Reconciliation defined based on God's way of reconciling us to Him.
[Gary Petty] When we started this series on the ministry of reconciliation you probably thought we’d get one or two sermons out of it and here we are on number 4. And we haven’t even gotten to, which will be the 5th sermon, on how to reconcile.
When people have conflict, what are the Biblical methods that explain to us how we are to reconcile whether we are husband and wife, or whatever. We are specifically talking about each other in the church. Because, as I have said a number of times, we have to apply these principles but it is almost impossible to reconcile with people in the world. The people you work with just have a different set of values. They have a different way of doing things and even though we should try to apply these principles, many times we can’t. But we are commanded to do these principles inside the church. And the first two sermons were about how God reconciles us to Him. What He did through Jesus Christ and how we tied that into the Passover, because it was the Passover season, how he sent Jesus Christ because we have a corrupted human nature. We are, by nature, hostile towards God and we are, by nature, unable to do His law. And we are, by nature, the children of wrath. And yet, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God is reconciling us to Him. We went through those scriptures, how God did that while we were yet sinners. God did that while we were yet enemies. And I spent a great deal of time going through the scripture to show that we truly are, by nature, the enemies of God. We are an abomination to God. That God must do SOMETHING.
We call it salvation. God must save us. He must reconcile us back to Him. And it is not something we can initiate. He has to start the process. He started the process by sending Jesus Christ across that chasm between us and Him that we can’t breach, we can’t get across. And then He gave us His spirit to bring us into contact, into relationship with Him. And the problem is we all have 2 natures. We have, within ourselves, a corrupt human nature that has to be totally recreated and we have what Peter called the divine nature, as mentioned in the sermonette. God has given us the divine nature and we have 2 natures warring within ourselves. And it is because of our conflict with God that we have conflict with each other. When Christians have conflict with each other it is because one of them or both of them have a conflict with God and we haven’t dealt properly with that conflict with God.
So, we spent two sermons showing how, and even that was not enough…I think of all the points I didn’t make in those two sermons, and understanding how God is reconciling us and how he does that through Christ and through His spirit and brings us into relationship with Him and we become His children.
The third sermon, and once again I only scratched the surface on that, there could have been 2 sermons on that one easily, was what must we do, then, since we now know and understand and are reconciled to God…how do we become reconciled to a brother who has sinned against us? Or a sister who has offended us? How do we do that? And I went through the same 5 points in the first 2 sermons on why there is conflict between human beings, why there is conflict with God and show how God deals with all 5 of those areas. And then I went through what we must do if we have been offended. There is a huge responsibility on the offended person. I went through and showed the instruction to us, as the person who has been sinned against, is the exact opposite of what we naturally do. Our response to being offended, naturally, is the exact opposite of how God says to deal with it. And how, when we go through the instructions as we did we see that all 5 of those areas of conflict must be dealt with by the person that who has been offended before they go deal with the offense. They must be reconciled back with God, they must deal with their own emotions. They must deal with their own reasons. They must know the difference between vengeance and justice.
We went through all those different ideas…. The idea that anger can be righteous and anger can be unrighteous. We showed how bitterness is always unrighteous and how a person can be in the right, become bitter, and end up being in the wrong. We showed how the scripture says to simply gather…so your husband mistreats you and you gather all your friends and do nothing but put down your husband and how that, now, is a sin in itself. So now we have added sin on top of sin. I went through and showed how, as the offended person, there is scripture after scripture, instruction after instruction in the Bible what we must do as the offended person. And that is not the natural way we handle things. Our natural reaction to being offended is you’re wrong, I am hurt, and you better repent, and you had better fix it. And, of course, that goes back to a couple core problems we have and that is when we are damaged we expect the other person to heal us. Which means the other person is always controlling you. Because what if the person won’t repent? What if the person doesn’t do what they are supposed to do? What if the person doesn’t even understand the offense? It is amazing how many times a person will offend another person and not even know they did it. In a moment of anger, weakness or stupidity just do something very damaging to another person and they don’t even know they did it.
And we have that core problem that we have to defend the image that we have made of ourselves. We are corrupted images of God. And we defend our corrupted image because we see ourselves as gods and that is the heart of the problem. We see ourselves as gods and therefore we will determine how other people worship us. We will determine how other people treat us. And we have expectations of them and when they don’t meet our expectations we feel we have a right to punish them. So, we went through that whole problem and how all of us have been through that. All of us have been offended by somebody and all of us have gone through those various emotions. The one thing I never even got to is, which is a whole new subject in itself, is when offended, what we many times do is impute a motive. When we get to how we actually deal with offense we must find out what the person’s motive was. Because sometimes a person cannot even know what they did. We have to find out what their motive is. What we do is when someone does something wrong to us we automatically impute what? They did that on purpose! I can remember yelling that at my sisters when I was little. “You did that on purpose” and I can remember them yelling that at me “You did that on purpose” . And sometimes it is like “I didn’t do anything on purpose. What are you talking about?”. Right? And so we impute motives. We didn’t even get into that subject.
