Grace As Reconciliation (or POWER OUT SUNDAY) - Wellington First Assembly

Wellington First Assembly

326 W Botkin Lane, Wellington Kansas ........Family Faith Lessons - 9:30 AM........ Sunday Worship - 10:30 AM

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Grace As Reconciliation (or POWER OUT SUNDAY)

Today's message isn't fully available on recording or video as the entire town lost power halfway through the service.  Maybe it was so we could pay attention to the last few points -- yes, we preached through the dark.  We did get the first 19 minutes though, you can watch HERE.

Relational conflicts are often dark times with no sense of direction.  The Bible, however, gives several principles on how we can seek grace filled reconciliation with each other.

If you missed this service, this is a message you will want to read... 


Grace as Reconciliation
So, let me tell you a story.  A cop and a thug walk into a coffee shop at the same time.  Their eyes meet each other across the room.  Seething anger boils up in both.  They’ve known each other for a while.  The veteran officer of the force has always done his job well, by the book.  The career criminal has a set of mug shots that look like school pictures – one for each year since his teens.
In this situation, there is not much grace and definitely not much reconciliation.  The two of them have been at it for years.  But today is slightly different.  It was an experiment.  The District Attorney forced Ray, the veteran cop to show up and meet with Jacob, the career criminal.  Jacob, had been tricked into coming – he never would have shown if he knew he was meeting Ray.  He was trying to get a job and go legit.  But right that moment, the only thing they both saw in each other’s eyes was a vicious cycle of anger.

Where is grace?

What are Christians called to do when they encounter someone that has offended them?  In our text today, we will look at a passage where Matthew describes the process that Jesus affirmed with a twist.  The rabbinical method for discussing tense issues, for resolving conflict with each other was given an enhancement by the great Rabbi. Let’s read this together. – Matthew 18:15-20

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”  

For some of you, this is a passage you are very familiar with.  Because of its prescribed manner to resolve conflict and pursue peaceful relations with one another, it has often been called the Matthew 18 principle.  Other’s recognize the last verse that is often quoted when a group of Christians gather in prayer.

This portion of scripture describes what happens when the Prince of Peace proclaims that He is there in the middle of a conflict.  Conflict takes many forms.  Students go after each other in schools.  Family members argue with each other.  Workers gossip about their bosses, while employers at times take advantage of their employees.  Neighbors hurl insults at each other, across fences and across international boundaries.  In case you haven’t paid attention lately, there is a lot of conflict that bubbles up in the world.

In fact, if there was one evidence that could show that the world is in a state of sin, that would be it.  Conflict, chaos, bitterness, hatred.  And it is into this world, that Jesus Christ came to offer conciliation.  The mere presence of Jesus forces the issue.  If we didn’t’ recognize conflict as unhealthy and evil before – because it is such a natural part of our being –now we see it fully contrasted against His holy presence.

Jesus offered some grace filled principles to usher in forgiveness and reconciliation.  This is originally given in the context of the discipline inside of community.  Today, we often associate discipline as punishment – something we don’t like that is imposed upon us.  But a better picture of the term discipline is given to us by athletes in training.  A linebacker stays disciplined when he stays in his lane and doesn’t follow the fake handoff.  A cross country athlete stays disciplined by keeping a rigorous five-mile schedule every morning at 5 AM.  A musician stays disciplined by practicing their scales and exercised on a regular consistent basis.  Discipline makes you better at what you do and makes your team greater.  Discipline is more about the team and community than about yourself.

At the time Matthew was writing to the groups of gathered Christians, they relied on each other for food, for protection, for comfort, for commerce.  They had contributed their belongings together for the sake of furthering the gospel.   It wasn’t that they would not share with others – they would, the nature of hospitality in their culture required them to.  – but they were often ostracized from other groups as well.  This is a position that the ancient Hebrew people knew well.

The instructions of Moses, lessons he had learned as he herded the people of God in the exodus of Egypt through the wilderness for forty years, were written down, codified in the rabbinical law.  We find this in Leviticus 9:17-18

You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 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.

This was a lesson that Moses had learned the hard way.  You may recall that early in his young, brash life, he dealt with conflict harshly – killing a man out of passionate rage.  When he stopped to intervene in another incident, the men fighting refused his intervention challenging him and revealing his sin.  The way to peace, the way to reconciliation, the way to getting along with each other does not lie in violent outbursts. 

Note too, that in verse Lev 9: 17, the command for grace-filled reconciliation is centered on your brother.  Someone like you.  Your friend, your classmate, a fellow Christian.  Someone that you know.  Verse 18 takes it a step further, foreshadowing exactly what Jesus would say to sum up the law of Moses when challenged on the Ten Commandments centuries later.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  In other words – reconciliation is not just for your compadres – it’s for the stranger that you don’t get along with either.  This statement gets an emphatic ending.  The LORD declares his Holy Name. 


Whenever a substantial point needs to be driven home, you will see God declare His Name.  Pay attention to those!  Those statements are at the core of the gospel.  Because, as we will see, the only way for those statements to ever work, to ever come true, is if the LORD is fully present and allowed to operate through the person of the Holy Spirit.

