The ministry of reconciliation begins with understanding how God is reconciling with you through Christ. After receiving this help from God, we now have to decide how to react to a brother or sister who has offended us.
[Gary Petty] Over a couple year period, it is interesting, the United Church of God had media experts come in and look over everything we did and say “OK, what are these people all about?” They came up with a mission statement, which is basically what we already had, and a vision statement, which is what we already had, and then, in media, what they call an essence statement. An essence statement is something you don’t say, but it is what you are all about. And they said, “Oh, you people are about relationships: Loving God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul and loving your neighbor as yourself”. And I thought: wow! I could have said all that and not paid them the money! We knew that. In fact, we didn’t learn anything. It was amazing. We really didn’t learn anything because we knew all that stuff. So we paid people to come and tell us what we already knew.
But God is reconciling us to Him because He wants us to be His children. He wants to relate to us as His children. And in those first two sermons I went through and I asked you to write down these five points because we will go through them over and over again.
I thought we do this in three sermons. It is going to take more to go through the complexity of this whole concept.
But, I said we have dysfunctional conflict in our lives. Conflict is normal. Not all conflict is bad. No, when people have a problem and they have a couple different viewpoints to solve the the problem and they work together to come up with a solution, that’s not bad. Not all conflict is bad. When conflict helps people to work together to create a positive solution it is actually good. But that is not what we usually experience – whether it is in our families, or at work, or inside the church. What I am talking about specifically here is the conflict between Christians. We try to apply these principles to the world, but they don’t play by the same rules. So we have to understand that. But, between ourselves, when we look at dysfunctional conflict there are reasons for that. In the very first sermon I said to write these down.
Pride, the need to be emotionally healed when you are hurt, we have expectations that others will satisfy our needs and desires (that is the third one). We have all these expectations of people. And when other people don’t meet our expectations there is conflict. Fourth is the need to control because of our problem with the need for emotional stability. We need to have a self-image. I talked about how we make ourselves our own gods; which is part of the problem, we make ourselves our own gods. And we have this need to control. And I said that the number one reason for conflict in our lives is that we all have conflict we God. We spent a great deal of time in that first sermon going through what it means that by nature we are the children of wrath. By nature! What it means when it says the carnal mind is the enemy of God. We went through what the word abomination means. And how we are the enemies of God. In our natural state we are enemies of God. And then we went through and showed how, in the great chasm between God and humanity, He closed that Chasm by having Christ come across the great chasm, across the great canyon and become a human being.
And that is what we celebrated at the Passover, was His life and His death. We are celebrating now, really, His resurrection. Because it is not just getting the leavened bread out, it is taking the unleavened bread in. It is taking Christ in all the time. And so, how we understand how we were yet enemies before we repented. Forgiveness was offered to us. In fact it is by His goodness that we are led to repentance. We went through where Paul taught that. And we talked about this ministry of reconciliation. Let’s go to II Corinthians 5. Because this is where we started from and this is where the series of sermons is leading. And so in that first sermon we really understood how desperate we are. How, without God, we are nothing. We are separated, we are enemies, we can’t cross the gap, we can’t do anything. And, no matter how good we try to be, our nature has already been corrupted and this is more about doing sin. It is about the very core of who we are. We have been so corrupted that we can’t get back across. We talked about what it is to be made in the image of God and how all of us were made in the image of God and how we are such corrupted images that we don’t look anything like what we are supposed to look like. And yet, because of the love of God, when we were enemies, He crossed that barrier. And that is what we just celebrated.
2 Corinthians 5:18-21 “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled” This concept of reconciliation doesn’t mean we just learn to get along. This is more that God just saying I would like to have you get along with me are maybe we could open some lines of communication. Maybe we could do lunch some day. Reconciliation means to restore. Come into a relationship. In this case, Father to child, Brother to brother and sister. That is how He describes it. So we are to come into a Father and child relationship with God. And a brother to sibling relationship with Jesus Christ (as an elder brother) with all the respect and worship that He is due. “ who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” And this is the premise. This is where we have to start this discussion. So, that is what we did in the first sermon. And realize what God is doing to bring us into a relationship with Him.
The second sermon was about, then, how He had to do something else. He had to pour out His spirit on us. In other words, He had to bring us back across the gulf. He could send Christ here and now He had a human being with a divine nature. But we still all have corrupt nature. So He had to put the divine nature in us. So we received God’s spirit and now we are at war. We are at war within ourselves; the corrupt human nature and the divine nature and in that we can learn peace.
We talked about peace. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God. But peace must begin internally. And so we showed, then in the second sermon, how when we understand Christ’s sacrifice and we receive God’s spirit, how that deals with our conflict with God, how that deals with all the things we talked about in terms of the reasons for conflict, how we must repent – repentance is required for relationship, but God does the initiation – and how unique it is that, as human beings, when we are offended, our approach is “you are the one that is wrong and you must heal me,” and how God’s response is “you are the one that is wrong; I must heal you.” Totally different approach. God approaches us as the offenders – as the abomination – with the intent of healing the offender. We should be very, very, very glad that God is not like us…that He needs our healing, because if God needed our healing, He would have wiped us off the face of the earth. He would have destroyed humanity a long time ago.