So, today, I am going to talk about the message to the offender. The person who has committed the sin against a brother. The person who has offended. And remember, we can’t go any place without understanding the ministry of reconciliation and how God reconciles us. We must go back to that and that is why the first message, when I talked about human beings, was not about the offender. You would think it would be. You would think we would go immediately to the offender. The last sermon on this was to the person who was offended. Why? The responsibility to the person who has been offended, according to the scripture, is to be willing to offer forgiveness and be willing to approach, and show forgiveness with the person who has sinned against you. And we went through scripture after scripture that says do this because it is how Christ dealt with you. So there was no question of whether Paul or Peter…both explained how this is to be done and both of them used the exact example, this is how God reconciled you so if you are the person who has been injured, if you are the person that has been sinned against, here is what you must do. And it is not the way we handle things. This is why I said, when I started this series, this is one of about 3 very important doctrines in the church that we have never fully explored, understood, or explained. We haven’t. And because of that, we are missing part of the gospel.
You know, the ministry of reconciliation is a core element of the gospel. Without the ministry of reconciliation, we can’t even fully explain the gospel. So, once we understand what God is doing then we can understand how to apply it to each other. So, okay, where do we go to start the message to the person who has offended, the person who has committed the sin. Well, let’s go to Matthew 18. You know we went through warning after warning last time to those who have been offended. Warning after warning in the scripture that says that can turn into bitterness and hatred and, when it does, the person who was offended is destroyed. And they are not the one that did wrong. But they became wrong because what was done to them. It is like the old adage. When I counsel people who have been abused or people who have been abusers it is amazing how many people who are abusers were abused themselves. And because they were abused what do they do? They become abusers themselves. Which is one of the great tendencies and why there is so much said to the person who has been sinned against. But we will never understand this until we are first reconciled with God. Until we are reconciled with God we will never do any of this. Because we don’t have the strength to do this. It goes against our natural nature and our nature is hostile towards God. So, here is where we begin speaking to those that have committed an offense. We say “oh, yeah, I did something or said something that upset that person, I am sorry. “No, before you ever say I am sorry you need to read this. In verse 6 Jesus had just taken a little child and said that we must become like little children to God.
Matthew 18:6-7 – “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin,” Now, once again, we are dealing with problems and conflicts between Christians here. Because He says “who believe in me”. “Whoever causes one these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!”
So, how serious is it? Remember, all of us have been offended and all of us have offended. I have been offended and I have offended others. And when we offend each other what is Jesus Christ’s instruction? When you offend the little one, which is a fellow Christian, and most of us are little ones. I don’t know too many big ones, right? We are all pretty small Christians. When we offend each other Jesus Christ said… how serious is that? Well, it would be better if someone tied a big rock around your head. It would be better if you had cement shoes and you were taken out into a boat here in the gulf and you were thrown overboard and you drowned. I didn’t make that up. That is what Jesus Christ said. When we do that to each other how does He feel about it? He is explaining exactly how He, as our older brother and head of the church, feels about when we do that to each other. He said it would be better if someone took you out – the mafia took you out – put you in cement shoes and threw you overboard! That’s what would be better than what you have done. So, when we hurt each other, mistreat each other, then we have done something very serious in the eyes of God and in the eyes of Jesus Christ.
So now let’s go through our 5 points – the same 5 that we have been going through. I have offended somebody. You have offended somebody. How are we supposed to deal with that when it is brought to our attention – that we have hurt or sinned against somebody? Well, you ask, “What if it is a false accusation?” When we get into how to actually deal with conflict, then there are ways to deal with a false accusation. But, you know, we all want that right up front. What if it is a false accusation? Well, the challenge here is, as you will see – when someone brings you an accusation – that you automatically don’t say it is false. But you automatically explore, what if it is true? I mean, if every time someone comes to you and says that you have hurt their feelings, your initial response is, “Hey, I didn’t do that,” “Hey, that’s your problem,” “Hey, why don’t you grow up,” “Well, I’m sorry. Let’s forget about it,” – the moment we do that – we are not fulfilling what we are supposed to do with someone who has committed an offense against another person.
So, the first point that we always start with is seek to be reconciled to God. If someone comes to you and says, “You have offended me,” and your initial reaction is, “No, I haven’t,” or defensive, or “I am not going to listen to you,” or you push them away, then what you need to say is, “Can we set up a time to talk about this?” And then you need to go fast and pray and seek reconciliation with God. II Samuel 11. Here is why.