The father in law of Moses, Jethro, charged with organizing a just and fair structure implemented processes and steps, which the later rabbinical writers organized into a three-stage process for keeping the peace in the community. This three-state process ensured the dignity of the individual while maintaining religious order and holiness between people. It is this process that every Hebrew child learned as a young man.  It is this process that Jesus referenced and enhanced.
Let’s examine the first principle.



1.     Keep it Confidential.
What does confidential mean?  The simple definition is to keep it quiet, personal. To keep matters entrusted.  Literally, it means “with faith.”  In other words, tell no one.  It is stamped, TOP SECRET!
Some people think Washington DC is leaky.  Let me tell you, many Christians got that topped.  If an outside observer was watching many Christians practice “keeping it confidential” this is what they would report it meant:
·         Put it in a private (bust still shareable) Facebook post.
·         Tell it discretely as a “prayer request”
As my daughter’s teacher used to say – “CUT THE DRAMA, MAMA!”
Matthew is writing this for people to deal with the drama.  By the way, the things he is referring to here that need to be addressed are issues of relational sin – that occur between you and another person.  Sometimes those relational hurts are caused without the other person realizing their offense.  This is why this step is so important.  I’ve seen many people bitter and upset at someone their entire life – and the person they are upset at doesn’t’ even know about it.  Who is the one miserable?
What Matthew doesn’t intend these steps for are for the inconsequential things.  The trivial things.  The issues that don’t really amount to a hill of beans in the eternal scheme of things. 
I don’t like the kind of car she drives, the music he listens to, the clothes she wears, the people he’s friends with. Guess what – get over that.  That’s none of your bees’ wax, as they used to say!
If you are talking about stuff like that, and letting that get in the way of friendship and pursuing the gospel message – you are just a cantankerous gossip who is missing the entire point of the Christian gospel.  Matthew is talking about the deep stuff. The real relational stuff.  The kind of stuff that no one wants to be played out in the public arena. The place where emotions are raw.
This is so important, that in the instructions for the Lord’s Table, communion, the people of the congregation are encouraged to seek out someone they may have wronged and confidentially make amends, to preserve the unity of the church.  The timing of that is not necessarily to be done immediately before you drink the juice or eat the bread but during the week when you are living out your calling.


The second principle is to Be Authentically Honest (2)
Being authentically honest requires some self-introspection first.  Before we can be honest with another person, we must be honest with ourselves.  Why did we take offense?  Is there something in my innermost emotions that is conflicted that is causing me to miss a point.  Authentic honesty allows us to enter the conversation knowing that there might be something we contributed to the problem (even if we don’t know yet) that we might have to address.  Authentic honesty forces us to acknowledge, there is a chance that we may have offended the other person too.  Authentic honesty challenges us to examine the biases and prejudices of our thoughts in the situation.  Authentic honesty approaches a situation, looking for reconciliation, not focused on accusation.

Unlike political reporting, there are no GOTCH YA moments.  If you whole attitude is to approach another person and light into them with a fury because you believe you are holier than them and you have suffered an irreparable offense at their hands – you are not representing the love and peace of Christ.  That is not your role.  Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.  Those who judge, will be judged.  There is a big difference between a prophet who calls a nation to repentance versus an accuser who catalogs the faults of a friend.

Authentic honesty involves direct confrontation and absolute truth telling.  Activities that are easier to shy away from and embrace.  The very act will reveal both your souls.
Bill Hybels offers 4 guidelines to truth telling in difficult situations.
1)      Identify the real obstacle.  I see this one a lot.  In schools, we do behavioral analysis to determine the root cause of someone acting out. If we only try to address the outward manifestations of conflict, we will never be able to stop it.  There is always an underlying cause or obstacle that must be addressed.
2)      Arrange to meet a person face to face.  Telephone, Email, Text, are not great tools for this.  By the way kids, breaking up with a girlfriend via text is not very smart.  In fact, I can pretty much guarantee you that those you have done that usually never have a successful relationship with anyone else!
3)      When you meet, affirm your relationship with one another.  Show your commitment.  Show your concern.  Confrontation outside of a relationship is meaningless.  The whole purpose of this is to keep a friend, not lose one.  You have much to gain, so cherish it, relish it!
4)      Make observations, rather than accusations.  Don’t be too vague, but let them connect the dots.  If you are gentle, they will gain empathy and insight. If you attack, they will put up their defenses and deny.  Give them time to process. Don’t think that if something has been building so big that it comes to this, that you can resolve it in five minutes or even one evening.  It may take a few days as the Holy Spirit works.


These steps lead us to our 3rd point.  Offer Genuine Forgiveness.
By the way, if you aren’t ready to offer forgiveness, you probably aren’t ready to start this process.  