We showed how receiving God’s spirit, understanding God’s ways helps us to have that conflict between us and God healed. It helps us to learn how to not control our own lives so much but to give it to Him in faith. We found God’s answer to that need to satisfy expectations in others. And why we fail so much in that and how God can help us with that. We saw how, because of the reconciliation process and receiveing God’s spirit, we can be emotionally healed from our conflict that we’ve had and our enmity towards God. And we showed how God deals with our pride by helping us understand our absolute poverty without Him… our absolute spiritual poverty without Him. Unfortunately, I have found in life that there are many people who keep the right doctrines of God but do not have a poverty before God. And it is pride, so much of the time, that drives us and motivates us and causes us to have conflicts with others.
So, we saw, in the first two sermons, how God is reconciling us to Him. And how that affects us. But once we learn that, we have to take the next step. And that is, OK, How do I now apply what God is doing in reconciling me to Him in dealing with others. And now we have the concept of the family relationships. If the father and the elder brother reconcile us to them, when we have problems between each other when have offenses between each other how does that get reconciled?
Now, what I want to talk about today is the message to the person that has been offended. Now, when you have been offended you say “wait! The first message should always be to the offender.” Well, actually, as the offended person we have a responsibility to go to the offender. It is in scripture and we will get to that. When our brother or sister, now remember God reached out to us, the offenders before we repented. He reached out to us willingly, offering us forgiveness before we even admitted we were wrong. In fact, you and I never admitted we were wrong until He did what He did. So we, then, as the person that has been offended in the situation have a certain responsibility to follow that example.
Remember, repentance is the human response to have committed a sin, whether against God, or against somebody else. Forgiveness is the Christlike behavior of the person who has been offended. Repenting is the required human response to having sinned against God or somebody else. Forgiveness is the Christlike behavior of the person who has been offended. So now we understand how God has reconciled us. We must understand how to reconcile with each other.
So, let’s go through. I had you write down those five things. Those were the five points in the first sermon, they were the five points in the second sermon, they are going to be the same five points in this sermon. You have been offended by somebody else. Somebody has sinned against you. You feel betrayed, you feel obsessed, you feel frustrated, you feel bitter, you feel angry, you feel hurt. What are you supposed to do? What are we supposed to do? Let’s go through the five steps. Starting in the order that we went through them in the last sermon, which is your conflict with God. We say “wait a minute! This person sinned against me. Why do I start with my conflict with God? My conflict is with that person because they sinned against me.” And that is true. We are not denying that. We are basing this, we are starting with you are the person who has been offended. You are the person that someone has committed a sin against. So you think the first thing you should do is go talk to that person. NO! The first thing you should do is go have God make sure and deal with the conflict you have with God. That is the frist thing you do. That doesn’t make sense to us, but realize that if you are going to forgive that person and you are going to offer forgiveness and you are going to follow God’s example of I forgive you before you repent…that is His example. If you are going to follow His example you can’t do that yourself. That is a Christlike behavior. That is not a human behavior. So if I am going to do this Christlike behavior guess where I am going to go to get the strength to do it?
So, before you ever go deal with the offender, you must go deal with you and God and make sure there is a healing between you and God. Now, this brings us to the point where we have to say something about forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you ignore the offense. Now, we will see that there are occasions where it does but, in a general sense, it doesn’t mean you ignore the offense. The person sinned. It doesn’t mean that you pretend that the sin didn’t take place. It doesn’t mean that we somehow erase God’s standards of right and wrong. Forgiveness means that you give up the need to make that person meet your expectations, or to suffer if they don’t. It means deciding not to become obsessed with the offense. I have met people who were obsessed with offenses that took place 25 years ago. Just obsessed with it! They think about it all the time. It eats away at them all the time. It means that you do not gossip about the offense to other people. And it means that you give up the animosity you have towards the offender. That is what forgiveness means. Now, there is still a standard they are held to. This has nothing to do with the standard. It has to do with you and me. That is what forgiveness is. When God says I forgive you He doesn’t say I forgive you, I just did away with the standard. What God says is, I no longer have animosity towards you, I no longer have anger towards you, I don’t care anymore about what you did. It means nothing to me It is erased from my memory. God can chose to remember our sins but He chooses not to remember them. So, forgiveness isn’t taking away the standard. Forgiveness is what you do in your own mind and in your own heart. The problem is that when you are sick, think about it, when you are sitting in a room and you are sick and you are in that room long enough there is only one thing that is on your mind…how sick you are. You can’t think of anything else. “ugh, I am going to throw up again!” Right? At that moment you are not thinking about how much you are supposed to love your wife and kids, and serve the people in the church. All you are thinking about is how miserable you feel, how much you hurt. That is what we do when we obsess about someone who has offended us. We think about it all the time until we find ourselves, emotionally, in a dark room locked in by ourselves thinking about how sick we are. That is obsession. That is how we don’t forgive. We become obsessed and we lock ourselves into a spiritual dark room and we just sit there and all we do is think about and feel about the person who has offended us. See, forgiveness doesn’t me we forgive the persons actions, they have a responsibility. But, now I want you to think about this, it means that, if we are going to be Christlike, it means you are willing to go across the gap created by that person, because, right? That person created a gap between you and them. Just like you and I created a gap between us and God and you and I can’t get across the gap so He had to come across to His enemies, right? He had to come across to His enemies.