You know the story here. I won’t go through all of it. I won’t read all of it, but I will explain. II Samuel 11 and 12 are about David. It is some hot sleepless night for David, and he is on the top of his palace. In Jerusalem they had flat roofs. The roof itself was actually part of the building. It was a patio and you would sit on it and you would walk around on it. And he’s walking around on the top of his palace – or maybe a balcony of his palace – and he looks out – the palace is going to be a little bigger than all the other buildings – and what does he see? A beautiful woman at night, taking a bath on top of her house, where she thinks nobody can see her. Well, you know what happens, he invites her – she is probably very young at this point – he invites her into his home, and she comes up to the palace, and he seduces here. Now that is abuse. That is abuse of his power and of his manhood. We can say that she went along with it. It is interesting that the Bible doesn’t say much about Bathsheba. It doesn’t even condemn her much. It does put a lot of responsibility on David, because he was the King, and because he is misusing his position. And so he commits adultery. So, he realizes she is married, and he brings her husband, Uriah, back from the front – because he is a soldier – and says, “Go see your wife.” He brings him in asking for a report. And he is confused, because he knows the officers give reports all the time. But, you know, David does this thing where he asks for a report from a foot soldier. So, give me a report. But, Uriah won’t go home to his wife. He says he can’t go back to his wife while his brothers are out there risking their lives, dying in the fields for Israel. So, he won’t go back to her. So, there is no way to convince him that his wife’s pregnancy is caused by him. David even goes as far as to get him drunk. Finally, David sends him back, and in one of the most abusive acts of betrayal you can think of, gave him orders. The orders he took back to Joab, the commander, were his own death warrant. He said, “Send this man out to the most troubled spot of the battle, and when things get rough, have everyone retreat but him. Don’t give him the signal.” And they did. They left him out there and he was killed. I mean, David murdered the man as much as if he had taken a sword and killed him himself.
Now, this is one of the most abusive things you can think of. You seduce a man’s wife. You lie. You steal. You murder a man. And you use your position as king to do it! In all of the Bible, there is not much more abusive than the sins of this man. And it is interesting that God did not kill him. And there is a reason why God did not kill him.
In chapter 12, God sends Nathan to him. We don’t know how much time has gone by – possibly months – but there is some time that has gone by, and David hasn’t repented. And Nathan says to him…he tells him a great story. He says, “I have something I need you to make a ruling on.” He tells him that there is a man in the country – there that is a very rich man. He has the greatest flocks. He has land. He has money. This man needs nothing. But he is such a miser that he gets friends, when they come to visit, and he sends some of his servants to a nearby little farm. And they have a family and they have one lamb. And it wasn’t kept to be eaten. It was a pet. It was the children’s pet. He stole the children’s pet, killed it, and served it to his guests. Now, the normal penalty for stealing is, you had to pay back four times or seven times, depending on the infraction. He jumps right over that. He says, “This is so dastardly – this is a planned out act of sin and aggression – that I say this man has forfeited his life. I want him brought into the palace. We will have a trial and he will be killed.” And Nathan says, “You are that man!”
Now, at this point, what would have raced through the mind? Now, remember, he has lived his life with a power that you and I can’t even imagine. He says something and hundreds of people jump to it. He has the power of life and death over everybody in the kingdom as he showed with Uriah. He has enormous power. And David could have said, “Whoa, I am God’s, and who are you to tell me I am wrong?” He could have said. “You know, Nathan, you don’t understand. I have six wives and they get to fighting, and I just needed someone new. I live under stress here. Nathan, you have no idea. This is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen and I love her” – that is always the thing with adultery – “I love him!” “I love her!” – “I never experienced this love with any of my wives. I love this woman.” He could have said, “Men die in battle all the time. You can’t pin this one on me.” But that is not what he did. What he did is, he said, “I have sinned against the Lord.” What David understood when it was simply placed in front of him! And this is why God did not kill him. This is why God gave him another chance. He understood that his sin against Bathsheba and his sin against Uriah and his sin against his army…. I will tell you what, I can imagine if those troops would have found out what he did…if they did, who would ever trust him again? His sin was against Israel. He sinned against millions of people. But he realized that every sin against a human being is also a sin against God. Every time we abuse each other we are sinning against God.
And that is why, if you have sinned against somebody, what you need to do is, immediately deal with the fact that you have a conflict between you and God. And see, we hardly ever go there. We hardly ever go there. You’ve done something wrong to me – even if we say we are sorry to the person – we almost never go and deal with the conflict we have between us and God, because we don’t take the responsibility.
What David found out and realized is, there are two kinds of judgements from God. When we sin there is temporary judgement and eternal judgement. God didn’t take away the temporary judgement. He suffered. He suffered for the rest of his life. In fact, God told him there would be “violent conflict in your family for the rest of your life.” And the son that is going to be born from the union between you and Bathsheba…he is not going to live, and I am not going to heal him. He is going to die. But he also told him – Nathan said – “Your sin is forgiven.” The eternal consequence of David’s sin is forgiven. His temporary consequence is not.
