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You Can Begin Again: Relationship Repair

Updated: May 18, 2022

January 24, 2021

Great progress is made when you always begin again. What is the most important skill needed to have the most successful relationship? It is the ability to REPAIR when the relationship is damaged. This ability is already wired into your faith in Christ.

Principles of Relationship Repair

1. The high value in it

2. The crucial steps in it

3. The ability to experience it

Five Aspects of Repairing a Relationship:

1. Express regret, "I'm sorry"

2. Accept responsibility, "I was wrong"

3. Offer restitution, "How can I make it right?"

4. Genuinely repent, "I want to change"

5. Ask forgiveness, "Can you find it in your heart..."

Challenge: Is there someone you should ask forgiveness from today? Pray for God to reveal this relationship to you and to have the courage to repair it.


To God, repairing a damaged relationship is worth disrupting worship.

This series that we're in is called “ You Can Begin Again” All progress, no matter what area or what part of your life, all progress is made when you always begin again, always to begin again. And in relationship to God, with God, it is the same no matter what; after a big failure, or maybe a huge setback. Or maybe something that has happened to you that is, is completely unfair and unjust. Do you know that the powerful underpinning of your faith in God is this, you can begin again. And today we're going to move into another one of those crucial areas of our life, that we need to know that we have the power to begin again. I want you to be convinced that it's possible in this arena that we're going to talk about, that you can begin again.

So, I don't know if you know the name. John Gottman. If you don't know, I'm about to tell you why it's important. He and his wife, Julie are the foremost relationship researchers in America on marriage and relationships. They have scientifically researched every square inch of marriage, and love relationships. And they have authored only about 41 books, scientific books to show for it. In fact, nearly every popular relationship book on this generation, if you'll go to the index, it's loaded with John Gottman footnotes. In those, they're just all channeling Gottman. And so, after thousands of hours of relationship research, maybe the most credible researcher in America has isolated the most important skill in the most successful relationships. He has isolated the most important skill in the most successful relationships, it is what makes them most successful. What do you think it is? If you're thinking that it's communication, Yeah, you'd be wrong. If you were thinking, , it's finding your soulmate, you'd be wrong. It's this: in fact. The number one skill, the number one indicator in successful love relationships, is the ability to repair when the relationship has been damaged, the ability is a set of skills necessary to repair the relationship when it has been damaged. And do you know that that ability is already baked in, it is already wired into your faith in Christ. It is a it is a huge endowment that you have, because of embracing Christ as your Lord and Savior; in embracing the gospel. What He has done on the Cross has given you an empowerment to be able to do this. And you know, maybe for you, there's a breach in an important relationship in your life. I don't know, maybe you own 100% of the fault or, or 50% of the fault or 10 or 20%, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter, you can be a part of healing, of healing the breach. God has given you a set of abilities, a single empowerment to repair what has been broken. And so whether that damage has come from a big lie or a hidden behavior, or the damage that your anger has done to the relationship, or an affair that you have been involved in, or maybe just simple untrustworthiness. I want you to know this: after relationship damage, you can begin again. And I want to show you how important that is to God, that you pursue it. I want to show you what a high value that God has for pursuing repair, relationship repair, with all your heart.

It’s found in something that Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. As you know, the Sermon on the Mount is the central preaching of Jesus; it is three chapters in the Gospel of Matthew five through seven. This is, this is the core of everything that Jesus says is important in following him, and that your life could be transformed. And right in the middle of it, in Matthew 5 , beginning in verse 23, I'm just going to kind of fall into the middle of something that he is saying. And so in verse 23, Jesus says, “Therefore, if you're presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there, leave it before the altar, and go and first be reconciled to your brother, and then and then come and present your offering to me.” And so, we say about the Bible, that it's the Word of God, and if it's the Word of God, then it has a supernatural power, and it speaks supernaturally into our lives. And, and if we embrace it, that's what it'll do., it'll be transforming. And look at this idea that flows out of it. For us, in this moment, out of these two verses, these two verses are telling us centrally, they are saying to God that repairing a damaged relationship, is worth disrupting worship to Him. To God, repairing a damaged relationship is worth disrupting worship. In fact, it's a sacred interruption to him. And I want that idea to just flow out of the next several minutes that we’re together. And I wanted to go through some repair principles that that come right out of verse 24; there are these three repair principles that flow right out of it, and I want us to embrace them.

