The First Step in Restoring a Relationship

(Photo: Unsplash)

We Americans love the British. We’re enamored with the royal family. We love Downton Abbey (include me, an American male, in that group). The British gave us the Beatles and Ed Sheeran. And we think that British accent is classy.

America has no greater ally than Britain. OK, so there was the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, but after that, we’ve been the best of buds. Right?

Not so fast. For most of our history as a country, we’ve been at odds with Great Britain. For most of our history! So what changed? It wasn’t until after 1895 that the American and British governments softened toward each other, but there was one event that played a key role in the changing relationship between the two countries.

Britain lost a ship. We found it. We gave it back. That’s it, but it changed things.

In the 1850s, Britain was trying to find a route to the Pacific Ocean by going north instead of waaay south. The expedition to find the northwest passage was led by Sir John Franklin, but their fate became unknown. The HMS Resolute was one of several ships sent out to find the wayward expedition.  In 1853, the Resolute got trapped in ice. A cold front came through and the ship was encased in ice. Months later, the ship was still stuck, so the entire crew left the ship, marched across the ice, and eventually headed for home.

Two years later, in 1855, an American ship found the HMS Resolute floating free of ice and free of any crew. They brought the abandoned ship back to the American shore. Maritime law said that any property abandoned on the open seas became the property of the finders. Y’know, finders keepers, losers weepers.

The US and Britain were not exactly exchanging Christmas cards at this point, but the US made the first gesture. Our country willingly chose to restore the damaged ship and return it to England. Congress voted to do this as a “national courtesy.”

In 1856, England got their ship back, and when the HMS Resolute was retired in 1879, Britain made the next gesture. A desk was constructed out of the ship’s timber, and the Resolute desk was presented to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880. Almost every president since that time has used the desk.

And with that, a few bricks in the wall of international relations began to fall.

When two individuals or groups don’t get along, sometimes the simplest gesture can make all the difference. We’ve certainly seen how the smallest act—even if it’s unintentional—can be misunderstood or lead to an escalation in bad feelings. Just the opposite is true: the smallest gesture of kindness can do wonders.

I’ll forgive him if he comes to me.

Let me state this with all the dignity I can muster. GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE AND MAKE THE FIRST MOVE. I don’t care who started it or who’s at fault. You be the first one to make a move and correct things.

Joseph had every right to be bitter and unforgiving toward his brothers. He’d been separated from his father. He had been enslaved, then imprisoned. When you comer to Genesis 45, he was in an incredible position to let his brothers feel the full brunt of his unforgiveness—but he did just the opposite. He embraced them and welcomed them. He forgave.

Unforgiveness is the great scourge of God’s church. We keep our distance from each other because of some past hurt or slight. New churches pop up, not because of a desire to reach more people, but because infighting and unforgiveness reigns over a church until it finally splits. A new church is formed, not for the Great Commission, but born out of bitterness and unforgiveness.

All that will change if someone would just take the first step. Saying you forgive is one thing, but an act of love and service toward the other person does something incredible. It heals. It restores. It glorifies God.

Anything less than that is unbiblical and wrong.

“Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ” (Eph. 4:31-32).

“… bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive” (Col. 3:13).

What are you waiting for? Make the first move. Make things right.

Subscribe to this blog at the top of the page! And encourage others by sharing this post.

For a printable version: click here.

This post supports the study “The Pitfall of Bitterness” in Bible Studies for Life and YOU.

Join Lynn Pryor and Chris Johnson as they discuss this topic.