Rebuilding Trust Once It Has Been Broken

What is the Responsibility of the One Who Has Been Betrayed?

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On Monday, I talked about the responsibility of the betrayer to rebuild trust in a broken relationship. But, what is the responsibility of the one betrayed in rebuilding trust?

In Luke 17:1-5, Jesus has some very specific words for the person who has been betrayed or sinned against.

If your brother sins (against you), rebuke him, … Luke 17:3

  • The context of forgiveness is a close relationship. We are rarely wounded deeply by a stranger, but by someone with whom we have spent time and developed a strong relationship. Jesus says it is possible and probable that you will be wounded deeply by someone who is close to you. So, don’t be surprised. His’ words carry wisdom for everyone, but they were first meant for his followers. How do we go about forgiving another person?

Determine whether it is sin or irritation.

  • Jesus was talking about sin, specifically, someone hurts you by breaking God’s commands (Lying, gossiping, adultery, stealing, etc.). Jesus was not talking about irritation and annoyance. Irritation and annoyance require endurance; sin against a brother or sister requires forgiveness. When rebuilding trust in a broken relationship, it requires us to determine how the person has sinned against us.

Care-front the person with courage.

  • Rebuke them. Jesus is telling us to hold people accountable for their behavior. If their behavior is truly sinful, we must not ignore it.
  • We are to speak directly to the person, not gossip about the person to other people. This helps to prevent suppressing our pain and holding a grudge. I know this may be very difficult. Who wants to face the person who has hurt them? We would rather avoid the person than to have the crucial and courageous conversation. Jesus calls us to the very difficult business of facing and challenging the person who has sinned against us.
  • Honestly and humbly care-front the offender with his/her sinful behavior. There is no such thing as forgiveness without carefrontation. In fact, forgiveness without carefrontation short-circuits the process of forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • The goal of any carefrontation is repentance, restoration, rebuilding and reconciling the relationship Jesus’ words reference and reinforce Old Testament teaching:

You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:17-18

Care-front the person with grace. 

  • Forgiveness is not about me; it is about gaining my brother or sister. Jesus insists that I gain my brother or sister by rebuking or inflicting some level of pain. Now, this is not an inflicting pain to hurt. That would be revenge.  What does gracious carefrontation look like?
  1. Privately, not publicly – Matthew 18:15
  2. Humbly, not arrogantly and self-righteously – Matthew 7:3-5
  3. Spiritually, not according to our sinful nature – Galatians 6:1

… and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” Luke 17:4

Wait for the person to repent  

  • Forgiveness requires the offender to repent of their sin against you. Repentance goes beyond mere apology; it is a change of mind that produces a change of action.
  • Repentance is the way we deal with sin.
  • Without repentance, the process of forgiveness is broken and rebuilding the relationship will be impossible.


  • Jesus commands us to forgive. It is not optional. When the person expresses genuine repentance, we have an obligation to forgive – to release the desire to get even or the right to require him or her to pay for what he or she has done. To forgive is to say that the person is free. The debt you owe me is paid.
  • Forgiveness is not earned; it is given, and it is given generously and graciously. We should not hold the person hostage by making them grovel, crawl or buy us gifts to earn our forgiveness.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t make light of or trivialize sin. It takes sin seriously, so seriously that Jesus went to the cross to die for it.
  • Forgiveness is not forgetting what the person has done to us. It is knowing that I am commanded to release that person from the debt they owe me when I do remember what they have done to me.
  • The person who has been betrayed is the only one who can forgive.
  • Forgiveness is not a one-time decision. It is committing to a lifestyle of forgiveness.
  • Forgiveness is not based on feelings but is an act of faith. Small faith can uproot big issues and forgive deep wounds. Pray that God would increase your faith in order to forgive like he desires you to.
  • Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness is immediate; reconciliation happens over time if it happens at all. Forgiveness is given and reconciliation is earned. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you go back to an abusive relationship

I know forgiveness is difficult, but it is not impossible. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is living and available to us as we seek to follow him and live out his commands.

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What other steps should be included when talking about forgiveness and rebuilding broken trust?


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