And here is the first relationship repair principle: Look at the high value of it. Look at the high value that God places on repairing horizontal relationships. That's what's happening in verse 24. Verse 24 is an illustration that Jesus is using in the middle of his teaching. It's a teaching tool. And so, what's he doing here, he's describing a first century, God follower, a worshipper and, and they have traveled to Jerusalem to the temple. So they have come from Capernaum, and Galilee, they have come from Bethlehem in Judea, they have come from no man's land, you know, Nazareth. And they have walked for maybe a couple of days, in order to worship God in the temple. And so, they're coming with an offering, they're coming with a sacrifice, if they're coming with a sacrifice offering, it's costly. It has cost them a lot, they've traveled for days. And so they pass through the quarter, the women, the court of the Gentiles, the Court of the men, they're into courts, that they enter part of the temple in the court of the priest, and there is the altar where you offer a burnt offering up to God, it’s just adjacent to the Holy of Holies. And Jesus is painting these people know this picture. This is a sacred and rare moment, that I've cued up, and it's my turn, and I'm there, I'm in the sacred place, this sacred moment, and I'm doing this most sacred thing. I'm atoning for my sin, I'm seeking to be in God's presence. I'm offering him the sacrificial offering. And Jesus says, Yeah, look right in the middle of that, if you remember that you own some relationship damage, Jesus is telling you to stop, just stop, and walk out of there. And walk back for two days to Nazareth, and find that person and make it right, repair the damage. Then walk back for two more days and come back and get back in line and then have this sacred moment. Do you see what that is doing? There are two things that they're carrying out of that. Look at the urgency with which makes it a high value. God holds a high value for relationship repair. And how do I know that? Well, look at the urgency with which he said you should do it in verse 24, Leave and go, Leave it and then go to make the most sacred moment of your life in order to make repair. But then also look at the priority of it. Look at its place in a list of priorities, not just its urgency, but its priority. First, he says, , first be reconciled to your brother. In order of preference, God says, okay, relationship repair first, and then worship of me. And so, you want to apply that first principle. It’s not hard to apply, raise up the value of relationship repair in your own heart in mind. And so, apply it this way: raise up the priority of repairing and keeping your relationships healthy and whole, make that first. In other words, shake yourself awake, stop going to sleep on the relationship damage that is in your life and, and make it a priority to repair it.

Secondly, do it urgently. Do it urgently, don't wait. Don't wait on your pride to finally be humble. Don't wait on your insecurity. to finally get secure. Don't wait on your immaturity to finally grow mature. Don't self-wallow in the self-justification of your own or your own self-pity. Just make the first move. He says do it urgently. Don't let another minute go by without maybe making a significant move toward repairing relationships; with the important relationships in your life. What are the most important relationships? With your spouse, you may be at detente, right you know, stalemate. Okay, if you won't bring it up, I just won't bring it up either. And no, repair it! Maybe it's with an adult sibling. I just keep reading in the social sciences. I keep reading that in America, there’s actually an underlying crisis of sibling relationship of adult siblings, somewhere between half and two thirds of adult siblings in our nation are either not on speaking terms with a sibling, or they have lives that could completely care less about one another. And so, make relationship repair first and urgent.

