Get Renew.org Weekly Emails

Want fresh teachings and disciple making content? Sign up to receive a weekly newsletters highlighting our resources and new content to help equip you in your disciple making journey. We’ll also send you emails with other equipping resources from time to time.

11 minutes
Download

3 R’s of Reconciliation

As a guy who has spent many years in the military, I love acronyms. Physical training, or PT, is something we did five days a week in the military. The exercises include the bend and reach, the rear lunge, the high jumper, the rower, the squat bender, the windmill, the forward lunge, the prone row, the bent leg body twist, and the pushup. The acronym we memorized to help us remember these exercises was, “Be Right Here Real Soon and Wait For Privates Behind Popeyes.” Thanks to these exercises over and over, that acronym still lives rent-free in my mind today.

I would like to propose a far, far simpler acronym for helping us remembering how to reconcile with someone who has hurt us or whom we have hurt. How simple? It’s just 3 R’s. Before getting into the first R, I want to preface it by saying that I asked and received permission to talk about the relationally sensitive content. First, I’ve found that true reconciliation starts with recognition.

#1 – Recognize

Our desire for recognition plays an important role in everyday life. We count on being recognized by the people closest to us. We desire to be recognized for our positive actions or maybe fly under the radar for our bad ones. Biblical reconciliation starts with a basic recognition of everybody as being made in God’s image (see Genesis 1:27). This can be particularly difficult when you have felt like you have been betrayed, but even deep relational betrayal doesn’t change the fact that we are all stamped with God’s divine image.

Whether it’s divorce, church hurt, or ruined friendships, broken relationships present several obstacles in the way of reconciliation. One major obstacle is that we tend to feel that we are always in the right. This feeling is encouraged by a predominant culture which encourages us to live “our truth” and see ourselves as basically good. These factors blind us to the possibility that we could also be in the wrong. We’ve got to recognize that the other person is made in the image of God just as we are, and that we too tend toward sin and self-deception.


“We’ve got to recognize that the other person is made in the image of God just as we are, and that we too tend toward sin and self-deception.”


This was most certainly the case with my divorce. When my then-wife had an affair, I was really upset, and rightfully so. But I failed to recognize that there were things that I could have done differently to help the marriage be stronger. Since then, if I had focused only and always on her decision, I would never have been able to find the starting place of reconciliation. Honestly, without self-evaluation, I would still be bitter and angry not only with her but also with God for allowing me to go through this hurt. If we want to start down the path of reconciliation, it starts with recognition: recognizing the image of God in all of us, recognizing the tendency toward sin in all of us, and—above all—recognizing God who created all of us.

In order to recognize these important truths, I had to back away from the situation and try looking at it from a 10,000-foot view. I was able to start asking myself important questions (such as the 5-Qs: who, what, where, when, and why). This helped me to recognize shortcomings on both sides rather than just making her out to be the villain in the issue. During this process, I began to realize that one of the areas in which I came up short in my marriage was that I prioritized other things, such as hunting and fishing, over my wife and her needs. Such a value system is not consistent with the biblical model of marriage.

Without pausing to recognize these things, the process of biblical reconciliation cannot begin.


“I began to realize that one of the areas in which I came up short in my marriage was that I prioritized other things.”


#2 – Reach Out

The second R in this process of reconciliation is to simply reach out to the person. But it’s actually not all that simple. Why? Because, if I am struggling in a relationship, the other person is the last person I want to talk to, unless it’s out of anger and hurt. This is why reaching out needs to be a couple steps: First, reach out to God. In my own story, I had figured out that I had been disobedient to God’s design for marriage by prioritizing other things over my wife. So, I needed to reach out to God and find forgiveness and healing from him. Without assurance in him, we can never actually accomplish biblical reconciliation.

First, I recommend asking him for comfort or peace in the situation. This was admittedly difficult for me; when my ex-wife told me she was leaving, my world was shattered. There was in my mind no amount of peace that would ever come to help relieve the feelings of betrayal and distrust I felt. Yet, as I explored Scripture, I was reminded that Jesus brings peace consistently to the down and outers (e.g., see the interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman in John 4).