When you and I sin against each other, there are sometimes temporary consequences because of what we have done to each other. We are looking for reconciliation with God and then we are looking to reconcile with each other. And this means we have to take responsibility for our actions. We must acknowledge our own actions. We must be accountable for what we have done. Remember, when I went through as the offended person, how before you approach the offender, you must ask and answer, “How did I contribute to the problem?” Because many times, when we do that, we find out that the offending person we offended somewhere along the way, too. We contributed to the problem. But see, we don’t think in those terms. When we hurt, we are wrong. So the person that has been offended must take responsibility. But the offender really must take responsibility. The offender must say, “How did I do this? What did I do? I must be responsible. I must be accountable for what I have done. And if I have sinned I must do something about it. I must respond.”
You know, in the end, what kind of people we are, in terms of our Christianity, comes down to how we respond, right? God calls you? What do you do? We are talking about our responsibility. It is about how we respond to God. It is how we respond. When God gives us His law what do you do? We repent. What is repentance? It is a response to God. What is our obedience? It is a response to God. What is our faith? Our faith is a response to God. God didn’t call you because you had great faith in Him. You have faith in Him because He called you. So even faith is a response. It is our responsibility. And so, when we have sinned against another person, God in not only going to judge our sin, He is going to judge how we respond to the person whom we have offended – how we respond to them.
Matthew 5 is very interesting. I don’t know how many times in my life I have taken somebody to this scripture and I have said, “Do you think this scripture says, ‘If somebody has done something wrong to you, leave your gift at the alter and go deal with it?’” And half the time the person says, “Yes, that is what is says.” No, it doesn’t.
Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you….” When we go to worship God, there is a moment where we are either reconciled to God or not. We come here every week to be reconciled to God. We pray every day to be reconciled to God. We try to obey God every day. We try to live by faith to be reconciled to God. To have a relationship with God. And he says there are times when you are worshipping God, and at that moment you will remember – maybe because God helps you remember – that somebody has been offended by you. And what do you do? “…leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
He doesn’t say, “First be reconciled to your brother and then be reconciled to God.” The whole point is, you are coming to God in reconciliation. You are responding to God. And as you are responding to God, there is point where you say you have to come to grips with…wait a minute. “If I am not in reconciliation with my brother, God expects me to stop and go deal with it. I am coming with my gift to God. I am coming to worship God.” And in that act – in response to His reconciliation – we are motivated to go reconcile with someone who we even think we have offended. That is how important this is. If a brother has something against you go to the brother. This is the responsibility of the offender. You may go to your brother, and the brother may say that you didn’t offend him. I have that happen all the time.
I am amazed how many people call me from here, or Austin, or Waco, and say, “I think I may have said something wrong to you,” and I have no idea what they are talking about. And then I will say, “You didn’t offend me.” But I am always amazed when somebody does it, because I think, “Wow! They are doing this.” “I think I have offended somebody…I had better go talk to them about it.” Because it is never easy to do that. I think I have done somebody harm. Have I done somebody harm? Then I’d better go try to undo the harm. When we are acutely aware of the reconciliation we have with God, we become acutely aware, and have a desire to reconcile with those we have hurt. When we don’t, there is a problem between us and God.
When you and I are in a conflict so deep that it is separating us as Christians, we create a conflict, or we open up again the conflict we have with God. That is why God tells us guys – in Peter – to treat are wives right so that our prayers be not hindered. What’s He saying? When we misuse our wives, God says “You have a conflict with me.” And, wives, it is the same way. When you misuse your husbands, you now have a conflict with God. And there will be problems with you and God.
As we talked last time, sometimes you can’t reconcile with somebody. They won’t let you. We’ll talk about that when we get into conflict resolution, but here we are talking about the attitude. If we don’t have the attitude and approach down, if we don’t have the understanding down, conflict resolution will achieve little or nothing. We must come with this attitude. So, when you have offended somebody or somebody comes to you and says, “You have hurt me. You have offended me. You have sinned against me,” the first thing you and I need to do is make sure we are reconciled with God. Because if we are reconciled with God, we will say, “Okay, let me put my gift here, and let me go deal with the person who I have offended. Let me go deal with the person I have hurt. Let me go deal with the person I have sinned against. Let me go help heal that.”
Now the second point – and some of you have this written down, so you remember the points – we have to give up the need we have to control the other person. As the offender, what is it you want? If you have done something wrong to somebody, what is it you want? Forgiveness and reconciliation – and maybe a little piece of the person, too. Okay, okay, I am sorry. I shouldn’t have said that, but you really shouldn’t be this angry. That’s not an apology. That is a backhanded way of now trying to correct the person that you have offended. Now, maybe their anger is out of control. And there is a point in time that you have to go deal with, “You know, you sinned against me with your anger.” But if the offended person comes to you, that’s not when to do that. When they come to you, you have to give up the need to control their reaction. What you have to do, is you must be willing to take ownership and responsibility of what you did wrong. Now, their contribution may have been enormous, but you don’t start there. We are talking about where you start. The starting point is, “Yes, I see what you are talking about. I contributed in this way and I am sorry.”