Then secondly, there's a second major principle. So, these are principles of relationship repair. And the first one is the high value of it. And the second one is the steps that are in it, the steps that are in relationship repair, found in verse 24. And it's in that core thing that he says to do this one thing to do, and that is first be reconciled to your brother; do that process, Jesus says it's a process. Reconciliation is almost never an event, it is a process. And so, he gives us the core word, and it gives us the core process when he uses the word reconciled. Biblically, that word means to affect a change.. In other words, do something that changes the way things are. And in relationships, it means change things so that they can be made right with one another, bring peace, bring restoration into a relationship. So, I've mentioned this already a few weeks ago, that I've been serving at Bear Creek, we've been a family together for 20 years. I'm in my 20th year as your pastor, and I catalog all my messages. And I do that because I'm just pointy headed. I mean, it's just what I do, or actually it is because, you know, I'm afraid I'm going to forget what I preached three weeks ago, you know, just like you forget. And so, I knowI'm over 900 messages deep with you. In fact, I'm approaching closer to 1000 messages and you're wondering, oh, wow, that's why this was like, it's been a long time. I've heard 1000 sermons from this, this guy. And so, I was curious. I was curious to look back on how many messages I've ever done on repair of relationships, you know, where forgiveness is at the core of it. And so, looking back, I found at least 20 messages that I've done that were specifically about forgiveness in relationships. And every single one of them have been about offering the forgiveness. All 20 have only been about offering forgiveness. So, in 20 years with you, I have never approached, the topic of how do I ask for forgiveness, or how do I create the repair? How do I create repair for the damage that I've done? And so, after 20 years, I'm going to remedy that. And so, watch this, I'm going to give you five aspects to repairing a relationship; these are five things to do; there are aspects in repairing a damaged relationship. Now do not view these as sequential steps. I'm going to give you five and it's not step one, then two, then three, then four, then five. These are five aspects, it may be that you need to do all five or, or it may be that you need to do three or two or one. You know your relationship, you'll know, if you don't know the one sitting beside you will tell you which ones you need to do, you will know it before these moments are over. So, look, I turned to some work done by PhD psychologists Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas. They've done some really significant work in, the area relationship reconciliation.

There are these five, five aspects to relationship reconciliation. Number one is to express regret. By the way, I’ve got to tell you something happened in the last service. I love this, you know, when some people sort of get into a message, , they'll say, Amen, right? Or, you know, if you're like really exuberant, you'll say, “ Preach it”, right? So, when I started these in the last message, and I said, the first one, a lady over here, somewhere went “ Write that down, write that down.” She wanted, she wanted somebody in the room to remember this one. . And so, she just said it out loud, “Write that down.” And so, I'd be good with you doing that, if you just want to say, “Yeah, that one's so good. Write that down.” So, number one is express regret.” I'm sorry.” It starts with I'm sorry. But it does not start with I'm sorry that you are mad at me. It does not start with I'm sorry that we have are having trouble. Well, yeah, everybody is sorry that you're having trouble. It doesn't start with and here's the one that like sends me into orbit. I'm sorry, if I have done something nebulously in general that has offended you. Look, just stop trying. Okay, just stop talking. Right? Just don't even try if that's where it is. Look, this is about expressing regret, it must be an I'm sorry that is birthed from an emotion that you recognize the hurt in someone else. It takes a level of empathy, to feel what they feel and understand it, in order for you to genuinely say, I'm sorry. And you need to put that in words. And for each one of these I've given you words, so that there's no doubt about the vocabulary. And so, regret, regret sounds like this: “I'm sorry that I caused such pain. I was selfish, or I was careless, or I was clueless. And I feel terrible that I hurt you.” Do you know in the the damage that might be going on in that relationship right now, this might be all that's needed to repair it? It might be that this opens the spirit of the other person enough that that's all they needed to hear. That's how they know that you're being genuine. And that's all that they needed. Just for you to say I'm sorry and to mean that.

