Janet Smith ©gardenministries.org, November 1, 2018 Updated 8-9-19
Cultivating our First Love upward relationship with Jesus Christ will naturally extend outward and forge deeply bonded relationships, especially with our spiritual family. These relationships are meant to create vibrant, heart-knit, meaningful, and long-lasting friendships. So how do we process the pain of severed relationships with our brothers or sisters in Christ?
Our goals in processing the pain of severed church body relationships should be four-fold:
• To define as best we can, what exactly hurt(s) so that we know what we are specifically dealing with and seeking to forgive. We may need the help of others to find this out.
• To learn what God is after in our own hearts through the experience.
• To keep trusting God, reject fear, and purpose not to get stuck in unresolved anger.
• To remain open to reconciliation through forgiveness and repentance.
The pain of the wound that caused the severed relationship should not be ignored or swept under the rug. The wound needs personal and corporate acknowledgment. Here are some steps to help the healing process:
• Grieve: if you feel hurt, embrace and acknowledge the pain, both personally before God, and with those who you feel can help your healing process. Processing your pain about someone else with those you trust for the purpose of healing is not gossip. Talking it through to peace with the people who hurt us may not be possible if they have closed their doors of communication. Gossip simply means that we are saying slanderous and vindictive things about another person that we are unwilling to speak honestly and openly with that directly, it if was possible. It is NOT gossip when we feel the need to process our pain with others, as long as our motive is not to slander and reject the one who hurt us but seeks the truth that leads toward healing forgiveness.
• Healing process: it may take time to process through all the cycles of hurt that present as we grieve. There will be ups and downs to this process and an ebb and flow to the pain.
• Forgive: seek to forgive. If we need to say, “I’m sorry for wronging you” to someone, be sure that we do this in an honest and meaningful way. We will know there’s progress when our thoughts or possible interactions with the person who hurt us feel less painful and intimidating.
• Reconcile (if possible): consider what steps, if any, may be taken toward reconciliation.
There are two kinds of reconciliation:
1.) mutual reconciliation: both parties find common ground and understanding and can peacefully resolve their differences, restore their friendship, and feel harmonious again. Most, if not all,relationships between those who truly seek an Ephesians 4 relationship with Jesus Christ and His body should find enough common ground in their spiritual pursuit of knowing God to put aside their differences and fellowship around what they do agree on.
2.) non-mutual reconciliation: the relationship cannot find common ground to mutually resolve. We reconcile by accepting that for the time being, nothing more can be done to save the relationship. In non-mutual cases, we need to beware of trying to repair the relationship from our side, when no good reason to move back toward relationship has yet presented from the other side. Continuing to overly exert ourselves in an already lop-sided relationship excuses the other person from contributing to the relationship. We will feel used and wounded.
• Restore (based mutual reconciliation): if a former body member wants to reconnect and restore relationship on a personal and/or corporate level, it is important to revisit the reason the relationship was severed and see what, if anything, has changed to reenter into relationship building. Trust is a fragile thread. When lost, it can take twice as long to regain and may never be at the same level it was at before we left. We may not feel the same level of friendship or closeness we enjoyed before the relationship break. Then again, we may.
• Focus: stay focused on those who are still with your spiritual family and don’t project on them the fear and hurt the others who leave or break relationship may cause. After someone leaves an existing body, no one can or should ever try to legislate to the other church body members, “who can talk to who,” or “who can be a friend to who.” That is everyone’s right to determine as they see fit and is a matter of conscience between them and God. It is important however, to be sensitive to people on both sides of outstanding issues and consider that our interactions with former body members could be painful for others in our body among those who are still trying to recover from the pain of the severed relationship.
Whether people stay in or leave their church body, if we are pursuing First Love fullness with Jesus Christ, then hopefully we are learning how to process all the way through our relationship differences until we find mutual peace. Hopefully then, we won’t unnecessarily sever relationships we once held precious and show the same respect we would like shown to us. The cause-and-affect dynamic of relational fallout doesn’t always have a starting point. Who’s to blame isn’t always clear and usually involves both sides. We can simply start with “what’s my part in resolving this?” If we approach relationships with the presumption that we are right and the other person is all wrong, we won’t think to look at our own doorstep and consider our part in the healing process.
It is hypocrisy to treat others in ways we ourselves would not like to be treated. Hypocrisy is the fruit of a religious spirit and wounds incurred by a religious spirit are some of the deepest, most painful wounds a person in the body of Christ will experience or inflict. If you have experienced or inflicted a severed church body relationship and are feeling deep pain from it, ask God to show you where the hypocrisy of your words and actions and their words and actions have cut into your heart. This will help to clearly define what happened and why it hurts so much. Ask God to show you through scriptural truth’s, where the lines were crossed so you have a clear understanding of where things went wrong and what needs to happen to make them right.
Romans 12:9-21 describes the process we are to follow: 9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 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. 20 “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.