God does not hold us responsible for results, but He does hold us responsible for what we do and how we do it. As far as broken relationships are concerned, it is our duty to imitate our heavenly Father and follow the steps modeled by Him. If we have made a sincere effort to do so and the issues are still unresolved, then take the following to heart:
Don’t Blame Yourself. The psalmist wrote, “Too long have I lived among those who hate peace. I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war” (psalm 120:6–7). Can you identify with his frustration? Sometimes it may seem that you have tried everything to make peace but the other person keeps attacking. Like the psalmist, we may be for peace but “they are for war.” Their attitude hinders the restorative process. It may be bitterness, fear, anger, shame, resentment, or pride. Whatever the reason, if we have done all we can and the relationship remains strained, they must answer to God for it.
Trust God To Change the Other Person. Paul wrote to Timothy: “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth” (2 timothy 2:24–25). When others oppose us, we should not be quarrelsome but gentle and patient. We should talk to them meekly and courteously. And even though our efforts may not make a difference, God is able to change their attitudes and their behavior.
Get the Help of a Third Party. While in prison, the apostle Paul mediated a dispute between a servant named Onesimus and his master Philemon. Evidently, the servant had wronged his master and deserted him. Some time later, Onesimus met the apostle and became a Christian. Paul wrote a letter to Philemon to let him know what had happened. In a wonderful expression of Christian love, Paul appealed to Philemon to restore Onesimus not merely as a servant but as a Christian brother. Paul also made himself accountable for any loss that Philemon may have suffered at the hands of Onesimus (philemon 16–18).
Like Philemon and Onesimus, we may need a negotiator too. Our mediators should be godly, wise, and loving. They should be people who understand us and the situation. They should be impartial and objective. And above all, they must be sensitive to God’s leading. Whether it be a pastor, a counselor, or a trusted friend, a mediator can be effective where we have failed.
Love Them Unconditionally. Even though our attempts at reconciliation may be unsuccessful, we must love the other person anyway. Our desire should be to treat them graciously no matter how they feel or act toward us. In 1 Corinthians 13:4–7, Paul outlines the qualities of unconditional love for others:
Be patient. This requires a conscious and often difficult effort to refrain from reflexive retaliation. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can learn to respond with Christ-honoring patience when we are wronged.
Practice kindness. Choosing to do deeds of kindness gives us the ability to respond to mistreatment with goodness. Our adversary will be thrown off guard by such an unexpected response.
Avoid jealousy. When our enemies succeed, we should not covet their good fortune. Although they may not deserve what they are receiving, we must entrust ourselves to God.
Check our pride. Pride and boastfulness set up barriers to resolving conflicts. Pride keeps us from making the personal sacrifices necessary to patch up tattered friendships.
Reject rudeness. You don’t put out a fire by pouring gasoline on it, and you certainly won’t subdue anger with more harsh words. No matter how badly we have been hurt, disrespectful or inconsiderate comments are out of place.
Refrain from selfishness. We are not to be concerned only with our own wants and needs. We must train ourselves to be equally interested in the concerns of those with whom we are at odds.
Don’t be quick-tempered. When people irritate us, do we lash out without thinking? This doesn’t please God. A person with a hair-trigger temper needs to engage his mind before speaking.
Reject holding a grudge. If we don’t keep mental records of wrongs done against us, our innate desire for revenge will evaporate.
Don’t delight in evil. When our adversaries suffer a downfall or an injustice of any kind, we are not to gloat over their misery.
Rejoice with the truth. When God is honored and people respond properly to problems, we should praise God and rejoice.
Protect the other person. Honest concern for those with whom we have strife will keep us from hanging out their “dirty laundry” for all to see.
Be trusting. Instead of anticipating the worst from people or looking suspiciously at those who reject us, love gives the benefit of the doubt.
Choose hope. Love is optimistic about the possibility for reconciliation and always expects positive change.
Practice loyalty. Love endures even when the going gets rough. It means remaining consistent in our attitude and actions toward those with whom we disagree. When others refuse to be at peace with us, our commitment should still be to love them.
Although we may fail in our attempts to repair a broken relationship, we should not give up. God is patient with sinners and wants all of us to be restored to a right relationship with Him. Following His example, we must leave the door open for reconciliation and do all we can to see that it happens.