You know the Bible talks about confessing. “I am sorry” is not a confession. I have seen people say, “I am sorry,” but then the other person says, “What are you sorry for?” “I don’t know. I am sorry for your feelings getting hurt and that we have some sort of problem between us.” That is not confession. That is appeasement. That is not even an acknowledgement that we did something wrong. I’ll tell you what, if that is how we repent to God, we have no salvation.
What is it to repent to God? We acknowledge that we are sinners. We acknowledge that we break his law. And we acknowledge that we have a corrupt human nature. And that’s repentance. Repentance is an absolute acknowledgement. “My innate nature is corrupt. It is an abomination.” We went the way the word means and how it is used. And that “I am, by nature, your enemy.” That’s what we repent of. See, when our neighbor comes to us and says, “You’ve hurt me. You’ve offended me. You’ve sinned against me,” what we want to do, at this point, is to defend our corrupted image of ourselves. And that is why we have to acknowledge, “If I’ve sinned – I’d better make sure here – because if I’ve sinned against this person, I have also sinned against God. And therefore, I have a requirement to repent.” The thing is, if we’ve sinned against a person, we must repent to God, and we must repent to the person we sinned against. We must confess that sin and we must repent of it. That means you have to listen to that person and understand the indictment. You have to understand the accusation. You say, “Whoa whoa, don’t start coming here accusing me!” – and there is a time that we have to deal with a false accusation – that’s another story. But when a brother or sister comes to us and says, “You did this,” we must stop and say, “Explain to me how I did that. Explain to me what I did. Explain to me how you feel.”
Now sometimes you may find that it was a simple misunderstanding and all you have to say at some point is, “Oh, I get that. I remember that now. You are right. I did say that. It was like half a sentence. I didn’t finish the rest of the sentence. There is no way you could even understand what I meant.” And you explain it, and the other person goes, “Oh, okay.” It is amazing how sometimes offenses can be dealt with by just simply understanding where the offended person is coming from, and be willing to acknowledge, “Oh, I contributed to this.”
Now, sometimes we contribute big time. We actually sinned against the other person, we offended them. We lied about them. We slandered them. We said something terrible to them. We made a promise and didn’t keep it. We made a business deal and cheated them. You know, there are times that Christians do terrible things to each other. And we have to deal with those things when we bring them to our attention. So, even as the offender, when someone approaches you, your first reaction, with corrupt human nature, is to try to control their response. “Okay, I am sorry. Now you have to forgive me. If you don’t forgive me, you have a problem.” No, we have to step back, stop trying to control their response, and analyze, “How am I responding? What have I done to this person? What is my response?”
The third problem we talked about is, we then need to seek God’s solution instead of fulfilling your desires and expectations. Now this is hard, because I know my reaction. When someone comes to me and confronts me over something, it is hard because my very first reaction is, “Oh no! Let me explain my side of the story.” I have to try to force myself to not do that. Because we have to listen instead of saying, “You have to meet my expectations.” We have to step back a minute and meet that person’s expectations. Remember, I gave you a series of questions to ask yourself if you are the person who is offended? Let me give you a series of questions to ask yourself if you are the offender. If someone comes to you and says “You have offended me.” This is why sometimes you have to say, “Explain to me and let me think about this,” or “Let’s set up a time that we can discuss this, because I don’t know how to work this through”. Questions you need to ask yourself:
- Did I sin against this person? Did I hurt them through ignorance? Has there been some kind of miscommunication between us and how did I contribute?
The first thing you need to ask yourself is, “Did I sin? Let me figure out what I have done here or was I just being ignorant. I ignored the person’s feelings. Here this person has been having a terrible trial. They just found out a relative died, and I am cracking jokes, and I hurt the person’s feelings. Wow, I was insensitive so I have to deal with that.” Sometimes It is just miscommunication. Sometimes we say the stupidest things. So, the first thing is, “How did I contribute? Did I slander this person? Maybe I shouldn’t have said that about this person. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so mean to them. I really did lose my temper with that person. I sinned.” That is the first question we should ask ourselves instead of defending ourselves.
Then second question is:
- How must I take responsibility for my actions?
And, I tell you what, sometimes responsibility for our actions means restitution. We don’t think about that much. You know, let’s apply this to someone outside the church. If your neighbor comes over and says, “Your dog got loose and came over and impregnated my dog. And my dog is a thoroughbred and your dog is a Heinz 57 mutt.” Right? “You ruined my dog.” Our reaction might be, “Come on! They are dogs!” I mean, thoroughbred dogs? How dumb is that? Dogs are dogs. But you might say, “Well, I am sorry. I will tell you what I will do. I will patch up that area and keep my dog on a leash so that he doesn’t get over there.” You think you have made restitution. You think you have fixed how you damaged your neighbor. Restitution says you pay for the dog you have ruined. That is restitution. And the scripture requires restitution if we are the offender. Now if that person says “I forgive you. It is okay,” that is wonderful. If they don’t, we don’t have the right to say, “What is wrong with those people – charging me $300 for that stupid little poodle. I hate poodles anyway. They’re French. What did the French ever do?” No, our requirement, our desire – understand this – as the offender, our desire should be to restore whatever damage we have done. That’s Christian. “I damaged your dog. I will buy you a new one for $300” – because you are responsible for your actions.
