Have you ever been in the midst of a relational mess? The kind that leaves you wanting to run far away and hide from the pain of the problem, escape the inequity, and avoid the argument.
The truth is, relationships are one of our greatest challenges and one of our most tremendous rewards in life.
Consider for a moment the exchange God made in order to regain relationship with us. The level of sacrifice made is the most painful, gruesome, unjust yet powerful and significant moment in history, all in effort to regain connection with us. Let me be clear, relationships are not supposed to kill your soul or abuse your worth, but they do entail sacrifices of comfort and declarations of love.
I have recently felt it pressing on my heart to address the concern of offense — I see a lot of offense boil over in the hearts of the Church. We live in a world that seems to be easily offended and quick to divide on concerns that do not need to be mountains we die on or matters to lose a relationship for life over.
The Lord often cares about relationships more than He cares about who is right. I have been reminded of the verse in Matthew 5 that says: “Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” What I am getting at is that we are charged to not sit back and wait for a solution or pray about the problem we are instructed to GO and reconcile.
Far too often people talk with a multitude about the problem, but not to the very person where the problem exists.
Now let me be clear, when it comes to reconciliation it does not matter whose fault it is,
the goal is always connection for both sides. The Lord said “if your brother has something against you go to him” — He never said “if it’s your fault go to them.”
The truth is, there will be many times that the concern is not your fault, but this doesn’t mean it is not your responsibility.
In this week’s video blog, I shared further about the Lord’s value for healthy relationships.
Have you ever found yourself on a forgiveness merry-go-round? Around and around you go again to the same problem with the same person as before. Does your forgiveness just seem to open yet another door for the wrongdoing to occur once more? Dodging punches and side swiping throws is not true reconciliation nor the fullness of relationship we’ve been called to cultivate. Now let me be clear, this does not mean if you have circled the merry-go-round once or twice and tried solely in your own strength and perspective to lend vulnerability and resolution to the situation you have completed the process of finding reconciliation. We have been given many steps to finding true restoration than this. Have you brought in outside counsel or gone before a neutral, trusted person with both of your best interests in mind to mediate the concern?
Matthew 18:15-17 also gives us a clear example of how to handle a conflict when someone has sinned against you and it does not entail passive problem solving or powerlessness. Let me be clear,
there is a distinction between sin and offense in this verse. Being hurt or offended by someone does not entail they have sinned. It is our responsibility to judge and decipher the difference and to bring in outside perspective and counsel if needed. But, when it is that someone has sinned, verses 16-17 give instructions to not allow one attempt to amend the wrongdoing to keep you from searching for another solution: “But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”
I want to point out the distinction because offense or your buttons getting pressed is something you must resolve within yourself, sin is something they must resolve within themselves.
What I am getting at is,
we all have a responsibility to keep our heart pure and not simply seek reconciliation one time and stamp it with “that didn’t work”.
The Lord cares too deeply about the offense that could hinder our heart. Now, if proper steps have been taken and a process has continually occurred, but the same mistreatment and misbehavior has been repeated, this is when you must evaluate the boundaries you have in place.
You are powerful and capable of establishing a firm wall with proper access points, for if they do decide to change, in order to protect your heart and the relationships with the other people in your life that feed your soul.
The challenge is, it is easy for our offense to arise after putting in so much time and effort to find resolve. But, the truth is, even after you have given it multiple attempts it is your job to forgive.
Romans 12:18 says: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Relationships are two-sided, each one of us plays a part, we cannot control or require someone to reconcile, apologize, or to seek to understand. But, as far as it depends on you or me, we are to live in peace with all men.
Even if reconciliation isn’t found, forgiveness doesn’t depend on them.
I often hear people say “I have forgiven them but the pain still persists, does this mean I have not truly forgiven them?” No, forgiveness is an act of your will not a pain reliever.
Forgiveness does not mean that there is or will be reconciliation nor does it take the pain away, but it does provide the foundation for your healing to begin.
I want to encourage you this week to think of the relationships in your life that have caused you pain and bring them before the Lord and ask for him to give you wisdom on what step(s) to take. Maybe, it is to confront the issue, seek understanding with the help of a mediator, or to forgive them. You are powerful and you are not alone — the Lord is with you, He will never leave you nor forsake you.