An Earnest Appeal to Preserve and Promote True Peace within the Body of Christ (Part 3)
Topic: Peacemaking Passage: Ephesians 4:26–27, Luke 17:1–4, Matthew 5:23–24
AN EARNEST APPEAL TO PRESERVE AND PROMOTE TRUE PEACE WITHIN THE BODY OF CHRIST–PART 3
By Pastor Brian Wilbur
Date: January 28, 2024
Series: Peace in the Church
Note: Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Let’s get right to the point: Speak directly to the person with whom you are having conflict, and do so as quickly as possible. Getting this point across is the burden of this message.
Last Sunday we pondered what it means to humbly, gently, and patiently “[bear] with one another” in an attitude of love and goodwill. The primary role of “bearing with one another in love” is that it prevents conflict from erupting in the first place. Every flaw, every shortcoming, every disagreement represents a potential conflict, but when we “[bear] with one another in love”, we don’t allow that flaw or shortcoming or disagreement to disturb our peace. Instead, we continue to relate to each other graciously and kindly, and there is no conflict. Mutual kindhearted forbearance prevents a thousand conflicts from ever getting off the ground. How do I know if you are humbly, gently, and patiently bearing with a fellow believer in love? You’re not about to blow your lid. You’re not fed up. The one who is forbearing is genuinely at peace, and life is good, because his internal disposition is to roll graciously with external challenges.
However, sometimes conflicts do get off the ground. Sometimes, for one reason or another, we are unable to “[bear] with one another in love”: conflict happens, peace is disturbed, and relationships are strained and at risk of being broken. Or perhaps the conflict is so severe that the relationship is already broken. When conflict has broken forth and relationships are put under the weight of sin or a sharp disagreement, then “bearing with one another in love” is not enough to quiet the turbulent waters. Something more is required.
When something more than forbearance is required
There is more than one possible reason why something more than forbearance is sometimes required. I reckon there are at least four possible reasons why something more than forbearance may be required to preserve or restore peace.
- Reason #1: Your capacity to graciously forbear is reaching its limit, and you are unable to patiently bear with your brother or sister any longer. Your brother or sister is grating against you, rubbing you the wrong way, and you can’t shake it. Perhaps you should be able to shake it. Perhaps if you were more mature in your walk, you would be able to let it go. But for whatever reason, you can’t let it go, and so some other step needs to be taken.
- Reason #2: Another person has sinned (or seems to have sinned), and you’re obligated to address it.
- Reason #3: Another person charges that you have sinned (or seemed to have sinned), and you’re obligated to address it.
- Reason #4: You have a sharp disagreement or heated dispute with someone else, and some form of resolution must be sought. A sharp disagreement or heated dispute may or may not necessarily involve a specific sin. At the end of Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement with each other about whether to take Mark on their second missionary journey. Neither was able to put up with the other’s proposed course of action, so the matter was resolved by dividing into two teams, Barnabas going one way (with Mark) and Paul going another way (with Silas).
The Main Idea
Now I admit that I’m painting with broad brush strokes this morning, but for the sake of the peacemaking tactic that I want to highlight in this sermon, I’m throwing all these situations into the same bucket. But you need to be aware that these various situations do differ from one another: having a sharp disagreement is not the same thing as having sinned against someone else or having been sinned against by someone else, and neither of those situations is the same thing as simply being bothered by something that you’re unable to shake off. Different situations, different intensities, different things to consider. But for the purposes of this morning’s message, I want to drive home one basic, very simple, and routinely ignored peacemaking tactic:
Speak directly to the person with whom you are having conflict (actual conflict, apparent conflict, budding conflict), and do it as quickly as possible.
In other words: address the problem head-on by interacting directly with the relevant person or relevant people with whom you are having the problem. If there is some obstacle to peaceful fellowship between you and another believer, apply yourself to the removal of that obstacle – and in many cases, speaking directly to the other person is a necessary part of removing the obstacle.
With this basic peacemaking tactic in mind, let me set a few passages before you to drive this point home.
As a simple on-ramp to the discussion, take a look at Ephesians 4:26-27, which says: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:26-27) Of course, we are supposed to be “slow to anger” (James 1:19). But in Ephesians 4:26-27, Paul envisions a situation in which anger begins to get some traction in your heart. It is important to clearly state that this rise of anger is not necessarily sinful. The instruction to “Be angry and do not sin” assumes that it is possible to have righteous anger that doesn’t lead you into sin. It is profoundly right to be angry at wickedness! However, Paul’s instruction also assumes that the anger that has arisen in your heart needs to be defused or relieved quickly. In other words, anger – however righteous it may be in its inception – will not age well in your heart. If the anger is allowed to fester, smolder, and gnaw away at your mind, then you are essentially inviting the devil to have breakfast with you in the morning – and that never goes well. Thus the instruction to “not let the sun go down on your anger” must be taken with utmost seriousness, because if the sun goes down on your anger, then the sun will also rise on your anger in the morning, and the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion will see an opportunity to pounce.