The third question:
- What lessons can God teach me from this? What lessons can God teach me about how to treat other people better – about how not to sin, how to deal with when someone has a false accusation, how to deal with a situation where someone is angry with me and shouldn’t be? What lessons must I learn?
A fourth question:
- Am I being defensive because I feel threatened? And then we have to say, “Okay, why I am feeling threatened? What image of myself am I trying to defend?” It is natural to feel that way. I feel that way when someone approaches me. You try to deal with that feeling of being threatened. Sometimes you have to tell somebody, “I am going to have to think this through, I am feeling threatened by this.” But why do I feel threatened? What image of myself am I trying to protect?
And then a fifth question:
- Am I angry because my pride is injured?
So, a person comes to you. They say, “You have hurt me and have done something wrong.” We think about it and say, “You know what? You are right. I did wrong. Let me apologize for that. I am sorry.” And you hug each other. And then the person walks away. And then the next Sabbath you come to church and they are ignoring you. And you say, “Boy, that person didn’t forgive me. That person is a real sinner. And I am offended by them.” But you have to understand something. Trust is earned. And when you and I break trust with each other it takes a very, very special person to restore that trust right away. Most of the time it takes time to heal – Proverbs 18. That is why Solomon wrote this proverb – Proverbs 18:19. So, just as we went through this enormous responsibility on the offended person, how they are to act, how they are to work through the offense, how we can sin….in fact most of the time, when we are offended, we actually sin back. The Bible just talks about it over and over again. One of the things that destroys people more than any other sin is when you are the innocent person and you have been mistreated by a fellow Christian. More people have been destroyed spiritually, probably, by being the innocent person who is offended, and mistreated, and sinned against by a fellow Christian than anything else, because of the bitterness and the anger and the hatred that forms.
Let’s look at Proverbs 18:19:
Proverbs 18:19 – “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle.” When you have offended someone, you must give them the time to heal. And you must continually, now, reach out to the person you have offended. You must continually reach out and sometimes you must take a little bit of abuse from them to show that you are truly sorry, you have truly repented, and you are not trying to hurt them in any way. Trust is earned. And it takes a very special person – that when they forgive, they say, “Okay, I trust you again.” Usually it takes time and we have to understand that.
The fourth point is then, as the offender, you must seek to heal the other person’s damaged emotions. Remember these same five points. Remember how we said what is remarkable about God? He is the offended person and yet all of his reactions are actually trying to heal the offender? God is trying to heal the offender. God is trying to heal the sinner. Well, in this case you are the sinner. You’ve hurt somebody, you’ve damaged somebody and they come to you. We now try to heal them. We try not to continue to be offensive. And this is what is very important about even the concept of being offensive.
Jesus Christ offended a lot of people during His ministry on earth. But I want you to understand something. Jesus never offended anybody because of His meanness. Jesus never offended anybody because He was trying to manipulate them – because they didn’t meet His expectations. Jesus never offended anybody because He was trying to project His rights onto others. In fact, if He would have projected His rights onto others, He would have killed everybody on the face of the earth – because He had the right to do so. By the law of God, He had the right to do so. Jesus never offended people because of His egocentrics, because He just didn’t care about other people’s feelings. When Jesus offended people, it is because He told the truth from God’s viewpoint. And there are times when we are going to offend people by telling the truth through God’s viewpoint. That kind of offense must be because the people are offended with God. They are offended with the truth.
I have seen, over the years, many people use God’s truth as a weapon to offend anybody they didn’t like or make them feel superior to other people. At that point you are offending people for the wrong reason. You know, there is a very interesting story here in Matthew 17. Let’s go to Matthew 17:24, because this tells us a lot about Christ’s approach.
Matthew 17:24-26 – “When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?”He said, “Yes.”And when he had come into the house, Jesus answered him, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” Peter said to Him, “From strangers.”Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.”
Now His argument is, if we are the sons of God, we shouldn’t have to pay the temple tax. Now, he’s not talking about tithes here. There was a special temple tax. And He, as the Son, He is the Messiah. Why would the Messiah have to pay a temple tax? Now I am sure Peter – Peter didn’t respond – I am sure Peter is thinking, “I am not even sure what He is saying, and usually when I say that, I end up in trouble. So, I will just keep my mouth shut.” But it is His next statement that He wants to lead Peter to.
