We meet, and affection blossoms. We love each other. We change, and arguments erupt. We stab each other with words. The door slams shut; the lock is bolted. We separate, breakup, then divorce. The threads of our relationship are torn. We’re sinners behaving like sinners. So now what?

The circumstances and events that necessitate a breakup don’t beg for explanation or excuse. They arrive uninvited. Who started it? He did! She made things worse! He hurt me. Her heart went cold. We remember how we met, but can’t recall how we ever could have loved the other person. “The consequences of anger and grief end up harming us more than the circumstances that aroused them in us,” as Marcus Aurelius wrote.

When something in a relationship goes wrong, what are we supposed to do? When affection changes into anger and resentment thrives, how do we get back the love that not so long ago shielded us from the troubles we now face? Do we give in to temptation? No! Don’t text her every three minutes. Don’t think you’ll get over him by going on a dating app. Don’t rant about each other on social media. None of those things will heal your broken heart. What’s been lost is gone beyond recovery. What’s possible tomorrow is out of our control. But, today, we can focus on forgiveness.

Forgiveness, not love, can restore a relationship that’s top-heavy with negative emotions. But, not just a simple, “I forgive you.” That’s a fragile, temporary absolution. It’s quickly crushed by the memories of all the wrongs done to us by the other person. Only forgiveness in Jesus’ name is concrete, permanent, and able to bear the weight of memory. When we forgive each other in Jesus’ name, love is the fruit. Love can only be restored through forgiveness in Jesus’ name. Only an absolute absolution can bind together a new and stronger weave - the threads of a tattered relationship.

Forgiveness, not love, can restore a relationship that’s top-heavy with negative emotions.

Our relationships are either alive or dead. Dead apart from God’s love shown to us in Christ who died for our sin. Alive to Jesus, who loved us and sacrificed himself for us so that we may become children of the Father through baptism in his name.

When arguments erupt, and doors are slammed shut, we don’t call a friend or go on social media to complain. We cry out to God, “How can I escape this hurt!” His answer: “Don’t look for a scapegoat, look at Jesus crucified for you. He died for you and for the one who hurt you. Come back, confess to each other, and put all the explanations and excuses on the table. Then, forgive each other in Jesus’ name.”

Forgiveness isn’t a magic formula. Absolution in Jesus’ name won’t erase the memories of what’s occurred between us. Our former love can’t be rekindled. Anger and aggression made a ruin of that. But God’s Word goes out and does not return to him empty-handed. Forgiveness in Jesus’ name can and will bind us together again. God’s Word will produce its fruit. A love that’s founded on Jesus’ death and resurrection. Love that’s stronger than our fleeting feelings and desires.

When our relationship begins to fray, the outcome isn’t inevitable so long as we’re focused on Christ Jesus. His cross, bloody suffering and death, and resurrection. All signs of God’s unbreakable love for us, even the people we harm and who hurt us.

Forgiveness in Jesus’ name, not our love for each other, is the concrete and permanent foundation of any relationship.

In our relationship, we may try to crush each other for one justifiable reason or another. Maybe affection starts to resemble resignation. Love may transform into resentment, but forgiveness in Jesus’ name is our one constant comfort. It’s God’s love that never runs cold.

Forgiveness in Jesus’ name makes the present argument bearable and the inevitability of future disruptions not so scary. Absolution in Jesus’ name comforts and brings peace. Love will grow anew. Forgiveness in Jesus’ name, not our love for each other, is the concrete and permanent foundation of any relationship.