“As I explored Scripture, I was reminded that Jesus brings peace consistently to the down and outers.”


I also recommend going to God to seek wisdom for the situation at hand. We Christians believe that God is all-knowing, and yet when we need wisdom, sometimes we turn to him only as a last resort. If we want biblical reconciliation, we must reach out to God, for he is the source of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). In addition, God has given us the church, and we can reach out to trusted fellow Christians as we seek wisdom and healing.

Biblical reconciliation means we also need to reach out to the other person. Now, this needs to be done carefully and prayerfully. If we just follow our natural impulses, we will likely not say anything good—until they apologize. This is especially the case if we haven’t spent time pausing to recognize what we might have done wrong (see the first R). Failure to recognize that there are more than likely failures with both parties leaves reconciliation behind at the station.

But what if it really was mainly the other person who was in the wrong? Even in those cases, let’s remember what Paul said about God in Romans 5:8: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Even though we were totally in the wrong, God still reconciled the relationship. He sought us out individually to bring us back to him. I wonder what would happen if we took the same reconciling approach in our own lives.


“Even though we were totally in the wrong, God still reconciled the relationship.”


In counseling, I have heard too many times to count, “I would forgive them, but they need to apologize first.” In response to this statement, I have begun posing this question: “Did God give us a ‘but’ when it came to his decision to reconcile those who put their faith in Jesus?” Did God say, “I love them, but until they turn their life around, they don’t deserve my grace”? No, God pursued reconciliation even when we were totally in the wrong. This is the way of biblical reconciliation.

#3 – Restore

The third R is that we work to restore the relationship. Admittedly, some relationships will never be fully restored—especially to the level they were before the hurt. And this step has proven to be the most difficult section of this article to write because this step required a lot of vulnerability, which is something I need to work on more. However, because I was able to move on to this step, my relationship with my ex-wife has become so much healthier. Before applying these three R’s, she and I wouldn’t even speak and now we have healthy conversations—something that never seemed possible. Now, I have forgiven her from the heart (Matthew 18:35), and we are no longer enemies.

Here are three practical ways to seek restoration in a broken relationship. First, we can personally seek help in the form of counseling. As a man, I know I have often had this false understanding that therapy or counseling makes us weak and so it is something we should avoid at all costs. We can have this false assumption that being a strong man means bottling up our emotions. I didn’t begin to see progress in this process until I set aside my ego and sought outside help. I will add that finding the right, biblically-grounded counselor can be difficult, so if the first one isn’t right, try again. Eventually you will find the one that is helpful for you.


“Admittedly, some relationships will never be fully restored—especially to the level they were before the hurt.”


Second, if it’s healthy to do so, slowly allow the other person back into your life. If you want to bring them into counseling with you, that’s wonderful (although if you don’t, that’s also understandable). For me, this looked like having surface-level conversations with my ex-wife while not mentioning or bringing up the hurtful issues. The goal of this wasn’t to sort through the issues, but rather to create a foundation that was stable so that we could have those hard conversations at a later date. I accomplished this by simply sending text messages and asking about her life, her job, and similar things. This shows the other person that you care enough to ask, and everyone loves to feel cared for.

Third, once a lot of healing has occurred, tough conversations can happen. All the while, we must keep in mind everything learned in the first two R’s as we approach these difficult conversations. Failure to do so will most certainly accomplish nothing. The goal of these tougher conversations is not to exacerbate the issues that happened, but to help process them in ways that are helpful to both parties. I can happily say that after working through these steps, I was able to have one of these deeper, healing conversations a few months ago over coffee with my ex-wife—something that would never have been possible without seeking God and pursuing reconciliation.

The question I want to leave you with is this: Are you taking steps to reconcile the broken relationships in your life? Or are you letting bitterness and hurt reign in these areas?

Get Renew.org Weekly Emails

Want fresh teachings and disciple making content? Sign up to receive a weekly newsletters highlighting our resources and new content to help equip you in your disciple making journey. We’ll also send you emails with other equipping resources from time to time.

You Might Also Like