You and I have to come to the point where we are willing to come across the gap to offer forgiveness to our enemy. That is what we have to be willing to do if we are going to be Christlike. And you say “how did you make that up?” Well we have already gone through what Christ did for us. How many times does Paul say “follow God as little children”? Imitate God as little children. Become Christlike. Well, ok, I am not stealing, but how about crossing the gap for the enemy? That is what He did. Now, in order to be willing to do that, you have to go get strength from God. That is why, when someone has offended you…if your husband has offended you, before you go confront him, go get right with God. Go get right with God first. Let Him show you what you are supposed to do and how to do it. That is what make Matthew 18 so important. We will reach a point where we will go through Matthew 18 as conflict resolution. Matthew 18 gives us a model of conflict resolution. But I am not going to go through that model today because we are not even going through how you do this. We have to start with how the person that is offended, what I must do internally to be a peacemaker. To have peace myself, because I have been damaged by someone else. Other people damage us. And, you know what, we damage others, too. Everyone in this room has been damaged and everyone in this room has damaged someone else. And we never really will come to grips with this until we accept that 1. Yes, I am damaged by others and 2. Yes, I have damaged others and I must take responsibility for that. In fact, in most cases of conflict, both parties have damaged the other. That is why the conflict is dysfunctional. In dysfunctional conflict, the reason it has become dysfunctional is both parties have damaged each other.
And so, here we have in Matthew 18:21-22….how many times have we read this? “Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” What a spiritual giant! I would say once, maybe twice RIGHT? Fool me once, right? We all know that saying. Fool me twice? Never again. He said seven times. Perfect number. Boy am I going to look righteous to the disciples and Jesus is going to say “Bless you!” haha! What? “22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” I can have that much forgiveness? And then he tells them about the parable of the man that had owed a king a huge amount of money. And he went to the king and told him that he couldn’t pay. And the king forgave him. He said “I forgive you, I will wipe out the account. I will erase it. Just go be a good citizen. And the man leaves the king and then comes to him a person who owes him a very small amount of money. And the person that owes him a small amount of money says “look, I can pay you just give me some time.” But he says no and throws him into the debtors prison and has him tortured. He has him pay his debt by throwing him into prison and he owes him just a small amount of money. And so, the servants go and tell the king. And the king calls the man in that he had forgiven.
Verse 32 “Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.” He begged him. HE could not pay the debt. This is where you and I come before God. You and I can’t pay the debt. WE are the offenders. We are the abominations and we can’t pay the debt. And we forget that and that is why I said, in each of these sermons, life changes when you live the Passover yearround. When you live it once a year we have problems. Life changes when you live the Passover yearround. When you remember everyday I have gone to God and I couldn’t pay the debt. And I owed it and He said I forgive you.
Verse 33-35 “33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
When we refuse to forgive God will turn us over to the torturers. We torture ourselves. We live in a dark room where all we can think about is our sickness. This is why we are starting the message to the people that have been offended. There are strong messages about offending, about sinning against your brother. Six of the ten commandments are about what? Sinning against your brother; stealing, lying, killing. Sinning against our brother is terrible. In fact, when we sin against our brother we sin against God. But, what is amazing about life, one of the great ironies of life, there have been as many people turning against God, not because they committed the initial sin, but because the became bitter over the person that sinned against them. In fact, one of the most dangerous things we face in the church is when we are offended by another Christian. When another Christian sins against us it is one of the most dangerous things we face. Because we end up in a dark room, sick, thinking only about our own pain. And it is impossible to love God or our fellow man in that state. It is impossible to be what we are supposed to be. Remember, we are supposed to be the children of God. We are corrupted images of God. And God is recreating us into His image. And God is not an emotionally and spiritually sick person in a dark room. That is not who He is. When we obsess over the offense we become driven by our hurt and our anger and our bitterness. And that is normal. You feel hurt, I feel hurt when people do something to me and I know other people are hurt when I do something to them. That hurt is normal. But we also have to remember that we must deal with that and the first thing we do when we are hurt is to go recognize our poverty before God. Go read the last part of Matthew 18 and realize your poverty before God. And before you deal with somebody else go before God and say forgive me for I am also a sinner. And then give me the capability of reaching back across the gap to the person who has sinned against me to offer forgiveness. Give me that ability. Because he says if he does not we will turn it over to the torturers. That’s what it says. We will be tortured in our own minds when we refuse to offer forgiveness.
