How to Restore a Broken Relationship

When I was younger I was given the assignment to think of ways to wake up our people from the routine of passing the bread and cup of communion. So a team of us got to work.

Our idea was to take a reading about the Passion from a popular author, divide it between the three of us, and station each of us at three different points of the sanctuary. The words coming from different directions would be like surround sound.

We envisioned people’s imaginations awakening. We could just see the tears as they would begin to trickle down congregants’ cheeks. We were ready to receive the accolades we knew would be forthcoming.

We didn’t envision the anger. One of our members thought the reading was disruptive. He was mad. The kind of mad where literally smoke was coming out of his ears.

I was young and wanted to run and hide. Gary Southern—who helped with the reading—put his arm around me and said, “We need to go talk to this brother.” So we did. It wasn’t easy. But after we listened and answered his questions we understood each other. And our relationship was restored.

If you are breathing today you will experience relational conflict. Jesus tells us to seek reconciliation when it happens. Here’s how. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15). It’s one verse that gives us six steps. Conflict can be resolved one step at a time.

  • Step one is to acknowledge conflict. Jesus expects love and unity but he also anticipates conflict. The presence of conflict does not mean you are immature. It just means you are alive. What is immature to Jesus is leaving it unaddressed and unresolved.
  • Step two is to own it. In this passage Jesus says if someone sins against you, you go. In Matthew 5 he says if you are at fault you go. Jesus puts the burden on you in both cases.
  • Step three then is to actually go to that person. We do anything but go. We wait. We run. We avoid. As difficult as “going” may be, remember it is the Lord who says we must learn to approach the person with whom we have a conflict. And make sure you go to that person instead of talking to someone else. The only time to go to a third party is if that person will help you calm your anxiety and send you back to the person you need to talk to.
  • Step four is to remember the Golden Rule. The best piece of advice we can carry with us as we go to meet the other person is to approach them in the way we would want to be approached if we were in their place.
  • Step five is to make sure to say what you need to say. Jesus says to “show him his fault.” Don’t get this far without completing the process. If you don’t say what you need to say it is like carrying the football to the one yard line, laying it down on the field, and walking away.
  • The final step is to aim at restoration. Remember you are not there to win an argument. You are not there to win points. You are there to win your brother or sister.

Restoration matters because it mattered to Jesus.

Question: Is there someone you need to take a step towards in restoration today?

The Primary Way to Love

Listening is an art form. Most, at best, are paint-by-the-number artists.

  1. Let the other person talk for a moment.
  2. Catch any phrase or truth they share that you know something about.
  3. Formulate an “agree” or “disagree,” “right” or “wrong” response.
  4. Find an open spot and let the other person know your thoughts.

The result? No masterpiece for sure. At best a cheap imitation of what real listening can be.

You’ve experienced real listening from time to time. And when you have you most likely felt loved. Listening is the primary way we can show someone that we love them.

In the Old Testament God was shaping his people by showing them what it meant to be in relationship. In Deuteronomy 6:4-5 we find this famous passage:

Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

The first command in relationship with God is “listen.” We know this command as the shema because that is the Hebrew word for “listen.” It is an imperative and it is imperative that we learn to start there.

The second thing we learn to do in our relationship with God is “love.” But notice that loving follows listening. Could it be that God’s instruction to us on relationship with him can teach us how to have relationships with others? Could it be that if we want to show someone that we love them the best thing we can do is listen to them?

By listening I mean we learn to hear what the other person is saying. Better put, listening happens when we hear the person. Masterful listening has to do with understanding the other person. We jettison our desire to be right or to agree or disagree. We seek to understand where that person is coming from.

How do we do that? Here are a few steps that will help:

  • Listen actively. Put your phone away. Focus on the person. Look in their eyes.
  • Respond with questions that help you understand what they are communicating.
  • Be silent. You don’t have to fill the air with your words. If you allow a pause they may continue to speak.
  • Repeat to them, in your words, what you understand them to be saying, thinking, or feeling.

Listen. First to God. Take time today to sit in his presence. Hear his word. In doing so, love him with all your heart, soul and strength.

Then listen to a family member. A friend. A co-worker. They will feel loved. And you can paint a masterpiece.

Question: Think of a time someone really listened to you? How did you feel?