Relationship Maintenance

While in seminary, I worked for a salsa production company (Renfro Foods). In addition to having all the salsa and chips you could want at break-time, the job satisfied my lifelong curiosity about how things work. Seeing the raw product prepped, cooked, filled in bottles, labeled, boxed and shipped out the door was a fascinating process. But the smallest glitch could stop that production. Therefore, all the machinery and conveyor belts needed regular maintenance. The man charged with plant maintenance could often be seen carrying a grease gun and applying the white, food-grade grease to the points of greatest friction. As he squeezed grease into the fittings, the production was kept running smoothly.

If it weren’t for friction and fractures in relationships, there would be no need for the Bible. Think about it. Were it not for sin – breaking man’s perfect fellowship with God – there would never have been the need for God’s revelation of the Word. But, the immediate results of man’s Fall in Genesis 3 reveals the damage done in all of our relationships: man/God; husband/wife; and man/creation. Therefore, the Bible became necessary to help us see how to restore and maintain all our relationships. It is, among others things, a how-to manual of relating properly to God and others. [1]  From the Ten Commandments to the Great Commandment, the Bible is about relationships ( Exodus 20:3-17; Matthew 22:36-40).

Even in the best of relationships, though, we blow it. We are thoughtless, say things before we think and are just unkind. In those situations, we need to be quick to seek forgiveness (or give forgiveness).  Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive (Colossians 3:13, HCSB). Seeking (through confession, i.e.1 John 1:9) or granting forgiveness is the necessary “grease” that brings about reconciliation. However, where forgiveness is absent, bitterness and barriers grow and relationships break.

Prepare/Enrich, which I use for premarital counseling, provides this good advice to couples (but can apply to all) in the area of seeking and granting forgiveness:

Forgiveness is the decision or choice to give up the right for vengeance, retribution, and negative thoughts toward an offender in order to be free from anger and resentment. This process promotes healing and restoration of inner peace, and it can allow reconciliation to take place in the relationship. [2]

Here, then, are some suggested steps for seeking and giving forgiveness:

Six Steps for Seeking Forgiveness:

  1. Admit what you did was wrong or hurtful.
  2. Try to understand/empathize with the pain you have caused.
  3. Take responsibility for your actions and make restitution if necessary.
  4. Assure your partner you will not do it again.
  5. Apologize and ask for forgiveness.
  6. Forgive yourself.

Six Steps for Granting Forgiveness:

  1. Acknowledge your pain and anger. Allow yourself to feel disrespected.
  2. Be specific about your future expectations and limits.
  3. Give up your right to “get even,” but insist on being treated better in the future.
  4. Let go of blame, resentment, and negativity toward your partner.
  5. Communicate your act of forgiveness to your partner. (“I forgive you.” NOT “When you change, I’ll think about it.”)
  6. Work toward reconciliation (when safe). [3]

So, as we continue to resolve to take actions in 2012 to experience God’s love for us and to reveal His love through us, make sure that you are taking steps to restore relationships, whether it means seeking forgiveness or granting it.

You can’t undo anything you’ve already done, but you can face up to it. You can tell the truth. You can seek forgiveness. And then let God do the rest. – Tertullian

[1] If you want to explore some biblical advice on relationships, here is simple Bible study on the  New Testament “One Another” & “Each Other” Commands by John Egleston. http://www.intervarsity.org/mx/item/4511/download/

[2] Prepare-Enrich Couple’s Workbook, pg 13, © Copyright 2008 Life Innovations, Inc.

[3] Ibid.

6 thoughts on “Relationship Maintenance

  1. Very good Pastor Chuck. I think if we substitute “the one who hurt you, or the one you hurt” in place of partner, this would be a great CR lesson!

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  2. During the time I spent with my sister in the last couple weeks of her life, she asked me to contact my oldest brother and my youngest brother and tell them she would like to see them. They have not had a relationship with her for years because of all the things that happened between her and mom. Four years ago, God got my attention regarding my relationship with my sister and let me know that I am not in control of that situation. What happened was between mom, Katherine and God and did not belong to me. I asked God to take that situation away from me and let me have a relationship with my sister and to let me set boundaries with her so we did not have to discuss anything about the thing between her and mom. God listened and I let go and trusted Him. However, my brothers chose not to go see her toward the end and thought that it could wait even though I told them it won’t be long and they needed to go soon. Neither one went and they told me they had no excuses. I let them know that it is between them, Katherine and God. I told them both that they are my brothers and I still love them and that I was sorry for the shells they have built around their lives and shutting others out. That is what our mother has done too. I also told them that I have a strong belief in Jesus Christ and know that He loves, gives grace and care anytime it is needed and it is my prayer that each of them could come to know that feeling and remove the shell they have around them. It is in God’s hands now and I still love them and hold no grudges against either one. I love them unconditionally. Our God is an awesome God and works in wonderous ways. Praise Him for the grace He has shown me! Amen! In Christ’s Love, Joyce

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  3. I didn’t know you worked at a salsa production company during seminary. There is something about receiving unlimited

    free chips and salsa during breaks that makes me giggle on the inside. 🙂
    Today, in the first session of Beth Moore’s study on the book of James I learned that among the few people Jesus chose to appear to after his resurrection was his brother James (who likely didn’t believe Jesus was who He claimed to be like the rest of His brothers. They thought he was crazy! John 7 possibly/likely making fun of him and Mark 3:21) Jesus chose to restore himself to his “family” and we should not turn away from our own family relationships. Beth Moore said something about sometimes God takes us over “here” (basically to Spiritual family) to grow us so we can go back “there” to more effectively love our families. So many of our relational problems are perpetuated by our own shortcomings that we often ignore or the lack of mercy and forgiveness we extend to others. Taking responsibility for our own actions, thoughts, and words goes a LONG way. I wish it was easier to do!

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