Now, you can offer forgiveness. When we get into reconciliation, the techniques of it, you can offer forgiveness and still somebody won’t repent. That is a whole different story. They refuse it. But, you know, even people repenting usually it takes time. Very seldom does someone just repent immediately. Think about you and God. How long did God have to work with you before you were baptized? Sometimes it is decades before you repented. Colossians 3. Remember what we just read there is when we refuse to forgive somebody; either when you refuse or…when you offer forgiveness that means you have already forgiven them. Once again, that doesn’t mean you have to have a relationship with them it just means you already forgave them. God already forgave us or He couldn’t offer it to us. People go to the Lake of Fire because they refuse God’s forgiveness. That is why they go.
Colossians 3:12-13 “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;” These are hard things. Tender mercies. Being willing to cut other people slack. Being willing to offer forgiveness. Being will to be merciful when others are wrong. You don’t give mercy to people when they are right. There’s no need to give mercy to somebody who is right. “kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another” There is no need to bear with one another unless the other person is being obnoxious. The statement has no meaning unless something bad is happening. “ bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”
And this is why we really can’t talk about reconciliation between human beings until we talk about how God reconciles us; because the writers of the Bible keep taking us back to that as our model. They are taking us back to a point and saying this is what you must remember and that, then, is what motivates you to do these other things. You have tender mercies and kindness and meekness and humility and long suffering and bearing with one another and forgiving one another…why? Because we go back to that’s what is what God did through Christ for us so I must, then, model that behavior with others. He said well, that is uncomfortable. It was uncomfortable for God to do what He did. There is nothing that says Christ was comfortable when He did what He did. There is nothing that says God the Father was comfortable when He did what He did. He did what He did because that is who He is. He did what He did because it is His nature. And you and I have corrupt nature that is supposed to become like His. This is His nature to do this. He didn’t say it was comfortable for Him to do it. We know it wasn’t comfortable for Jesus Christ to do it.
And now we have to break this concept down and say “ok, now how do I live it with other people?”. I want to accept God’s reconciliation, how God came to me while I was yet a sinner and an enemy. But now how am I to apply that to fellow Christians? Because we are a family. So a family must apply these same principles that the Father and the elder Brother have already applied to us. And that means real peace comes from first seeking peace through God. So, when someone has hurt you and damaged you, first go get peace from God. That is where you go first. Not to the person. You go to God first. God, this person has hurt me. This person, you know, it is like a little kid. Daddy daddy daddy! I heard that all the time. You know what (fill in the child’s name) did to me? We go to God and say “Father, I’ve been hurt, I’ve been damaged.” And then we remember that Christ says “I know what that is like”. And this person spitefully used me. I know what that’s like. And this person called me names. I know what that’s like. And this person yelled at me. I know what that’s like. By the way, did they nail you to a cross? Well, no. Well, I know what that’s like. And all of the sudden it changes, doesn’t it? Did they nail you to a stake? Well, no. Did they beat you until they couldn’t even recognize that you were a human being? Well, no. Well, I know what that’s like. Did they spit on you? Well, no. Well, I know what that’s like. You get a little different perspective when you go there. And then He says “I know how you feel. It feels terrible when people do that to you.” So we are going to have to learn how to do this. Let me bring some peace to you. Peace comes from God first. We must remember that. That is where we must go.
In Isaiah 59…go ahead and read Isaiah 59. I won’t go there but he talks about how Israel was such a terrible nation…just filled with sin and hatred and violence and he goes through all their sins and he says they don’t know the way of peace and anyone who goes this way will never know the way of peace. There is a way of peace. In other words, there are actions of peace. There are thoughts of peace. And anytime we are damaged by another human being first go to God and receive help. You know, by His stripes we are healed just doesn’t mean physically. The proof of that is when God will use a physical sickness to spiritually heal us. How many times in your life; and I know there are many of you here that have told me your life changes because of some physical illness and you couldn’t figure out why God didn’t deal with it right away or dealt with it the way He dealt with it and then later you were changed because of it in a positive way. God used the physical illness to heal you spiritually. So, He will use physical illnesses to heal us spiritually. But, you know, He heals us emotionally, too. There is a way of peace we must learn. There is a healing we must get. So, when you are damaged by a person, you go to God and you say “by His stripes I must be healed.” Give me peace. Because I am hurt. I am damaged. And we ask God for that kind of healing. I have a word for this. I call it the mercy affect. God does something to you and then you turn around and do it to somebody else. The mercy affect. Now let’s go through, then, that is the first thing on your list. The reason for conflict is that we all have conflict with God. We all have a conflict with God. Now, let’s go through the other four and see how, then, I must deal with and you must deal with each other when we have damaged each other. Because it has happened. And it is going to happen over and over again. And until we learn this, guess what we will do? WE will damage each other and, if we don’t deal with it properly, we will just have damaged homes, damaged marriages, damaged children, damaged congregations where people are just walking around with these open emotional wounds. So, we go to God when someone has hurt us to receive peace from Him. That, now, give us the power and ability to now deal with the situation.