(THIS IS WHERE THE AUDIO AND VIDEO ENDED ON THE BLACKOUT)

I’ve seen this way too much – a person demanding forgiveness, the second one, breaking down in repentance, and then the first stating that they could never forgive them.  That’s not the Christian way.  Genuine forgiveness means reconciling all accounts.  Wiping the ledger, letting bygones be bygones.  Again, we are talking relational hurt here.  In some cases, the future road of forgiveness will require guardrails and clear boundaries, particularly in cases of abuse or criminal behavior.
But in most situations, the entire idea of forgiveness is to welcome a person back into good relationship.  There is no joy in being around a person who makes you anxious every moment.  Forgiveness restores friendship.  Forgiveness brings back a brother or sister. 
·         Genuine forgiveness does not have caveats
·         Genuine forgiveness does not set conditions.
·         Genuine forgiveness does not say that if you do this, then I will do that.  It is not quid pro quo.
·         Genuine forgiveness is freely given, undeserved grace, with no strings attached.
All of these steps are present in verse 15 of our text.  And all of these steps are repeated and underscore the next stages of the process.  In many situations, this approach here will resolve conflict and restore relationships.  But there are times when this step is exhausted that the next step is called for.  Procedures for that are listed in the next several verses.



Request Assistance (4)
There is a point where you may have tried everything on your own to bring reconciliation into play.  The Bible is clear.  This is not the time to make it public.  It’s time to bring in a trusted friend, a mediator, someone who both respect, someone who respects you both and will not take sides.  A coach, a mentor, a small group leader, a Christian counselor, even a pastor can play this role.
If you are ever asked to be in this role, it is your responsibility to play the part of a Biblical mediator.  The first thing a Biblical mediator does is keep things confidential and offer counsel on how the two can try to resolve their differences in private. If invited to join in the conversation, the Biblical mediator does not take sides, nor issues judgment, but listens carefully, promotes responsibility, and provide hope and encouragement to both sides.  The Peacemakers organization suggests the Four G’s as guidelines that Biblical mediators remind both parties.[1]

·         They are to Glorify God
·         They are to Get the log out of their own eye
·         They are to Gently restore
·         They are to Go and be reconciled.

If you are a Christian – you are called to be a ready as a Biblical Mediator when someone requests assistance.

If this stage is not successful, the Bible says try again – and the pastor is to be involved – and walk through all of these same confidential steps.  What you notice, is that God gives us multiple opportunities to be restored to one another.

There are rare occasions when despite following these steps, a person will choose to walk away and sever the friendship.  Matthew says that that person should then be treated as a tax collector or pagan.

Just in case you think that gets you off scot free… it doesn’t.  Because that command to love and forgive never went away.  While that person may no longer be in right fellowship with you, there is still no authorization for you to gossip or slander them.  In fact, if we think back to what Leviticus 9:18 said and combine it with the story of the Good Samaritan recorded in Matthew’s same gospel, chapter 22 – we suddenly realize that our task for reconciling them as become even greater.  That ostracized neighbor, co-workers, student we can’t get along with who used to be our friend – we must still show Christ’s compassionate grace of reconciliation to them.



REMEMBER THIS
Inside every CONFLICT
lies an OPPORTUNITY.
When the enemy organizes conflict, it is usually because a great opportunity for success is on the horizon.  Conflict itself is not bad. It is not destructive.  It’s what we do with that conflict.  The same pressure that can crush a building can be used to create a diamond.  Conflict is the growing process for the Christian.
Remember Ray and Jacob?  The cop and the thug?  Two totally unreconcilable people?  Forced to interact with each other, Jacob proved to the cop that he wanted a job, and Ray set him up with an interview with a local business that hires ex-cons and teaches them job skills.  Over the next few years, their barriers broke down, and after 8 years, Jacob became the manager.  Ray, the cop, eventually retired, but wanted a side job.  Guess who he interviewed with?  Today, they work together, showing others that leaving a life of crime and becoming reconciled is completely possible.[2]

In the grace of reconciliation,
·         we can learn to glorify God through our acts of worship, obedience and imitation of his law,
·         we can learn to serve others through the act of bearing each other’s burdens in loving confrontation and
·         we can learn to become more like Christ by confession our own sin, and checking our own attitudes.
This is great news for the Christian – because when we learn to endure and be shaped by conflict into the image of Christ, we are guaranteed peace and joy.  But it is not great news for the unbeliever – the person who does not trust Christ to impact their life, to change their actions, and to call them towards righteousness.  Without Christ, there is no moral center.  Without a moral center, there is no way to see conflict produce growth.



THINK THIS THROUGH
You can never practice reconciliation in your life,
if you’ve never experienced conciliation at the cross.

The entire process of reconciliation is only possible because God the Father was once conciled to us.  Literally, we were together.  Stuck like glue, inseparable.  But because we allowed sin to infiltrate our life, we pushed away from God.  The entire story of the Bible reveals the drama of redemption.  It is God’s record of centuries of his grace, seeking to bring us back together through the plan of salvation, made possible by the death on the cross.

We are one with Christ because of the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord, who made the atonement for our sins, who paid the price with his sacrifice.That is why, we can be rconciled again, reconciled with him.

If you are chasing reconciliation with others and never finding it, maybe it’s because you have never been exposed to the reconciling grace of Jesus Christ.

For those of us who are reconciled Christians, may this be our prayer – that we show God’s grace of reconciliation to the neighbors in our lives.

Shall we pray.