Let me give you a second. A second aspect is this: accepting responsibility. This one goes like this. “I was wrong, I was wrong, I was wr o n g. I was wrong.” If you're going to repair a relationship, if you're going to repair damage in a relationship, you've got to be willing to accept the responsibility for your own actions. And you know what, this may be a huge internal battle for you because you may have rationalized that the other person made you explode in anger, you may have rationalized the other person drove you to what you you've done; but here's the deal. Here's the deal: You can't make anyone else responsible for your own actions. Okay, I'm going to say it write that down. All right? You have to simply admit that, that you yourself, you're flawed, that you make mistakes; do you know that's at the core of your faith? I mean, honestly, it's, it's totally incompatible for you to be proud, arrogant, and a Christ follower. Because to be a Christ follower, it starts with, okay, I'm a sinner, I'm broken, I owe God. And I turned to him and asked him to forgive me. It's at the core of what it means to have faith in God. And so, it needs to sound something like this, “I know what I did was wrong. I could try to excuse myself, but there's not an excuse, pure and simple. I did, what was selfish and wrong.” And you know what? Maybe you've done number one. And, when you do number two, I don't know if that will completely repair your relationship. But I'll tell you, any one of these all by themselves, will open, will begin to open the spirit of the person you love, and open their spirit to you for accepting embracing it.

Here's the number three, a third aspect is this to offer… The way that Chapman and Thomas put it is to offer restitution, offer restitution. You know, I like the vocabulary; it’s to offer to make amends better;, maybe to offer to make amends. Do you know what that is? It's this, it's your heart saying, “How can I make this right?” Look at what that shows, how can I make this right? That's the core of reconciliation. When, look, when God reconciled your relationship with Him, you're the one who owed Him, but God did it backwards. You're the one who owed Him; you should reconcile your relationship with God, except what God himself did is impossible for you to do. so God reconciled your relationship with Him. And so he came, and He sent , Christ to die in your place, paid the penalty that you owe, got all of the offenses that you owe God, Christ stepped into your place and paid that for you. It is what He did to make you right with God. How do you do that in a relationship? In relationship issues, restitution is, it's honestly way more invisible than it is tangible, right? I mean, give me an example. You can't unsay the abusive things you said somewhere in the past. I mean, this isn't going to work. You know? Okay, I said some really angry and abusive things to you and you pass; will. $50 cover it? You know, what do you see? It's, it's more intangible, it's more invisible. And this act, it's just, it's a heart response that just says, How can I make it right? And the act is just meant to illustrate the level of sorrow, the degree to which you're showing them that you know that you need to repair the relationship. It should, to seek to repair the damage is, is the core step. What, what can I do to help repair the damage caused? I It's a tangible reassurance, you're genuinely taking responsibility for what you've done, and what you want to change. It's a desire to show the person that you truly care about them by offering it. And you know what; most of the time I doubt the person will say, “Well, yeah, here's what you can do. I've got a list of five”. But if they do have a list of five things that tells you the level of damage that is there. And making amends should sound like this, “Is there anything I can do to repair what I've done?” I don't know if this will completely heal and fix your relationship. But I do know this, it will go a long way in opening the spirit of the one who's been harmed.

Number four, out of the five aspects. Number four, genuinely repent, genuinely repent. And so, if you've been a part of Bear Creek for any length of time at all, you are an expert on repentance. We talk about repentance all the time. We've talked about every possible facet there is to repentance. And so, we're going to fly over this in relationships. Repentance is this: “I want to change.” It's an action of change. Repentance is an action of change. Biblically, repentance is the idea of making a change. In the New Testament, the Greek carries the idea of changing one's mind, the Greek mindset of repentance is to change your mind. And in their mind, if you change your mind, then you're going to change everything that comes out of your mind. And so, your life is going to change when you change your mind. In the Old Testament, it's a very concrete word, it's an action word, it means to be going in a direction and stop and turn around and go back in the opposite direction. It is an act of change. And, so how does that happen? Relationally. Wait, here are three important things. Number one, it's important that you verbalize it. Number two, it's important that you make a plan, what am I going to do to turn and change? Number three, it's important that you execute the plan, that you do it. And here's an inevitability; you're going to stumble; you're going to not do it right every time. And so, what do you do about that? Here's what you do about that, you quickly say, I'm sorry. And you say to them, again, you are intent on bringing this change into your life, please be patient with me. And then you do this strange, unique principle that you've never heard before, and then begin again, begin again. And so, it should sound a certain way and, and repenting in a relationship should sound like this: “I know that my behavior was painful to you. And I don't ever want to do that again. And I want you to help me, I want you to say to me, I want you to tell me your input of how you think I might change.” I don't know, if repenting will completely heal and fix and repair your relationship. But it will go a long way in opening the spirit of the one that you’ve hurt.

