“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”
In any human relationship, whether it is family, friendship or marriage, there are three different categories—difficult, destructive and dangerous. All relationships have an element of difficulty to them that needs to be worked through. Some have destructive habits that have settled into that relationship affecting all parties involved. Others can be dangerous because of physical, emotional and psychological abuse that can take place. If we are in an abusive relationship and our abuser follows a pattern of habitual abuse and our life is in peril, we do not have to bear up under that situation—please reach out for help. We are not called to live under that dynamic endlessly.
2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” We could reinterpret “worldly sorrow” as “false repentance,” where a person demonstrates remorse for their abusive actions, maybe even with tears promising to change, but continues to follow a pattern of destruction that is ultimately harming others and destroying their own life in the process. If we find ourselves in a dangerous relationship today, we are not called to a blind forgiveness that places us in harm’s way continuously, especially if the person refuses to listen or to repent; separation from that environment or relationship is actually a wise way to approach the process of reconciliation. If someone is truly repentant, they would demonstrate a dying to sinful habits, a burial of old self and a new pathway of life that reflects the activity of Christ in their own life.
How does reconciliation happen? Jesus outlines two aspects to reconciliation: the willingness to listen and the willingness to forgive. If someone refuses to listen or to learn, it is going to devastate the relationship. If someone holds on to the offense, refusing to forgive the person who hurt them, it will destroy them.
Maybe some of us are the person in the relationship that is unwilling to listen or learn and do not see the blind spots in our life and what it is doing to those around us. Or maybe we are unwilling to forgive, holding on to the offense and the bitterness that is just killing us. Both realities will lock us up in a prison of our own choices and it will affect relationships in our lives.
May we take a moment with God and repent of our sins and unforgiveness. He has grace and strength for us. As we choose to listen, to learn and to forgive, it will have an impact on those we love.
Dear God, relationships are complicated, yet there is beauty in them because Your gospel demonstrates the pathway to reconciliation and forgiveness. Thank You, Jesus.