A broken relationship with another Christian leaves all manner of pain and disillusionment in its wake. But as we talked about last week, God’s character and closeness give us comfort in the pain of un-reconciled relationships.
He also gives us clear guidance as we navigate the confusing emotions and difficult realities of a broken friendship. First of all, Scripture spells out what is required of us when we are sinned against. John Piper expands on Thomas Watson’s definition of forgiveness, which includes:
- resisting revenge,
“Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Rom. 12:19)
- not returning evil for evil,
“See that no one repays another with evil for evil.” (1 Thess. 5:15)
- wishing them well,
“Bless those who curse you.” (Luke 6:28)
- grieving at their calamities,
“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.” (Prov. 24:17)
- praying for their welfare,
“But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:44)
- seeking reconciliation so far as it depends on you,
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Rom. 12:18)
- and coming to their aid in distress.
“If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him.” (Ex. 23:4)
Ask yourself: Do these verses represent my attitude and actions toward those who have wronged me? If so, then you can walk through even the most painful and messy situation with a clear conscience.
But if we are resistant or hesitant to treat those who have hurt us in the way that God requires, we must ask him to help us repent from any remaining bitterness in our hearts.
Prayer makes all the difference here. It is very difficult—impossible really—to pray for someone and persist in bitterness simultaneously. One crowds out the other.
To love those who have rejected or betrayed us is not easy, especially when we used to feel close to them and trust them. The temptation to simmer in our resentment, retaliate, or secretly rejoice in their pain may be strong. It may take longer than we expect for truth to come to light. But we are called to obey. It’s that simple.
We are following our Savior after all, the one who made us, his enemies, to be his friends.
The One who calls us to do good to those who hate us first loved us, even when we hated him.
The One who says “I will repay” paid the penalty for our sin (and the sin of our Christian friends who betray us).
The One who tells us to bless those who curse us was made a curse for us.
The One who urges us to “be at peace with all men” has made peace with God on our behalf.
How can we look our Savior in the eyes and hold bitterness behind our backs?
To forgive is to be free. It is to be free from those sins of anger and resentment that dishonor our Savior and make us miserable. It is to be free to love our faithful friends who remain, to enjoy the many blessings God has given us, to live a fruitful life for his glory.
But how do we relate to former friends who are unrepentant for their actions toward us? And how do we respond to shallow apologies? What do you do when someone has sinned against you and wants to pretend as if nothing has happened?
Some final thoughts to come.