’t they? Every Thanksgiving, here it is again. Every Christmas, here it is again. Every time the family gets together, here it is again. Every time we say we’re gonna do A, then you know, then suddenly… It just keeps on coming, which means there are people perhaps in your life where this is a constant thing.

Something’s always happening, something’s always changing, they’re always stirring the pot, they’re always making it worse. They’re always making it bad and there’s something in you and there’s something in me that’s like, you know what, okay, I’ve had enough, or I’m gonna cross my arms. I tried, I don’t care. They’re out and I’ve done everything I can do and I just don’t have it in me to do anything else. And that’s when we remember, the goal isn’t to fix them and the goal isn’t to fix it, the goal is no regrets. And this will reduce your regret, this will potentially keep you healthy. This will pretty much ensure, there’s no bitterness build-up. This decision, as we talked about last time, keeps the hurt connected to its actual source. It makes it difficult to transfer the hurt from one relationship to another. But the moment you close the door, the moment you roll up the welcome mat, the moment you say, never, ever again, you’re out and there’s still that angst and that energy and that stuff, it’s gonna go somewhere. And chances are, it’s gonna go with you to another relationship.

So if I could pry for just a minute, I wanna ask those of you who are married an emotional question. Is it possible? I’m no counselor. Is it possible that your father or your mother is haunting your marriage? Is it possible that your father or your mother is haunting… What do I mean by haunting? I mean, their presence and the angst of what happened in the past, it just sits there, it infiltrates. It causes you to over-react or under-react. You go ballistic or you just shut down and you’re not even sure why because you look at the details of the situation or the argument, you’re like, you know what, I don’t think this created that, but if anybody else brings it up, oh, pity the fool, right? ‘Cause you got hurt and anybody…

This genuine hurt, you have every reason in the world to be angry and hurt. And somewhere along the way, you decided that you didn’t care. And when you decided you didn’t care, you rolled up the welcome mat and you shut the door. And consequently, you didn’t mean to do this, you became a carrier because when core relationships break, something in us breaks as well. And most of the time we really don’t know what to do, especially when we were young. And then we do the wrong things and perhaps make things worse. But now you know, and the reason I wanted to focus this on that is, I wanna challenge you to decide, would you decide?

No regrets, no regrets. I’m not gonna get to the end, I’m not gonna get to a funeral and wish I could go back, I’m not doing that. No regrets. I will get back to. I am not gonna get back at. I will own my slice of the blame pie, it is so tiny. It is so insignificant. But you know what, I wanna see that relationship clearly. And if there’s anything in my eye keeping me from seeing clearly, I want it out. And I’m gonna make the first move, even though I’m not the one that created the mess.

I’m gonna make the first move even though I’m not the one that moved away, relationally speaking, and I’m gonna keep that door open and I’m gonna keep that welcome mat out. And when I think it’s too much and when I think I’ve stretched as far as I can stretch, and when everything in me wants to close that door, I’m gonna remember what my Father in heaven through Christ did for me. He does not count my sins against me in my relationship with him. So by his grace, I’m gonna do for him, I’m gonna do for her and I’m gonna do for them what through Christ, my Heavenly Father, did for me. I’m gonna keep the door open. No regret.

Now, I wanna take kind of a hard right turn for a minute and I wanna say something to those of you who are not Christians, you’re not Jesus followers, not religious, maybe a different religion. Used to be, walked away from it. I wanna end by extending an invitation directly to you, and the reason I want to extend this invitation specifically to those of you who might fall into that category is this. Often, not always, but often a broken relationship is the catalyst for a broken faith.

Oftentimes, a broken relationship somewhere in the past or maybe current, maybe a family member, maybe another Christian or a group of Christians, or a break with the relationship with the church, I don’t know what your story is, but more often than not, a broken relationship is the catalyst for a broken faith. And I’ll be honest, that’s difficult to admit because you’re smart and you know that those two things really are mutually exclusive, but it felt connected when it happened. And as difficult as it might be for you, it could be that those dots are actually connected, because more often than not, they are. So as much as I hope that you’ll reconcile with your brother and your sister, and as much as I hope that you’ll reconcile with your prodigal son or your prodigal daughter or your prodigal father, or that friend next door or that neighbor, that person at work.

I wanna urge you and plead with you and invite you to be reconciled to God,

And when you’re ready, or if you’re ever ready, we’re here for you. Because as hard as this may be for you to believe, every single one of us, starting with me, we all have a “Be reconciled to God” story of our own. So I invite you, stop resisting, stop rehearsing that narrative. Look beyond what he did and look beyond what she didn’t do, and would you please be reconciled to God?