Now as far as Paul’s instruction in verse 26 goes, there is more than one possible way to defuse your anger before the sun goes down. Going back to verse 2, you might be able to find a place for forbearance. You might be able to see the person and situation that made you angry in the larger frame of divine mercy, and you can genuinely let go. From that moment forward, it’s like water off the duck’s back, and you lay your head down and get a good night of sleep. And the devil won’t be joining you for coffee in the morning. Forbearance is one way to defuse anger before the sun goes down.
On the other hand, another way to defuse your anger before the sun goes down is to make a phone call or arrange for a meeting with the person that has angered you. Maybe simply touching base with the person or having the issues clarified with them will defuse your anger. Or maybe what is required is the forgiveness that is mentioned in verse 32, and you want to immediately begin to cultivate that forgiveness, but you also need to have a conversation as soon as possible with the offending party in order to be reconciled, extend forgiveness, and restore the relationship. It may be very messy, of course, and it requires “all humility and gentleness” (Ephesians 4:2) as well as kindness and tenderheartedness (Ephesians 4:32), but it is far better than giving an “opportunity to the devil”. The devil wants to entrap us in a web of accusation, bitterness, and broken fellowship. Our Lord wants to bless us with free grace, forgiveness, and steadfast love throughout our church family.
Now let’s get some specific passages in front of us that push us toward those hard conversations when one Christian has sinned against another believer. Jesus urges us to take sin with great seriousness in Luke 17:1-4, which says,
“And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”” (Luke 17:1-4)
Although I’m interested primarily in verses 3-4 at the moment, I’ll briefly include verses 1-2 in the comments. In these verses, Jesus is telling us to have a principled opposition against sin. Sin is utterly destructive to the sinner and to everyone that the sinner is influencing. So, Jesus tells us three ways to make war against sin. First, make every effort to not tempt or provoke others to sin (v. 1-2). Second, confront your fellow Christian when he or she sins (v. 3). Third, forgive your fellow Christian when he or she repents (v. 3-4). Jesus our faithful shepherd is on a mission to rescue His people from sin – not only the initial rescue that happens when we are converted, justified, and forgiven, but also the ongoing rescue that is part of the daily sanctification of overcoming sin and growing in grace. Jesus our faithful shepherd sends you to be His gracious representative, and to go to your sinning brother in order to win him back to the way of righteousness. The goal is that the sin be covered through forgiveness, and that your fellow Christian enjoy forgiveness, reconciliation, and restored fellowship.
Notice the obvious: “If your brother sins, rebuke him”. Jesus didn’t say, ‘If your brother sins, be shocked and dismayed that such a thing could happen, and keep replaying the scene over and over again until you’re really worked up about it.’ Jesus also didn’t say, ‘If your brother sins, be sure to tell your close friends about it.’ How sad when a person learns that his failures and faults – or his perceived failures and faults – have been broadcast to others by someone who was upset. What Jesus tells us to do is: “If your brother sins, rebuke him” (italics added). Elsewhere, Jesus said: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15, italics added) The goal is not to publicize your brother’s sin, but to pour out grace upon him. You want to gain your brother or sister. In the dignity of a private conversation characterized by brotherly love, you want your brother to come clean, be cleansed, have his sin covered, and then have the whole matter wonderfully forgotten: a fresh start, and a clean slate.
Another obvious thing from Luke 17:3-4 should be noted – the sin is not being swept under the rug, the sin is not being glossed over. The sin is being clearly identified, the one who has sinned is owning up to it, and the one who was sinned against is extending forgiveness. Confrontation, repentance, and forgiveness are worlds apart from pretending that a problem doesn’t exist or speaking in vague generalities and offering and accepting a superficial apology that frankly never acknowledges the real issue. Dig deep, speak clearly, get to the bottom of it, and discover an abundance of grace.
It is obvious in Luke 17:3-4 and Matthew 18:15 that love is the motivating factor of taking corrective action: you want to win your brother and convey forgiveness to him. The motivation is not to give your brother a piece of your mind, or to tear him down. The motivation is not to shame him or belittle him or humiliate him or tell him how bad he is. The Lord loves your brother or sister, and the Lord is sending you to be His instrument in order to bring grace and healing into that brother’s or sister’s life. Your brother or sister is in God’s workshop; sanctification is in progress; handle with care! Your goal is not to score a personal victory, your goal is not to settle a score, but to win your brother or sister!