Verse 27 – “Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.” Jesus said, “You know, Peter, I don’t have to pay a temple tax. But we will pay it anyways because we will not offend those people.”
This is the Creator of the universe. The Creator of the universe said, “They won’t understand so I will pay the tax even though I morally don’t have to.” Yes, Jesus offended people. But He always offended them because they were offended with God. He simply told the truth and in telling the truth people became offended with Him and God. Notice, though, His lifestyle was that – except for the truth of God – everything He did, even if He didn’t have to, even when it was an imposition for Him to do so, He acted in ways that would not offend other people. If the Creator of the universe…we keep going back to Christ. If the ministry of reconciliation is about not only the work that God is doing through Christ but the example of Jesus Christ. We keep going back to Him. Everything takes us back to what God is doing through Christ in the reconciliation. And we go back and say, “Look Peter, we are going to have to learn a lesson here. And that is a lot of time you do things just so that it doesn’t offend somebody – not because you have to but because your concern is not offending the other person.”
Jesus never backed down. That is where you and I have to learn that we never back down from the truth. We never back down when we know the truth is going to offend somebody. But we still try to do even that in a manner that brings glory to God. And in the everyday actions of life we try not to offend. How much more should that be in the church? That we try not to offend each other? Because remember one of our premise statements – in the very first sermon? Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. So, here, as the offender – as the person who sinned – you ask how to be a peacemaker. “I have offended this person and they are not letting go of that anger right away. They are mad at me for a while. They are upset with me. They don’t trust me. What is their problem?” Instead of doing that, our response should be, “I offended that person. Now what must I do to not continue the offense? What must I do to not pile offense on top of offense? What must I do to help that person heal. I have damaged that person and I wish to help them heal.” Now you can’t, and I can’t, always heal each other emotionally. That takes God’s help. But we already talked about going to God for healing, if you are the damaged person.
You know, when we went through point 4, when we said that, if you are the offended person, you have to go to God for healing of your emotions, healing of your mind. As the offender, you want to reach out to that person. And then that last point – where one of the major causes of conflict between us and God and between us and each other – is pride. And that means that, as the offender you and I must seek humility – must first seek humility – before we can even solve the problem we have with the person. And this may be the most difficult aspect of repenting – humility. Because you know what we do. Genesis 3. Now we started, in the first sermon – and we keep going back to certain points – where human nature became corrupt because they ate of the knowledge of good and evil. So every human being became a mixture of good and evil. And because of that, we have conflict with God and we have conflict with each other – because we are a mixture of good and evil. But what happened after they did that? Let’s go back to Genesis 3 and just look at the story.
So they eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now, up to this point there had never been a lie told between a human being and God. There had never been a lie told between a human being and a human being – until Satan got to them and convinced them. They have an immediate change of nature. They see everything differently. Look at verse 6 of Genesis 3:
Genesis 3:6 – ”So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”
So, that is where we stopped in the first sermon when we were reading through this. But let’s read, now, the immediate response of this. The reaction of what happened from this consequence.
Genesis 3:7 – “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.”
They had no embarrassment, as husband and wife, of their own nakedness before this. They were very comfortable with it. It was a good thing. God says, “I made them male and female.” And He made them without clothes, and He introduced them to each other without clothes, and God’s answer was, “This is very good. I have done something very good here.” And the angels are saying, “How do you do this stuff?” Immediately, there is a change of nature. There is guilt. There are wrong thoughts. There is confusion. Why? They have established themselves as gods. Up to this point, spiritually, they were still in the image of God. They are now corrupted images of God, and as corrupted images of God, they are mixing good and evil together, and internally – inside their own minds and hearts – they are becoming confused. They are feeling anxiety and shame.
Verse 8 – “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”
They needed a relationship with God and now their nature is so hostile towards God – filled with such shame and guilt – that they hide from God. See how their nature has changed? They are hiding from God. “He’s going to get us. He is going to hurt us. We have been bad.” And they are hiding.
Genesis 3:9-13 “Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” Remember, this isn’t because God didn’t know where they were. It is like the little child that is hiding behind the chair saying, “Daddy, find me!” You know how they are out in the open and they are covering their eyes. “You can’t see me!” “Oh, where are you?”. We have all played that little game with children, right? God says, “Where are you?” “So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” He has fear. He never had fear before. Guilt, shame – these are all new things. They had never experienced any of this before. He said he also knew there was something wrong with his body. And his wife: “There is something wrong with us.” There wasn’t anything wrong with him before that point. “And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”
And now notice the initial reaction. Now pride comes in. “I can’t be wrong! The little god that I made myself…it is not my fault.” Lack of responsibility is the immediate corrupted human nature reaction. “Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” Now remember, “It is the woman that you gave me. You know, ultimately, God, you really messed up here. I would have never eaten that fruit, but you made her. It is your fault and her fault.” What happens here is this, pride dictates, “I can’t be wrong and even if I am wrong it is really not my fault. Somebody else made me do it.” This is where we go. We don’t want to be wrong. He had to admit he was wrong so what does he say? “I am guilty with explanation” – which, in some courts of law, you can be guilty, or not guilty, or guilty with explanation. And we all want to go before God and say - guilty or not guilty? “Guilty with explanation!”
