“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ” -Romans 3:23-24
The phone rang and rang. This was the third time this month I was trying to get ahold of her. We had just celebrated her marriage a few months earlier and she was working two jobs. I knew she was busy but I thought at least a text or a voicemail would let me know that she still cared about our friendship. No answer. I put the phone down and stared at the wall. Did she really not want to be my friend anymore? What did friendship even mean to her? Clearly, we weren’t as close as I thought we were. All the disappointment and hurt seeped in. Maybe we are done. Maybe this friendship is over.
The truth is, friends will hurt our feelings at some point. Just give it time.
Every one of us has more than enough experiences of friends that take a joke too far or stop spending time with us. Sadly, the list could go on and on about the way we hurt each other. I’ve even had a few friends in my life that I forgive over and over again just to be hurt once more.
What does this mean for our communities? How do we move forward when we’ve been hurt or (eep!) you have done the hurting? It may seem like a simple solution: talk it out face-to-face and forgive. However, as the pop-princess Swift sings: “Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes” and we know that relationships are more complex than a simple conversation can fix. There needs to be a deeper, more gospel-centered way to work through relationship heartbreaks.
1. Recognize the situation for what it is
One of the toughest parts of conflict is to see yourself in the wrong. There’s always two sides to every conflict and it’s much easier to accuse a friend for being a horrible communicator than to give her grace for adjusting to a new season of life. Romans 3:23 reminds me that we “all sin and we all fall short of God’s glory.” Even though I’d like to think I am the super righteous one in the friendship, that’s definitely not the case.
A tip if you struggle with being objective about a situation is to stop and write out the facts. I am emotionally-driven so it’s hard for me to separate my heated feelings from the reality of what is taking place. Is my friend working a lot? Yes. Does she have a new marriage that is important to cultivate? Yes. Do we have a history of faithful friendship? Yes. Would she purposefully hurt any of her friends? No. And the list goes on.
Keeping our thoughts on a solid foundation, our ever-forgiving God, saves our emotions from going all different directions.
2. Give grace
Thank you Jesus for freely giving your grace away, now help us give grace to each other. God has redeemed us—even in the depths of our sin—which means our relationships with others are not too broken to be redeemed. When we remember our great gift of grace we can freely offer it to our friends.
Grace is not the quick easy Band-Aid we place on these broken parts of our friendships; it’s the long, slow, transforming process that roots itself deep down into our relationships and heals what was once damaged. Just because I only see my side doesn’t mean she isn’t feeling terrible or missing our friendship too. When I show my friend grace for not calling me back right away, it actually makes our friendship stronger and healthier rather than choosing to bitterly ignore her. Now, we’ve had years to practice grace over rejection and it gets easier each time we submit our pride and believe the best about each other.
Recognizing the best qualities about our friends makes the grace-giving process better, but not easy. The only reason we are capable of offering grace is because Christ offers it for us first. He restores us back to Him so that we can make peace with the past and regain healthy friendships.
According to the world’s standards of friendship grace doesn’t makes sense, but that’s why God’s community is set apart. When we engage in Godly relationships, we’re required to become weak sometimes so that God’s healing power can introduce grace into even the hardest parts of our hearts.
Questions for your Community:
How do we handle conflict together?
How can we create patterns of removing our judgments and replace it with grace?
This is scary…but you know you have someone right now that needs to receive some grace from you. Heck, I need to do it right now too. You have been given grace, now in return give grace to your friend.