Posted October 15, 2004

Repairing Damaged Relationships
By D. B. Martin

In every family there are damaged relationships. We have already suggested that we forgive without waiting for the offender to apologize, and that we be quick to apologize. Do these steps repair the damaged relationship? They may. Sometimes the offender also apologizes and the problem is solved. Other times, if the infraction was not serious, just let it go. The Bible clearly commands us not to return evil for evil and to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44, Romans 12:19-20, & 1 Peter 3:8-9).

However, there are times when the offender is to be confronted, especially if we are in a continuing close relationship like marriage, work, church, etc. Jesus said, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15-17NKJV).

Some of you may think this means to angrily go to the offender demanding an apology or else. That rarely works. Notice it says we are to, “tell him his fault between you and him alone.” Did you tell others? That’s gossip. Did you embarrass the offender publicly? Notice it says “between you and him alone.” Did you assume you did not need to forgive him until he apologized? Jesus teaches that we are to forgive first (Mark 11:25). Were any of your words or actions wrong? You are to apologize for your offenses even if you think he was more wrong (Matthew 5:23-24). Jesus also said, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:5 NKJV).

You can’t change others but you can change yourself. If you ask God to forgive you, you forgive others, apologize where you have been wrong and humble yourself, it will not go unnoticed. God will notice and others will too. “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

So how do you confront the offender? Here is a suggested script:

“I really care about you and our friendship. We are not as close as we used to be. I have apologized for my wrongs to you (Note: if you haven’t, do that first). I am trying to change my attitudes and actions that have been part of the problem, but I need your help. What other changes do I need to make? (Don’t say this unless you are willing to listen without defending yourself. This is humility.) What can I do to help you? (Really listen.) May I share something with you that has been heavy on my heart? (Wait for their permission to share the offense). Did you say or do this ________________? Confirm your information. You could have been misinformed. Be specific but not in anger, “…speaking the truth in love,” (Ephesians 4:15). “This has hurt me. I have already forgiven you but I need your help to rebuild our relationship and prevent these kinds of problems in the future. Will you help me?”

If you do not forgive first, it will be very difficult to have the above type of encounter without getting into another quarrel. If it appears that the offender wants to quarrel, don’t. As graciously as possible, close the conversation with the suggestion that both pray about it and meet again. Be patient. He may not be ready to deal with the problem. He may not believe you have really changed and will test you. Suppose you have to change more than he changes? That’s OK, if your changes please God.

One of my favorite Scriptures is “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:3). Do all you can to please God and claim this promise. Keep praying, expecting God to work. Repairing damaged relationships is a high priority with Him. Follow His directions revealed in His word and He will bring healing and reconciliation. Amen.

© 2004 D. B. Martin.

Credit: Special thanks to Bill Gothard for some of the content of this article paraphrased from his Basic Seminar, Institute in Basic Life Principles, Box One, Oak Brook, IL 60522

Note From Author: I am a retired Southern Baptist Pastor living in Virginia Beach, Virginia, serving as Missions Director of Bethel Baptist Church of Chesapeake. This website and these email bulletins are other ways I continue my ministry in retirement. This goes out to more than 600 addresses. I hope it is a blessing to you. Feel free to forward or use them in serving our Lord. If you have suggestions or know of someone else who would like to receive them, please email us. They are free. Also, if you would like your name removed from our email list, let us know and it will be done.
Meanwhile, God bless you, D. B. Martin


To view previous Maranathalerts, see the Maranathalert Archives.

Note: “Maranatha” means, “Behold He Is Coming,” an early Christian greeting. “Alert,” reminds us to be ready. Blessings in Jesus! D.B.

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