Let me give you a number five. Number five, is this: to ask forgiveness, Ask for forgiveness, ” Can you find it in your heart to forgive me?” This is how you fully communicate to the other person that you've made a mistake that you have wronged them, that you recognize that, and that you want to be right with them. You ask for forgiveness. And here's an insight that some of us actually need, you can't demand it. You cannot demand forgiveness, that it's not there. You can't demand it; you can only ask for it. Right? Is this in you? Is this a part of you where the conflict sort of erupts? And you as fast as you can possibly say I'm sorry and then you want to move on? They haven't even finished saying what they're offended about. I'm sorry. And then they want to, they want to bring it back up 30 minutes later, and it makes you mad. You're just “Hey, I said I'm sorry, what more do you want?” Well, they would like for you to be sorry; actually and genuinely sorry. And go through the process. And so asking forgiveness is not a small thing. And you need to know that, because it will be costly. And you're thinking, Oh, yeah, man, well, this isn't going to cause me to say, you know, Will you forgive? No, I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about the other person. Because they're giving up their right for you to pay for what you've done. It's costly to them, because they're giving up justice, for mercy towards you. It's costly for them, because they're allowing their hurt, their anger, their humiliation, not to be paid for, they're absorbing it and waiting for it to pass through them through their own act of forgiveness. And so, the cost of the other person should cause you to have one response, and that is patience with them. If the offense is major, if it's been a repetitive thing, it'll probably take your loved one some time to process through it. And they'll have to be convinced of your sincerity; and that may take time. But listen, it is worth it because number five crowns it crowns the process of repair, and it should sound like this. “I know, I know what I did hurt you deeply, you have every right to be angry or hurt or distrustful of me. You did not deserve that. It was completely wrong of me. And I want to ask if there is any way, can you find it in your heart, to forgive me?” In the kingdom of God that stimulates something supernatural, it creates a supernatural atmosphere, where reconciliation is possible.

Let me give you the last of the three repair principles that are found here in verse 24. The first just describes the high value that God has for reconciliation, the second, describes the steps that are in it, reconciliation is a series of steps. But then thirdly, the third aspect is the ability to experience it which is found in that word, “be reconciled”.. I have been saying it through the message, this is what Christ has made possible by what he's done on the cross through the gospel. Second Corinthians 5, starting in verse 17, describes it. Listen: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, that means you live in a sphere, it means you live., in this invisible place. And this invisible place is that your life is in Christ and Christ’s life is in you. And it's supernatural. And it's all because of what he did on the cross when you place your faith in him. And what is the result of that? He is a new creation. That word for new means new like nothing ever has ever been new before; the old has passed away. t Behold the new has come, you’re brand new from the inside out. Verse 18, continues, All of this is from God, All of this what? All of this newness is from God, who through Christ reconciled you to God. The core act of Christ on the cross, in your relationship to God, created reconciliation for you. It's resident, it's alive, it lives there in you. And the verse goes on, and “ gave us the ministry of reconciliation, of making relationships right. Right if you're in Christ, you live in a new environment. You live in a supernatural environment of reconciliation, to live in Christ is to live in that new reality, the one that flows with mercy and grace, and He has made it possible. Even though you may fail and fail and fail, forgiveness, and reconciliation can repair us.