I have actually dealt with human being who could never repent because they blamed God for their own sin. I have actually dealt with people like that. “If God would have never exposed us to Satan, we never would have sinned. It is His fault we sinned.” I don’t even know what to say to somebody after that. “And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” SATAN! “The devil made me do it! It is his fault. It is really not my fault.”
When someone comes to us – now remember, they are being confronted by God. Okay? – we will say, “I have to apologize to God.” But, when somebody else comes to us, “Okay, you are right. I have listened to what you have said, and you are right. I shouldn’t have said that. But, you know what? It is so hard to be around you. You are right, I did that, because you just complain all the time and I can’t stand it. Yes, you are right, but let me explain to you how bad you are. So you can understand that I am really not bad with what I did.” We must take responsibility for our part. You don’t take responsibility for somebody else’s part. But you must take responsibility for your part.
Let’s turn to Philippians 2. The last scripture we are going to go to. How do we deal with pride? Well, there is another little series of questions I want you to ask yourself. That I need to ask myself on a regular basis. And sometimes I fail.
Philippians 2:3-4 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit” – pride – “but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
So, if someone comes to you and says, “You have sinned against me,” you need to ask yourself a couple of questions in relationship to these verses:
First Question: Am I resisting taking responsibility for my actions because of my need to appear righteous? Do I feel that confessing will make others lose respect for me? Sometimes we just can’t admit it because, “Well, if I admit it, and they don’t take responsibility, people will lose respect for me. I can’t admit that I am wrong!” Well, this scripture says we must.
Second Question: Am I resisting taking responsibility for my actions because I see the other person as spiritually inferior to me? “Yeah, I did something wrong, but let’s face it. You know who that person is? They are really barely converted. Let me tell you about that person’s sins! Whoa! I knew that person 20 years ago, so let me tell you about that person’s sins.” And so we don’t take responsibility, because we actually believe – we don’t say it, but we know in our hearts that we believe – that that person is spiritually inferior to us. Am I willing to listen to the offended person and strive to understand his or her viewpoint?
And, then, the last question: Am I willing to take the offended person’s interests as seriously as my own interests? “Well, whoa! Their interests are as serious as my own?” Isn’t that what Paul just said? How do you do that? Well, he takes us – in the next verse – I am going to read this in the NIV – he takes us in the next verse to an example of how to do this. So, he says, “Okay, this is difficult. This is hard, so let me give you an example of how to do this.” Philippians 2:5, reading from the New International Version. So verse 4 says each of you should not look out for your own interest but for the interests of others. So this person says, “I have offended this person. I have my interests. I have my feelings. I have my ideas. Okay, but I have to hold that person’s interests as equal to mine.” Well, how can you do that? Well, Paul says here is how you do it.
Reading from the NIV – verse 5:
Philippians 2:5 “Your attitude should be the same as Jesus Christ.” Well, he takes us back to where he goes in every one of these cases we talk about. Let’s go back to the example of the person who has reconciled us to God. Let’s go back to Him – His reconciliation, His example – is what we do. “…Who being in form the very nature of God…” – it says, in the form of God in the King James. We think of a form like an outline of something. That word form has much more substance than that. And this is a more literal translation. He was, by very nature, God. You and I are, by nature, corrupted images of God who have received the divine nature as an act of healing. He was, by very nature, God, and did not consider a quality with God something to be grasped but made Himself – it was a decision – He made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant. He could have come as the emperor of the Roman Empire. But he didn’t. He came as a servant by nature. The nature of Jesus Christ, the divine nature and flesh was a servant being made in human likeness.
Verse 6 – “And being found in the appearance of a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on the cross.”
His point here is, if the sinless son of God humbled himself by becoming, by nature, a servant in a human body, when you’ve sinned against somebody, can we not humble ourselves to confess and try to bring peace to the person we’ve offended? Can we not do that? Can we not try to do that?
We are back to spiritual poverty, aren’t we? The concept we began in the first sermon. Humility and spiritual poverty before God are the keys to reconciliation whether you are the person who has offended or the person who has committed the offense. If you are the person who has offended or you are the person who has committed the offense, it still comes down to that. Humility and spiritual poverty before God are the keys.
Only after understanding the ministry of reconciliation between God and yourself, carried out through Jesus Christ, only then can we do what we are going to discuss next time – what everybody wants to know when we talk about this subject. Everybody says, “Give us some means and ways to carry out reconciliation.” Well, we covered four sermons that give us the attitude, the understanding, the example of God. Well, next time we can finally now go through methods, if you will, of reconciliation.