Further, gentleness must govern your approach: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” (Galatians 6:1) In the context of Galatians 5-6, to be “spiritual” is to be in tune with the Holy Spirit. You are not qualified to address another person’s sin if you are in an unspiritual frame of mind. A spiritual frame of mind is described a few verses earlier in Galatians 5:22-23 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”. “[If] anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” (Galatians 6:1, italics added) Don’t attempt to correct someone if what you really want is to have his head chopped off! Don’t attempt to correct someone if you have the log of anger protruding from your critical eye, because then when you get close enough to take the speck out of your brother’s eye, the log of anger and resentment is going to injure your brother. “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5) Who sees clearly? The one who is spiritual, the one who is exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit, the one whose sense of well-being is in the Lord and is therefore free to demonstrate love to someone who doesn’t deserve it.
So, if someone has sinned or sinned against you, you have a responsibility to graciously and gently bring correction and restoration.
But Jesus envisions another situation in Matthew 5:23-24. Here the situation is not that someone else has sinned against you, but rather than you are aware that someone else has something against you. In other words, you are aware that someone else has a complaint against you, a grievance against you. You are aware that someone else has been offended by you. Now what? Jesus says,
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)
So this brings the responsibility full circle. Whose responsibility is it to seek reconciliation: the offended party or the offending party? Answer: Yes! Of course, the offending party cannot seek reconciliation if he is unaware that someone else has something against him. But there are times when you will sense that someone else has an issue with you, or you will somehow find out that this is indeed the case. When that happens, you must seek reconciliation as quickly as possible.
Ephesians 4 told us to address our own anger before the sun goes down. Now Matthew 5 tells us to address the other person’s anger before you offer your gift at the altar of worship. “First be reconciled to your brother”! Don’t go to your brother in a spirit of defensiveness or resentment, but with a genuine desire to hear your brother and make peace with him. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9) If someone else is upset or unsettled on my account, then I ought to pursue that person’s well-being by seeing to it that my relationship with that person gets ironed out, and that as quickly as possible.
So, both the offended party and the offending party have a responsibility to pursue peace. Thus far, all this may seem rather neat and tidy: the offended party rebukes the offending party, the offending party repents, and the offended party extends forgiveness. Or the offending party seeks out the offended party, makes amends, and the two are reconciled. If only it always went so smoothly!
Always honor the truth
But sometimes these interactions may be quite messy, and here’s the thing I want to impress upon you: the attempt to be reconciled must take place within the context of honoring the truth. And frankly, being the sinners that we are, sometimes two people who are at odds with one another are unable to agree upon the facts of the case. At other times, the two people who were at odds may come to realize that their supposed conflict was much ado about nothing. Have you ever been apprehensive about a difficult conversation that you had to have, and yet after just a few minutes into the conversation, the whole thing is resolved, mutual love is affirmed, and the two of you are at peace? You envisioned this big fight ahead, and yet you quickly realize that there is no animosity, no ill-will, no arrogance, and the reconciliation comes easy. This reminds me of that fly that went by, courtesy of author Mike McClintock:
“The fly ran away
In fear of the frog,
Who ran from the cat,
Who ran from the dog.
The dog ran away
In fear of the pig,
Who ran from the cow.
She was so big!
The cow ran away
From the fox, who ran
As fast as he could
In fear of the man.
That man heard a thump,
And away he ran!
It was just a sheep,
With an old tin can!”
And that sheep didn’t want to hurt anyone – the sheep only wanted help! Every creature misinterpreted the actions of the other one! And there’s a lot of that, you know. Many of our conflicts seem super big to our anxious imagination’s eye, and yet a simple 10-minute conversation would clear it up and both people would have the joy of knowing that they are walking in love and peace toward each other. One practical benefit of addressing conflict is that silly misperceptions can evaporate in the noonday light of truth.
At other times, however, the reconciliation doesn’t come easy, and the reason it doesn’t come easy is because the two of you don’t even agree on what happened. Here again, it is so important to interact directly with the person with whom you have conflict, because often your perception of the other person and your perception of the conflict are not accurate. It should come as no surprise that misperceptions and misunderstandings happen among sinners on a regular basis. As long as you dig in your heels on your perception of a conflict, and you refuse to sort it out with a rigorous commitment to discovering and honoring the truth, then to that degree you are at risk of believing distortions, believing lies, believing the misrepresentations that have been formed in your mind.
