An attribute of Jesus that is very important but often overlooked is his ability to walk away from relationships that were not connected to his mission. Remarkably, forty-nine times in the gospels we have a record of Jesus walking away from large crowds or individuals.
If Jesus had to discern whether relationships were good for him or not, we too should not be surprised when, on occasion, we are called to discern whether to continue in a relationship or walk away.
As a pastor I have been asked this question many times over the years, in both a parish setting and on the road as an itinerant minister. Whether it’s a women in her early forties wrestling with whether her partner is the right one for her, or a young guy in his twenties in a steady relationship, woven throughout the fabric of every conversation is this desire to know whether to stay put or to pull away.
One of the gifts God gives us to protect ourselves and enhance our lives when it comes to the area of relationships is the gift of discernment. Jesus said: “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-20), so we must have a willingness to look at fruit and to make decisions accordingly.
With this in mind, here are some questions I would ask myself. I would encourage you to use these if you are making a decision like this, or if there is someone in your life that needs guidance.
Firstly, why am I considering ending this relationship? Is it because of an external issue that needs resolving or is it because of an internal brokenness in one of us that needs to be addressed?
If love was the only prerequisite for healthy relationships, then we would never break up with the first person we fall in love with. But relationships are not just about love they are about wholeness. A lack of wholeness inhibits individuals from loving appropriately or, as Christian writer and speaker Dr Henry Cloud says, “the requirement for oneness is two complete people”.
So we have to ask ourselves, can this relationship be fixed with working through external issues, or does the person need to work through some issues that will make them healthy and in turn make the relationship whole?
Secondly, ask yourself why you are considering reconciling this relationship? Do you want them or are you just afraid of loneliness? Do you want this person or do you want to feel wanted? Are you so tangled up in your history that you’re afraid of the future?
You really have to look at your emotions through a filter and ask yourself why you are really considering reconciling the relationship? And if the answer to that question is: “I want them” and “they are whole”, then reconciliation is something that should be considered.
Third and finally, ask yourself: “Has something changed?” Dr Cloud says: “Before you go back to doing anything again, ask yourself has the thing changed that made me want to leave in the first place?” It's not just about love, it's about the fruit that the individual bears. We have to ask ourselves: “Has the thing that made me walk away in the first place changed?”
It doesn't matter how I feel about them and how they feel about me if the thing that made me walk away in the first place hasn't changed. It would be highly unlikely that a return to the relationship is going to mean something different.
The Bible says: “Bring forth the fruit of repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Repentance has fruit, so what we need to see in the relationship is more than remorse, we need to see reform. We need to see evidence that someone has made a U-turn. If not, you'll have seasons of bliss if you reconcile but then you will find yourself experiencing the same problems.
Who you decide to spend your life with is an incredibly important decision and who you choose to let in your life and keep in your life is just as consequential. My life has changed just as much when people walked out as when some people walked in. We need wisdom, not just emotions, when it comes to determining when to break up with someone.
When making big life decisions like this I often ask myself: if I were talking to my best friend what advice would I give them? The advice you give your best friend is probably the advice you need to hear.
Rob Wall is founder of The Reach Ministries, an organisation with a passion to share hope and help lives. Rob currently broadcasts his preaching series ‘Hope Heals’ on networks across the world, including: TBN UK, Asia, Africa, Pacific, Middle East, and a variety of other television networks. Rob is a writer, pastor and speaker and is based in London with his wife Bernadette and daughter Gracie-Hope.
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