The second reason for conflict is the need to control the response of the other person. This is very difficult because here is the fear that we have. I know this, I have done this myself. But if I give up trying to force that person into the response I want, They will get away with it. If I force that person, if I give it up and I ccan’t force them into what I think they should do, they will get away with it. And, so , what happens is your personal healing depends entirely on the other person. They either apologize to you and heal you or they get punished and that heals you. But the only healing comes from these things. Now understand the difference between justice and vengeance. This is a big subject so I am just going to touch on it. Justice is justice. You and I are walking around suffering from penalties of sins we have committed. Now, the ultimate justice is that God would require our eternal lives. So, we have to be careful where we go entirely with justice. But, you know, if someone out here commits a murder, according to God’s law that person forfeits their life. Anything less that forfeiting their life is mercy. If it is first degree murder. Now, there are people in the Bible, like Paul, who committed murder and were forgiven by God. Right? God forgave him. He killed Christians. Well, he may not have picked up the stone, but it says he consented. He gave permission, which is the same thing. And God forgave him. God did not require total justice there because He forgave him. When you forgive somebody that doesn’t even mean that you can erase the penalties they will suffer. If someone sins against you there are natural penalites they will suffer and your forgiveness of them doesn’t erase those natural penalties. That is between them and God.
So, we have already looked at what forgiveness is. But don’t forget the difference between justice and vengeance. Those are two different things and I talked about that about a year ago in a sermon when I talked about vengeance. Vengeance is your driven, it is an emotional driving of who you are to get that person to either respond in the way you want, to meet your expectations or to suffer. They must t do one or the other. They must meet your expectations for healing or they must suffer. And until that happens you will emotionally be tortured. Hmmmm, I will turn you over to the torturers. You will be emotionally tortured until one of those two things happens. Now, you are hurting. Of course you want an apology or you want the person to suffer. You want justice. But, understand, forgiving means that you will not require that you get the justice you want. You will turn the justice over to God and God will meet out the justice. God will give out the justice. And aren’t you glad that many times God has said, I forgive you and I will take the penalty away this time. I am glad God has taken a lot of penalties away from me. And we are not talking about the eternal death penalty that He has passed over with us. There are lots of times in your life when you haven’t suffered what you should have because of your sins. There are lots of times. Because God even took the penalty away in His mercy. Other times He didn’t because there are lessons we need to learn. WE have to learn to take responsibility for our sins and we suffer terrible penalties. There are sins that we commit that we suffer a physical penalty for the rest of our lives, until the resurrection. That is the way it is. When someone sins against you there is a penalty they will pay in one form or another. But vengeance is that you require that for your own personal healing. I require they meet my expectations of apology or they meet my expectations of punishment and they must do that or I can never be healed. And what happens when we get like this, there are a couple things that happen and one is in your need, in my need, to pay back hurt with hurt there is collateral damage. And I wish I had a dollar for every child, teenager, adult, elderly person that I have talked to over the years who talked about how they were damaged because of the battle between their parents. The children were the collateral damage because of the battle between the parents. What happens when we are driven by vengeance and the need to get the other person to meet our expectations or be hurt? There are times when there is collateral damage with that, we damage other people. Romans 12. This is why there are times to confront people and there are actually times not to. There are times when you leave it alone and put it into God’s hand. When would you do that? Because you wouldn’t always do that. You shouldn’t always do that. We are required to go to our brothers. But there are times when you don’t go to your brother. The times when you don’t go to your brother? When the collateral damage is so great that it will damage other people. Then you go put it in Gods. Hands.
Romans 12:17-21 “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” IT is not possible to live peaceably with all men. It is impossible. So, Paul says, as much as depends on you, live in peace. Realize, we are not always going to be able to live in peace with people. There are people, especially in the world, that you can’t live in peace with. You endure, right? You endure those people. You have to. “19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” There are times to turn something over to God and say if I deal with this I will make it worse and there will be collateral damage. Therefore, I will give this to you and I will ask you to take care of this. And then you will trust that He will do His best. What if He doesn’t punish that person right away? The moment you turn it over to God and ask Him to do what is best right wawy you have to accept that’s what is best. Right? This is what it says. Don’t take vengeance out. There are times that you will give it to God and say I can’t deal with this one. I will only make it worse. Notice what it says: “20 Therefore If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Sometimes in dealing with an offender you repay evil with evil and you are overcome by the evil. This is why in dealing with people in the world you can’t always apply these principles. Right? I mean, you are working next door from a guy, right there in the same building who sleeps with every girl he can get, he is a drug addict, he is a drunk, and he offends you all the time. There is not much you can do about it. You turn that over to God. You can’t get him to repent. You can’t get him to stop being offensive. You turn it over to God and say “God, you have to take care of this. If I try to deal with this, I will lose my job. There is no way I can fix this.” So, there are times when you don’t deal with the situation head on. But this goes back to our need to control the response of the other person. In fact, when you really understand this then what Peter says in I Peter really makes sense. I Peter. Because we know we are to go, especially to our brother. You can’t go, all the time, to people in the world. You try to do this and there are times that really you should but sometimes you can’t. There are times when even to your brother in the church trying to fix the offense will only make it worse. You say, ok I will take care of it later. There are times when somebody offends you and you say I will take care of it later. As husband and wife there are times you are offended by your husband. There are times you are offended by your wife. And you’ve learned that instead of dealing with it in the heat of the moment, the best thing for me to do is step back and wait and deal with it later. Right? We learn because, at that point, you will only make it worse. And so how we pick the time we pick and how we pick to deal with an offense is very important.
