Saturday, 21 March 2015

REPAIRING RELATIONSHIPS

Repairing"Woops! It broke. Never mind, I'll get another one." We live in a throw away society. Electronic stores often have "recycle bins" for cell-phones that just a few years ago cost a week's wages to buy and are now considered worthless. When I was growing up as a boy there were "Repair agents" who would fix broken appliances. Not today. We just throw them away and get another one. We are losing the art of repairing. I don't really care about dodgy toasters or kettles, but I do care about the things that are priceless which breakdown and are too easily thrown away. Some of you are in broken relationships and you need repairing.
A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city,
and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.

Proverbs 18:19
We maintain our gardens, our cars, our machinery, and even our health, but all too often neglect our relationships. The busyness of life, the demands of work, the responsibilities we carry, the financial pressures we face, all undermine our most important relationships unless we take counter-measures to maintain them. The word, repair comes from the Old French re-parare which meant to take back to readiness. In this sense, repairing is the initial stage of maintenance. But as many parents discover, getting back to a harmonious relationship with your child is not an easy matter if the brokenness has gone on urepaired for a while. Any husband can tell you that repairing a broken marriage can be more difficult than scaling to the pinnacle of a great mountain bare-foot. Repairing is a skill, an art, an often elusive hope.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the Repairer of The Breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.

Isaiah 58:12
Jesus knows a thing or two about brokenness and repairing. The Prophet Isaiah foretold of Him as 'The Repairer of The Breach' having just prophesied of Him in very rich symbolic language, 'a bruised reed He will not break' (Isa. 53). Who can not be moved deeply when reading of the Christ's final moments on the cross when He felt for the first and only time in all eternity a break in His fellowship with His Father. The immense pain of the breakage caused Him to cry out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" And this highlights an oft misunderstood aspect of relationship breakdowns: it's rarely the relationship that breaks first - it's always the fellowship that is broken first. Your relationship with you parents, your children, your spouse, will always be - but when there is no investment of time together, talking, sharing, listening, caring, helping, your fellowship with the one you are related to will suffer. 

God has given us each the marvellous opportunity of both relating and fellowshiping with others. We are created to do so. Isolate a person from others and you injure their soul. God created each one of us for a primary relationship with Him from which we are designed to enjoy our most satisfying fellowship. From this centre, we are created to relate and fellowship with others to lessening degrees. The first relationship that the Creator ordained for mankind to enjoy beyond his relationship with God, was a relationship and fellowship with his spouse. "God brought the woman to the man." This first marriage was to be the model from which all subsequent marriages would follow. What God had been to Adam, Adam could now, to some extent, be to Eve. This marriage union was meant to show Adam and Eve the richness of the eternal relationship and fellowship that God Himself enjoyed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our most significant relationships are meant to be our richest.
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:17-19
God is the ultimate relationship. His eternal fellowship has never been broken, except once. And the reason it was broken then is the same reason it continues to be broken for others today. Jesus experienced the forsaking of His Father while on the cross. (Forsaking involves ceasing to listen, refusal to answer, being absent.) The Father forsook His Son because Jesus became what the Father can not accommodate: sin (2Cor. 5:21). And neither can you and I. When someone sins against us they break their fellowship with us and damage our relationship with them. 
Consider the Trinity (the Ultimate Relationship). It is a relationship that is noted for two goals. Firstly, each member of the Trinity is committed to the glory God. Secondly, the way they glorify God is characterised by holiness. "Holiness" sounds like a boring religious word reserved for monk types. But in reality, holiness is the only means of our greatest delights and pleasure. We are created in the image of a holy God to be holy. And not until a married couple realise that God has gifted mankind with marriage for the same two goals- to glorify God, and to grow in holiness

But sin is the opposite of holiness. Sin robs a person of being able to give God glory. Sin prevents a person from reaching their potential because it denies a person the beauty and power of holiness. The holiest people are the happiest people. Similarly the unholiest people are the unhappiest people. God gifted marriage to mankind, not for our happiness (the fruit of holiness) but so that a person might more completely glorify God and attain holiness. Marriage as God intended is for your holiness not your happiness. Repairing a marriage means getting back to these two foundational goals. It's the same for repairing any relationship - i) commit your life to living for God's glory and ii) pursue holiness.
¶ Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.
Hebrews 12:14
If you are married, these are the goals for your marriage (God's glory and your holiness). Your job is to help your spouse to give God the greatest glory and deepen their holiness. This is why us husbands should always take the lead in repairing our marriages. We repair intimacy with our wife when we give her attention, listen (actively, reactively and responsively) apologise for the disappointments we have caused, relearn what she wants from us, and take steps to meet her needs (even though they sound like "wants"). Marriages need constant repairing. But it's not just marriages that need repairing. Friendships, brothers, sisters, parents, children, all need repairing.

For any relationship to be repaired, sin must be dealt with. When someone has been sinned against, this sin must be atoned for. If you steal someone's TV, you can atone for it by either returning it or replacing it - and then apologising before asking for forgiveness. You may not have 'stolen' something from the one you're now estranged with, but the principle is still the same: i) You put it right, ii) You apologise (feel the pain you have caused and express regret for that injury), iii) Seek forgiveness. This requires an essential element in the repairing process that is extremely difficult: humility. Of course, each of us need our fellowship with God repaired. We may not have stolen God's TV, but each of us have violated our sacred mandate to bear His image when we lust, covet, hate, blaspheme, or make other things a higher priority than Him. But unlike a stolen TV we can't put these things right with God by returning them to Him. This is why our own efforts - even our own religious efforts - are utterly useless to repair our relationship with God. We need The Repairer of The Breach to take our sin, guilt and shame and bear our penalty. What love! What grace!
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
..
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Isaac Watts, 'When I Survey', 1707
No matter how damaged your relationship is, it can be repaired. Jesus is still The Repairer of The Breach. Look to Him. See His humility in enduring the Cross. Notice His passion for the glory of God and holiness. This is why being in church for worship (giving God glory) and the instruction of the Word (our holiness) is indispensable for our fellowship with God. Like any of our relationships, it is from this basis that we draw the grace to repair all of our other relationships.

Ps. Andrew

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