Has someone ever offended you and it seemed that the relationship was “on hold” until they apologized? Yep, me too. It naturally makes sense to think that the one who broke it should fix it. But, Jesus teaches something very different in Matthew 18:15. There, we’re told when someone hurts us, that we are to take initiative to restore the relationship and go to the offender. You’ll also find in Matthew 5:23-24, that Jesus commands those who realize they’ve hurt someone to take immediate action to restore the relationship. What does this mean? Regardless of who is in the wrong, I am responsible for doing all I can to pursue a healthy relationship.
I think this speaks to the heart of what it means to be Christian, a follower of Christ. Jesus’s entire purpose was to reconcile creation to God (Colossians 1:20). And to be Christian, is to be Christ-like. Therefore, we also have this ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). What this means to me is that our default disposition should be one of restoral. We should be driven, looking, to restore people to fellowship with God and then with us.
This helps me, especially in marriage. When my wife and I are at odds, I must take responsibility for restoring that fellowship -regardless of whether I hurt her or if she hurt me. Practically speaking, if I truly desire to maintain the relationship, I would remove any obstacles that prevent us from getting there. And among the first obstacles to remove is the idea that because I offended her or I was offended by her, I’ve taken a position that is against her. Instead, I must communicate, even over-communicate, that I am for her, I am not her enemy, and desire to be in fellowship with her again.
I’ve tried to implement this by establishing ongoing gestures that communicate my openness and good-will toward her. One of these gestures is simply to kiss her on the cheek or on her forehead every night before we retire to sleep (Ephesians 4:26). Whether she’s angry or whether I’m angry, I try to do this to communicate there’s hope and I’m open to restoring fellowship.
How is God doing that for you? How has He communicated His openness to you and the hope of fellowship with Him? First, have you received His gesture of goodwill? And secondly, how can you do more of that for others?