Christian Restoration: Relationships

This morning, we’re continuing our new message series filled with hope and encouragement inspired by History Channel’s American Restoration entitled, “Christian Restoration”. We’re learning that no matter how broken and hopeless we, or our circumstances, may currently be, God is fully able and willing to restore and renew us!

This morning, we’re going to look specifically at how God is able to restore relationships. Why are we starting here? Well, when we first accept Christ’s salvation, relationship is the very first thing that is restored in our lives; our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Relationships are designed by God. We were created intentionally with the need for others; both God and fellow mankind. It is through relationships that we can experience commitment, affection, love, security, happiness, purpose, support, and encouragement. However, we live in a world that is broken and full of people corrupted by sin. Relationships don’t always work out the way that we thought that they would have. People are able to put on masks and pretend to be something that they are not. Relationships have the potential to bring so many good things into our lives.

However, relationships are risky! Relationships also have the potential to bring so much hurt and damage into our lives. It is through relationships that we can experience ridicule, criticism, fear, uncertainty, loneliness, sorrow, betrayal, and hate. We have all experienced both the good and the bad within our relationships at one time or another in our lives. It may have been come through a relationship with a parent, sibling, friend, co-worker, spouse, or boyfriend/girlfriend.

Relationships, the very conduit through which God intended to bring so many good things, became corrupted by sin and began leaking things into our lives that damage and break us. However, there isn’t a single relationship that exists that is too far gone for God to restore!

No matter how much hurt, pain, and brokenness may have happened in the past, God is fully willing and able to transform our lives, and the lives of that other person, and bring restoration to that broken relationship.

There are so many examples of this occurring within scripture! However, there couldn’t be a better picture of this than in the parable that Jesus gives of the prodigal son. In Luke 15, we find several parables of Jesus emphasizing how critical it is that we join His mission to seek and save the lost. He uses the parable of a shepherd who loses one of his hundred sheep and a woman who loses one of her ten coins. Both of them focus their resources on finding that which was lost until it is found. Once that sheep or coin is found, the party begins. Jesus said that this is exactly how it is in Heaven over one person who chooses to repent. There is more rejoicing in Heaven over one lost person who gives their life to Jesus than 99 who remain with Him.

Luke 15:11-32
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Now most of us are familiar with this parable. However, there are a few practical things that I felt the Lord leading me to point out that we can also apply in our relationships with one another.

The first obvious one that we focus on is the true and perfect love that the father had for his child. No matter how broken we may be, no matter how foolish we may have been, God is always waiting on us with open arms. He is always ready to forgive, heal, and restore us. The father honored his lost son by placing a robe of protection around him, a signet ring on his finger showing his affection, and sandals to restore his place as a son and no longer a servant.

In the same way, we need to be always ready and willing to restore broken relationships when the opportunity arises.

It’s easy for us to come running to God in this way to receive from Him, however, it’s far more challenging for us to be willing to open our arms to others. It’s easy to receive God’s forgiveness when we mess up, but it’s hard to extend that forgiveness when others sin against us. However, the one, single command that God has given us to obey is to love; that agape, 1 Corinthians 13 love, that same love that God shows to us. All of the other laws and commands are accomplished when we correctly apply and execute this love.

However, there are significant things implied by this parable that we tend to miss. These are things that are also critical for us to understand as we allow God to restore our relationship with Him and with others.

The first one should be obvious, but it’s too often not clear to us. Relationships work two ways. Relationships are a chosen cooperation. I cannot force anyone to have a relationship with me, no matter how badly I want it to happen. Not even God, Himself, forces us into a relationship with Him!

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

God’s desire is that everyone would repent and enter into a relationship with Him. However, He waits patiently and makes Himself available. He remains faithful, doing everything that He can on his part of the relationship, and simply waits. He paved the way to Him by giving up His very own life. However, it is up to us to choose. Are we going to choose to repent and come to Him or not?

That’s also what God expects us to do in our broken relationships. He expects us to be faithful and patient; to do everything that we can on our part to pave a way to reconciliation.

However, even in this, we miss a critical part of the parable. God does everything that He can do on His part, but He doesn’t become a doormat to be walked all over and He doesn’t compromise in areas that simply should not be compromised on.

Notice that the father in this parable did not send out servants to bring his son more money or to protect him from his foolish decisions. Too often, we misuse the love of God that we are to show to others and enable them to continue down their destructive path. The father of the prodigal son set healthy boundaries so that the destructive behavior of his son did not continue to destroy his own life.

The son felt the burden of his own sin and fully dealt with the consequences of his own decisions and these things are what lead him to repentance. Had the father continued to send him money and bail him out of his messes, the prodigal son would have likely never come to the conclusion that he needed to change his ways. However, had his father done this, he would have lost his entire household and not just one of his sons. The prodigal would have likely sucked his father’s resources dry had boundaries not been set into place.

Next, we see a clear indication that even after the prodigal repented and was restored back to his father’s household, that he didn’t have the same access within that household that he once did. In verse 31, when dealing with the attitude of his faithful son, he said that he was always with him and that everything that the father had was his. This implies that perhaps not everything that the father had was available to the prodigal son.

Even after the connection of relationships are restored, it will (or it should) take time for trust to be fully restored. This is something that is earned with time in relationships. Even in the perfectly just kingdom of God, there are various levels and degrees of reward and trust based on the decisions that we make now. Jesus spoke of storing up treasures in heaven and that we will be rewarded according to our works. No, salvation cannot be earned, but scripture is clear about the fact that there will be crowns and rewards given in Heaven based on merit. Jesus said that if we are faithful with little, we will be given much. However, if we are unfaithful with what we have, it will even be taken from us. Trust operates in the same way.

I’m sure that this principle was put in place by the prodigal’s father. Trust is something that we give to others as they earn it. It can also be decreased or removed when that privilege is not handled correctly. If I tell you something that could destroy someone’s life in confidence today and tomorrow the whole town knows about it, you’ll quickly lose my trust. That trust will be restored only after I begin to share less crucial things to you and you handle them well. I may trust someone with to care for my dog for a week, but that’s a whole different level than trusting them with my children for a week. Yes, God’s love always trusts, but that degree of trust varies.

The restoration of relationships requires a great deal of patience. While you are in the midst of this process, lean on your relationship with God to meet all of your needs. Allow Him to do His work in your own life and trust that He cares more about you and that other person than you ever could yourself. Trust in God and find hope and rest in Him!