1 Peter 2:19-24 says “For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.” Patience is one of the biggest problems we have when we are offended. Why? Because it hurts and we want to stop the hurt. So, how do we stop the hurt? We get the person to either repent or be punished. And either of things happen, what do we do? Well, we remember this: “21 For to this you were called,” And you think, how can I do that? You go back to the first principles of reconciliation. “For to this you were called because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.”
See where he takes us back? Peter says I know you can’t do this by yourself. I can’t do this by myself. So we go back to this. We remember this. And he says sometimes you give it to God who judges righteously. There are times you give it to God. There are times there is not solution to a problem with an offender. There are times when there is so much collateral damage that the more you try to fix it the more people you hurt. And, he says, there are times that you just turn it over to God. That is how we give up our need to control the response of the other person. That is why the first step is to go get healing from God when someone has hurt you. The second step is you have to give up the absolute need to control, the vengeance that says I have to have this response or this one. I have seen situations go on for years. Then finally someone goes to someone and says, hey I did this years ago and I am sorry. And then all the hurt is gone and you think “wow! They spent two years mad at each other and all they had to do was that.” All they had to do was that! The third point is that we need to seek God’s solution instead of our solution to fulfill our desires. Remember, our desires are part of the problem that we have. Our desires aren’t always wrong but we are driven by them. When you are offended by someone you need to analyze why you are offended. Now, this is hard, folks. One of the hardest things for corrupted human nature (at least for me, but maybe you don’t have this) is intellectual honesty. The ability to analyze intellectually honestly what is happening. Because I truly believe my subjectivity is objective. I believe it. So, when you are offended here is a series of questions to ask yourself and answer before you do anything:
- What is the Christlike response to this situation? What a minute. Christlike response? I need to go deal with that so-and-so. What is the Christlike response? When we deal with someone that has sinned against us we are trying to reconcile. So, then, what are we trying to do. In the church, what are we trying to do when someone has sinned against us? We are trying to reconcile. If you are just trying to punish them you are missing the point. Now, like I said, all sin has punishment. You don’t’ have to worry about it. We all get our punishment from sin. So what is it you are trying to do when someone has offended you. The first step is you are trying to reconcile with them. Well, that means they have to deal with their sin. So, what is the Christlike response? The second question you ask yourself:
- What lessons can God teach me through this situation? Sometimes you are going to…everything in life you are going through you are going to learn something from it. So, we need to ask “what am I learning from this?”. Maybe in this person sinning against me I have an opportunity to grow and learn what God wants me to learn. A third question you have to ask yourself:
- Am I overreacting? Is this really a little thing and I am making it big. The next question
- Am I reacting out of frustration because I expect the other person to fulfill my desires? Example: I am offended because I expected him to buy me roses for our anniversary and he showed up with daisies he picked out of the front yard and thought I’d be impressed with them. Now, I am not saying you shouldn’t feel bad. OK? I am not saying that your expectations weren’t met. But, am I now offended and have dysfunctional conflict because my desires weren’t met. Am I angry because my pride was injured? Is that the real issue here? Am I angry because my pride was injured? Is this an offense I should simply overlook? You know the Bible does mention overlooking offenses. In fact, in Proverbs it talks about how it is a prudent man, a wise man, who overlooks offenses. Now, he doesn’t overlook all of them. It is just that there are a lot of offenses that it is just that the person is tired or the person is stressed out. I have seen people do things when they are stressed that they would never normally do. Many times the best way to deal with that is to realize they are just stressed and leave them alone. They will be ok tomorrow. Right? And you just leave it alone. It doesn’t matter that the person said “leave me alone, just don’t talk to me, you stupid jerk!” And you say “that’s not normal. I don’t know what the problem is but maybe tomorrow they will feel better and they can tell me what is wrong.” We overlook offenses and many times we are supposed to overlook offenses. We cut people slack. And then the question that we don’t want to ask:
- How did I contribute to this conflict? 53:11 Wait a minute, that is the person that did wrong. But, you know, many times offense does’nt come out of a vacuum. There has been conflict that has been going on for a long time and the offense isn’t out of a vacuum. So, first of all, you ask how did I contribute to this? Maybe I contributed to this, somehow. And maybe I didn’t. But you have to ask yourself that question. You have to be intellectually honest enough. Which means you first have to go to God and get some peace. Secondly, you’ve had to give up, okay, I am not going to be emotionally driven to have vengeance here. And then you have to go to this point that says, ok, I am going to have to analyze this so that I can begin to try to find God’s solution instead of fulfilling my desires. This last point is exactly what Jesus meant in the sermon on the mount. He said don’t try to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye until you remove the beam in your own. Why did He say that? He didn’t say go get the speck out. He didn’t say ignore the offense. He said figure out how you contributed. You know, your brother may be blinded because you smacked him in the head with the 2x4 sticking out of your eye. So, deal with your part of the offense first. Your part of the offense may have been tiny. It doesn’t matter how big it was. You deal with that first. And , wow, can’t I just go tell my brother he is a sinner? If we do this the way God did with us, we have to do these things first. And then the last point, of course:
- Seek God’s healing for your damaged emotions. That brings us back to the first point. These five points are all interconnected. As we go on you see them connecting more and more and more together. And the answers come from God. Sometimes people won’t repent. Sometimes relationships are broken and can’t be fixed. The person who did the abuse, the person who damaged other people didn’t care. WE’ve all seen that kind of thing happen. And the person just doesn’t care. We must realize that we must seek God’s help because if you don’t we end up in some real trouble. One is we end up allowing ourselves to be controlled by anger. I gave a whole sermon on anger a while back so we won’t go through that. But we get controlled by anger. Just do a study on the words anger and wrath in the Bible. Not all anger is wrong, we should be angry at times. WE actually should be. But, boy, anger because very dysfunctional very quickly. I know that, you know that, we’ve all been there. WE’ve all been there but one of the things that really happens to us is that, when the situation can’t be solved, we become bitter.
I want you to look at something in Hebrews 12. See bitterness is a state of mind that is rooted in unresolved anger. Hebrews 12. You know you think about God. There are human beings that will not repent. There are human beings that are going to the lake of fire. Is he bitter towards them?
Hebrews 12:14-15 “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:” Now, this is one sentence with two subjects. Peace and holiness. They are connected together here. We must pursue peace and holiness. We pursue those two things because without these two things you and I will not see Christ. “15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God;” Fall short of the grace of God. Now we know how people do that, right? They blasphemy God, the go out into a lifestyle of absolute rejection of God. We know that people can lose God’s spirit. The book of Hebrews talks about this more than any other book in the Bible, where you can lose God’s grace, you can give up God’s grace. But I want you to notice what the rest of this sentence says. “looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this” He is writing to the church. “by this many become defiled;”
Because of bitterness the writer of Hebrews says to the church that many in within the church have become defiled. This is a scary statement here. This is a statement of salvation. We could lose salvation through bitterness, by just becoming bitter people. People who always see nothing but bad, who have no faith in God because there is always going to be bad anyways, have no love for God because we just do it because we have to. Have no relationships with other people because they will just abuse me anyways. Everybody just mistreats you anyways. We never reach out, we never love anybody else. So we come to church and we try to keep the Ten Commandments. And we sort of just go through life with this bitterness never really enjoying the benefits of God’s spirit. And he says many become defiled. What is the quickest way to bitterness? Here is the irony of it: TO have someone sin against you. To have someone abuse you. To have someone do something bad against you. And then you can’t get it resolved. That is one of the quickest ways to bitterness. I have seen it happen a hundred times in the church. Where I have dealt with so many situations between people and watched somebody get bitter. Husband and wife, friends who knew each other for years, family members…I have seen family members hating each other because a funeral comes up and they fight over who gets the trinkets. And they hate each other and they are bitter towards each other. I am always amazed at that. I think I have told you before that because of that I told my sisters “You get everything. Anything you want to give to me is fine but you get everything. I will not risk damaging our relationship over things that my parents have. Because I have seen it too many times. Bitterness is a terrible thing. Remember what it does. It locks you in a dark room spiritually where all you do is think about the hurt. And all you do is see other people hurting you. And all you do is spend your time looking at how other people treat you. A mature Christian concerns his or her life on how I treat others. Bitterness turns that around to where your whole concern in life is how others treat me. And the thing is, we get that way because we are damaged. We get that way because someone did something bad to us. It doesn’t excuse what the other person did. But it is how we end up. And because of that we do something else. We begin to involve others in our discontent. We always involve others and try to make others bitter. I’ve seen people to that. I have sat in a congregation with a bunch of people have rallied around this person and a bunch of people have rallied around this person and all they do it come to Sabbath services and talk about how this person mistreated this person. And there are two little groups. I have seen that happen before. It should be in the church of God. We are sharing bitterness.
The last point is always about pride. And that means we must seek humility. It’s not always about winning. Once final scripture. Genesis 26. It is not always about winning. It is not always about coming out on top. It is not always about getting it resolved exactly the way you and I wanted to get it resolved. It is accepting the imperfections of life. It is accepting that seldom does any situation end up exactly as you wanted it to end up. And being happy anyways. Most things don’t work out exactly the way you want them to and, you know what? Most things don’t happen exactly the way God would want them to. Did you ever think about that? You can look in the Bible and see how God wants things handled. Very seldom does anything turn out the way God would want it done. Yep, He is not bitter, He is upset, He carries out justice, He punishes people. But He is not a bitter, angry, distraught, hateful being. And praise God for us that He is not. Just think about what life would be like for you and me. Think about that.