Last thing, Martin Buchanan wrote a book several years ago called ”Hidden in Plain Sight.” In it, he writes about an incident that happened after the horrible genocide that ravaged Rwanda 25 years ago, where thousands upon thousands of people were slaughtered in racial hatred. And he knew about this incident because he actually traveled there and ministered there many times. And so, he knew of this incident. A Rwandan woman amid all that carnage, her teenage son was murdered. And she was consumed with grief sorrow over it, hate and bitterness. But she was a follower of Jesus, and she continued to pray that God reveal my son's killer, because she wanted justice so badly. And she kept praying that and then one night, she dreamed that she was actually going to heaven. But there was a complication in order for her to go to heaven; she had to pass through a certain house to get there. And so, in her dream, it was that she had to go down the street and go in the front door and pass through the rooms of the house and go up the stairs and out the back exit. And so, she asked God in her dream, “Whose house is this?” And God said to her, “It is the house of your son's killer. And he said the road to heaven passes through the house of your enemy.” Several nights later, there was a knock at her door. She opened it. There stood a young man she did not recognize, and he was trembling. He could barely get the words out; he began to break down in the middle of them. He, he just began to say to her, “I am the one who killed your son. And since that day, I've had no life, no peace. And so, I'm here, I'm placing my life in your hands, would you please kill me, because I'm dead already.” The woman had prayed for this day, this day of reckoning. And it had arrived and to her confusion, she didn't know what to do. She found in that moment to her own surprise, that for some reason, she did not want to kill him, or torture him, or do anything to him. And that moment of reckoning, she only found one desire that was coming out of her, she only wanted one thing, a son. And so, she said to him, “This is what I ask of you. Come into my house, live with me, eat the food, I would have prepared for my son, wear the clothes that I would have made for my son, become the son, I lost.” And so, he did. And this is what God Himself has done in us making sons and daughters out of bitter enemies. And this is the power and the endowment that He has given you; a power that you can experience with one another forgiving, experiencing forgiveness, reconciliation, repair, and restoration. You live in an environment of reconciliation.

Closing prayer: Let's bow together. And I want to ask you to turn in this moment to the Lord in prayer. And call on Him for repair. For you, first, it needs to be the repair of your relationship to God. And that reconciliation comes through Jesus and what he's done on the cross and you can be made right by Christ making amends for you. To the God of the universe, embrace that forgiveness. And let it begin the process of repairing you. But with one another; In this moment, would you just start the process in your own heart. Honestly, it's powerful to begin with a strong intent. Make it your intention, that the value of relationship repair is going to soar in you. It's going to become urgent. And it's going to become first and then turn, turn to the steps of reconciliation, the aspects of reconciliation and start just practicing those toward the one you've loved,the relationship that you've damaged. And just watch God work. Hey, there's nothing automatic. It's a process of time and love, and God working in your heart and in the other person's heart. But start it. Father, I pray that you will begin the revolution of healing in the life of our fellowship and the life of our community. And, Lord, we trust you that we can in any relationship begin again. And we pray in Christ's name. Amen.

Wrap up: I want to thank you for being a part of this service. And I want to invite you to respond; and if you're here in the room, you know what the Next Steps table is all about. If you have a spiritual question or spiritual need, that's the place for you to go immediately after this service, just stop there and say to somebody, “Hey, would you pray with me about this” and just say what it is and there'll be so happy to help you. If you've joined us online, You can in the chat line there, type pray for me or pray with me. And one of our hosts would be so happy to just jump on with you and say, hey, let's go over to private chat and they'll talk with you and pray with you, and pray for the need in your life. And I hope you'll take advantage of that. Let's stand together. Let me lead us in prayer. Father, thank You that You love us. And thank you for the power of reconciliation. And I pray, Father, that you help us feel it and know it and make us a minister of it in the lives of people around us and we pray in Christ's name. Amen. Amen. God bless you. Thank you so much for being here.

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