The importance of the truth in Ephesians 4, Colossians 3, and the Proverbs
The commitment to honor the truth must never be sidelined in our reconciliation efforts, otherwise our imagined reconciliation may be built upon a foundation of lies, and that foundation will crumble sooner or later. The assumption in all biblical commands to pursue correction, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation is that truth is being spoken, accurate perceptions of reality are being maintained, and God’s standard of righteousness is being honored. This stands in contrast to the way of the world: so often the world seeks after a form of peace that is severed from truth. Other people demand an apology, and you feel pressured to issue an apology – not because it coheres with truth, but to keep up appearances or to placate your accuser. This is totally out of place in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whereas the heart of the unbeliever is darkened and immersed in deceit, believers have the light of the Lord shining upon them, and this demands that we operate in truth. Right before telling us, “Be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26), Paul wrote: “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25)
Over in Colossians 3, before telling us to “[bear] with one another” and “[forgive] one another”, Paul said: “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:9-10)
Then there are these good words from Proverbs:
“Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit.” (Proverbs 12:17)
“Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.” (Proverbs 12:19)
“Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight.” (Proverbs 12:22)
When an offended party and an offending party come together in conversation in order to sort out an issue, both parties must be rigorously committed to the truth. Each party must humbly recognize that his own perception of the conflict might, in fact, be a misperception. The offended party should be genuinely open to the possibility that he misunderstands what was done or said. Perhaps his offense took place because he misconstrued what happened. Likewise, the offending party should be genuinely open to the possibility that his understanding of what happened is faulty. Perhaps his imagined innocence is wishful thinking, and he really needs to face up to the truth. Both the offended party and offending party must strive to be wise, and wise people are humble and teachable:
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15)
“The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feeds on folly.” (Proverbs 15:14)
“The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence. The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 15:31-33)
None of this can be ignored in the process of addressing conflict. As important as emotions are, emotions do not establish the truth. The offended party’s emotions are not a solid basis for the offending party’s repentance. If the offending party is to repent, it must be because he has actually sinned, it must be because he has actually violated God’s standard. The truth must be sought after and honored. Both parties must be willing to humbly listen and humbly consider and humbly learn as the other one speaks. And remember: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” (Proverbs 18:17) The first person to cross-examine you might be the person that you were confronting. Welcome it! The jewel of peace is far too precious to be obtained by a lie. “The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.” (Proverbs 21:6) You can be sure that a superficial reconciliation that is the result of manipulation, pressure, and distortion of facts, is essentially sweeping the real issues under the carpet, and it will prove to be a short-lived peace that will come back to bite you! Don’t settle for cheap peace.
A vengeful spirit cannot see clearly
Aim for genuine reconciliation, which requires not only sincerity of heart but also submission to truth. And remember, if you attempt reconciliation with a vengeful or grudge-bearing or hateful spirit, you cannot see clearly (Matthew 7:1-5). You cannot see your brother clearly, you cannot see your brother’s fault clearly, you cannot see the truth clearly: all you can see is your self-righteousness which makes you utterly unable to gently restore a fallen brother or sister. Learn the grace of seeking peace within a shared commitment to the truth, and the sooner the better!
Receive rebuke as an act of love
As any one of us, at any given time, might be on the receiving end of a rebuke, let’s cultivate a humble mindset that regards a rebuke as an act of love. “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.” (Proverbs 27:5) Don’t hide your love for me; demonstrate it by rebuking me! After all, as the next verse says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6) An enemy feigns affection to you as part of a larger strategy to tear you down. Friends don’t watch a brother or sister travel the path of self-destruction without doing their best to intervene, warn, and plead. Are you a good friend? A friend loves at all times, and a friend will wound you with rebuke for you good, with the intent of treating the wound with the oil of grace. The goal of addressing conflict is not to prop yourself up and tear others down. If that’s the goal you hope to achieve, God will not bless it, and your sin will find you out. The goal of addressing conflict is to get grace to the offending party, love to the offended party, healing to the relationship, and strength to the whole community.
The sobering consequences of not addressing issues
But take this to heart: refusing to address conflict prevents grace from getting to the offending party, prevents love from getting to the offended party, prevents healing to the relationship, and weakens the whole community. Is that what you want?
To be honest, I admire people who address issues speedily. Jared and I have developed a strong relationship over the past 6 years, largely owing to the fact that he is quick to address issues. If there is something that he doesn’t like, that doesn’t sit well with him, that bothers him, or that raises a question or concern in his mind – he tells me. He writes me an email. We talk on the phone. We meet for lunch. He doesn’t beat around the bush. He speaks frankly, with an attitude of respect, and we deal with it. If Jared wasn’t quick to address issues, and was instead always carrying around in his heart the accumulated concerns of six years, guess what? He would be very frustrated with me.