Genesis 26:16-22 “And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.” Isaac was being blessed, his family was growing, he has a nomadic tribe, he has servants and so forth, he has hundreds of flocks and hundreds of sheep and goats and so forth. And finally Abimelech said you have got to move out of town, here, you are just bigger than us. “Then Isaac departed from there and pitched his tent in the Valley of Gerar, and dwelt there. 18 And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them.” So, Abraham had dug wells, they were his wells. When they had moved away, as a nomadic tribe they moved around, Philistines had come in and filled in the wells. Abraham isn’t going to show up anymore, because we filled in his wells. Well, Isaac goes out and he digs out the wells again. “19 Also Isaac’s servants dug in the valley, and found a well of running water there.” He discovers a brand new well of running water. Which, in that part of the world, is very rare. Water is life. You would think people would be happy. “20 But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek, because they had quarreled with him.” Which basically means “we had a fight”. Now I know how I would think if I was Isaac. First of all, this is Abrahams land, God gave it to me, these are my wells. I might share them with you but if you are going to take them, come and get them. My sword would have been out. Or he could have said (and knowing Isaac I am surprised he didn’t do this) “Hey, I will sell you some water.” I know Jacob would have. I will sell you some water. But what does Isaac do? “21 Then they dug another well,” They moved on and dug another well. “and they quarreled over that one also.”
You ,know, he has got to live with these people. I want you to think about something here. He had every right to win. But you have to realize in that part of the world if you start a feud you have a blood fight on your hands. All you had to do was kill somebody from that other nomadic tribe and they would have been at war for generations. That would have gone on and on and on and on. He had to live with thtese people. And he decided not winning here was the best thing to do. Not winning was the best thing to do. He had the wells Abraham had dug, those were his. These new wells, he was walking away from them and he had every right to say that is my well. He had every right you can think of to say that is my well. They were his wells.
And then verse 22. “So he called its name Sitnah. 22 And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it.” Everyone said, you know, what a guy! He dug a well then let us have it. He dug a well over here and everybody backed off. His willingness to not fight for his rights at those points eventually caused something good to happen. There is a time to make a stand for right and wrong. There is a time to confront a brother who has sinned. We will go through that. We are required, at times, to confront our brother who has sinned. We are actually required to do so. But there is a time to say “this isn’t about winning.” This really isn’t. And notice what happened. “ And they did not quarrel over it. In So he called its name Rehoboth, because he said, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.” God gave him a well. God gave him the best. God gave him a better well. And he said “God has taken care of me in this.” What an important lesson. When it comes to pride it is not always about winning. It is about learning how to live together. It is not always about having to be right, even when you are right. That’s the hard part. It is not always about having to be right, even when you are right. Because it is about living together. And he had to live with these people. These nomadic tribes would be moving all over the place, crossing each others paths. He didn’t want everyone to have to go grab their weapons every time they saw each other. He didn’t want that. Important lesson when it comes to pride.
The ministry of reconciliation begins with understanding how God is reconciling with you through Christ. After receiving this help from God we now have to decide how to react to a brother or sister who has offended us, who has committed a real sin, who has done something to us. Now if you go through that list of questions I gave you, you may find that sometimes it is like…he really didn’t do anything wrong. I am just being grouchy. He didn’t really do anything wrong that is just my pride. You may find that at time you find that it just isn’t important enough to worry about. There other times when you decide it isn’t really about winning and to just let it go. There are other times when you decide you will cover your brother or sister’s transgression because I love them that much. There are times when you will say “I am going to walk away from this one because the collateral damage is so great that I will take the wrong so that I do not harm others. This is all scriptural. We’ve all gone through this. When they spit on Jesus Christ the collateral damage at that point would have been all of us. Think about that. The collateral damage of being spit on and not reacting, in His case where He was at that point, the collateral damage was all of us. TO walk away from that sacrifice would have meant that we all died. So, once you go to God for help, that is the first step when you have been hurt, then you decide to be proactive by not repaying evil for evil. You see God’s solution instead of trying to make the offender meet your expectations. You deal with your own anger and bitterness, and your need to involve others in the discontent. And you realize that it is not all about winning. Once you have done all this you are ready to go confront the offender. But it is only after we have done all this that we are truly ready to go confront the offender. To go deal with somebody else’s sin. So, next time we will cover what the offender must do. And we will cover the concept of repentance towards another person. And then we will be able to go through some of the ideas in the Bible about what it means to confront somebody. How we are supposed to go to those, how we are supposed to reconcile, and what we are supposed to do with those who just won’t reconcile. So, you can see, as we study the ministry of reconciliation about how God is reconciling us to Him. Now we must learn how to apply the same teachings to each other.