Godtalk: Mending Relationships


Reconciliation from Flickr by Grant MacDonald

If someone has done you an injury, what should you do?   We learn from the gospel how to go about mending a damaged relationship. If you feel you have been wronged by someone, Jesus says the first step is to speak directly, but privately, to the individual who has done the harm. Mt. 18:15~20

One of the worst things we can do is brood over our grievance. This can poison the mind and heart and make it more difficult to go directly to the person who caused the damage. If we want to settle a difference, we need to do it face-to-face. The Lord does not permit us to do nothing about healing this rift or to gossip to others about what has happened.

In approaching the other party, our intention is not to insult, injure or offend our brother or sister, not to gain satisfaction. Rather the purpose is to restore this relationship.

The first step of healing a rift is to go directly to the other party. This goes against the grain as many of us don't like confrontation. How much easier it is to go along to a friend and discuss the whole matter behind their back than to face the one with whom we have had a rift. A friend is more likely to agree with us about the other person.

You may discover that the other person feels you were the one who did the wrong.  This gives you the opportunity to put your side of the case:  perhaps mutual confession is needed. Or perhaps your friend did not realise they had offended you and may be willing to make amends. If so, there can be closure to the hurt and the matter can be forgotten.

Certainly don't go while you're angry and don't go to vent your rage, but don't wait too long before you say something. A long lapse of time will make it harder to mend the rift.  "If he listens to you, you have won back your brother.”  The goal is
not punishment but restoration.  

If the first step fails in its purpose, then the second step is to bring another person or persons, someone who is wise and gracious rather than someone who is hot-tempered or judgmental. The goal is not so much to put the offender on trial, but to persuade the offender to see the wrong and to be reconciled.

If this fails, then we must still not give up, but seek the help of the Christian community.  Note the emphasis here is on restoring a broken relationship by seeking the help of other Christians who hopefully will pray and seek a solution for reconciliation based on Christian love and wisdom  That’s better than relying on coercive force or threat of legal action, such as a lawsuit.

Lastly, if even the Christian community fails to bring about reconciliation, what must we do? Jesus seems to say that we have the right to abandon stubborn and obdurate offenders and treat them like social outcasts. However, we know that Jesus associated with rejects from Jewish society, ate with them, and even praised them at times. Jesus refuses no one who is ready to receive pardon, healing and restoration.

The call to accountability is inevitable and we can't escape it, either in this life or at the Day of Judgment when Christ will come again. So while we have the opportunity, we must not give up on stubborn offenders, but instead make every effort to win them with the grace and power of God's healing love and wisdom. Do we tolerate broken relationships or do we seek to repair them? God gives us the opportunity and guidance to mend and restore what is broken.

"Lord, make me an instrument of your healing love and peace. Give me wisdom and courage to bring your healing love and saving truth to those in need of healing and restoration.” 

Peter Knott SJ