If we’ve lived and loved long enough, we all know the pain of a broken relationship. We also know the joy of reconciliation when that relationship is mended. Unfortunately, loving someone well and trying to reconcile with them provides no guarantee they will welcome restoration. When someone refuses to reconcile a broken relationship, frustration, pain, and self-doubts can grow. The desire to find a way to restore the broken relationship that works intensifies.
Sadly, there is no guaranteed procedure that we can follow to assure restoration of a broken relationship. Sometimes, all we can do is grieve the loss of that relationship. And that is what Jesus modeled for us. He is the perfect example of one who unselfishly poured out His love to His creatures and offered them the opportunity for reconciliation with their Creator. However, they would have nothing to do with Him.
In one of the saddest verses in the Bible, John records in a single sentence the fact that Jesus “came to His own, and His own did not receive him” (John 1:11).
Jesus’ response to the rejection of His offer of reconciliation was a deep grief and sadness that moved Him to tears and prayer for His people. We see the Son of God’s broken heart when He sits outside the walls of Jerusalem and laments: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to you! How often I have wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37).
One of the most frightening truths that we all must face is the fact that we cannot force someone to love us, no matter what we do. Even if we take appropriate responsibility for harm we’ve done to them, confess our sin against them, and ask for forgiveness, there is no assurance they will respond in kind. They can choose to remain distant.
While an unresolved relationship is deeply disturbing, one of the most freeing truths is that no one has the power to stop us from loving them. And that’s all that God calls us to do, to love others the way He has loved us (John 13:34;15:12).
We all wish there was a “next step” that would make reconciliation work out every time. Sadly, there is no such step. However, at those times when our best efforts at loving are rebuffed, we do have the opportunity to share in our Lord’s sufferings, to experience His pain and His relentless longing for reconciliation (Philippians 1:29).
We need to guard against a false guilt that assumes we should be able to do something to “fix” every relationship — as if it all depends on us alone. While we must take responsibility for our part in a relationship, we must not assume that we are solely responsible for the breach in the relationship. Instead of holding another person responsible for their choices, we can tend to let people off the hook and blame ourselves for “not doing enough” or “missing something” that would be the key to unlocking the relationship.
That kind of thinking is not only demoralizing but controlling and unbiblical. God never asks us to assume responsibility for others, only ourselves. That needs to be our focus.