In the fall the Elders made a decision that seemed to one person to represent a policy shift. I have to speak in very general terms in order to not reveal the person’s name. The decision seemed to represent a policy shift in this person’s mind, and this raised in this person’s mind the possibility that our decision was showing favoritism in one direction and that perhaps we had something against other people. This person did the courageous thing: this person wrote me a letter, clearly setting forth the concern, and doing so respectfully and graciously. This gave the Elders and I the opportunity to clarify the issues with this person, and set this person’s mind at ease, because there actually had been no policy shift. The person had misperceived what had happened, and so the concern was able to be put to rest by highlighting the truth. But the interaction had to take place in order to sort it out! How many people don’t get an issue sorted out, because they never speak directly to the person with whom they have the concern?
Last October we had a special emphasis worship service in which we made a big deal about expanding our elders-in-training program, and bringing Aaron and Adrian into it. Just a few days later, a couple wrote the Elders a lengthy letter expressing all kinds of concerns about the action that we had taken. I won’t attempt to summarize all the concerns that were set forth, though part of it was the impression that we were rushing Aaron and Adrian toward eldership pre-maturely. I immediately took a lot of time with this letter, and answered it carefully and graciously, and addressed many of their concerns, and clarified some of the issues, and sent it to them. They were appreciative and felt comforted by the letter, as it set some of their concerns at ease. How many people don’t get the benefit of being heard, having their concerns thoughtfully interacted with, and having some important issues clarified for them, because they never speak directly to the person with whom they have the conflict or the potential conflict?
Brothers and sisters, I want to challenge you today. The examples I just gave – and I could give more examples – show the value of speaking directly with the person with whom you have actual or apparent or budding conflict, and doing so as quickly as possible. What keeps you from doing the very same thing? We are a family of believers. You know how to get a hold of people. You know addresses and email addresses and phone numbers, and you see each other on Sunday. What stops you from speaking frankly with your brother or sister? Are you unwilling to demonstrate the humility of showing yourself to be the sort of person who has issues with another person? Are you unwilling to trust the Lord with the uncertainty of how the other person will respond? Are you unwilling to be a conduit of grace to a fellow sinner? If your concern is tied to a misperception, are you unwilling for your misperception to be corrected?
Refusing to address conflict makes a big mess
When you refuse to speak promptly directly with the person with whom you have conflict, you need to understand that you are in the process of making a big mess. When you refuse to deal with relational conflict, you cheat a brother or sister out of the opportunity to come clean and confess sin, you cheat a brother or sister out of the opportunity to repent and grow. When you refuse to deal with relational conflict, you cheat a brother or sister out of the opportunity to clarify an issue that you may presently misunderstand, and you cheat yourself out of the opportunity to have the issue clarified. When you refuse to deal with relational conflict, you cheat yourself out of the opportunity to show grace, kindness, and forgiveness to a brother or sister. When you refuse to deal with relational conflict, you cheat the other person and yourself and the whole church family out of the benefit that would come from you and your brother being on good terms, from you and your sister being on good terms. Every strong relationship in the body of Christ is a source of strength to the whole body. Every weak relationship is a vulnerability. Why would want to cheat your brother or sister, why would you want to cheat yourself, why would you want to cheat your church family, out of the benefit of a reconciled relationship? When you refuse to deal with relational conflict, you cheat yourself out of the opportunity to get rid of anger before the sun goes down, and to keep short accounts with your brothers and sisters. Do you know what happens when an issue goes unaddressed? You are basically constructing a log in your own eye, and you won’t see that brother or sister through the eyes of grace. And no wonder – by not addressing the issue, you’re not treating them graciously! Then another issue will surface, and over time the complaints, grievances, and offenses will multiply and compound, none of them having been addressed. Many of the individual issues could have been addressed in ten minutes! There could have been repentance, forgiveness, clarifications, and encouragements along the way. But it never happened. And now you have a mountain of unaddressed issues.
I once heard a helpful analogy and I’m borrowing it and adapting it here to illustrate the importance of addressing issues. Do you know how glasses or ceramic plates and bowls can break so easily? Well, you can break one glass or ceramic vessel every single day. And in a normal household setting, when a plate or glass breaks, you stop what you are doing, tell other people to avoid the danger area, and you clean it up. You sweep up the broken pieces and maybe also wipe it down with a wet paper towel to make sure all of the broken pieces are picked up, so that no little feet will get hurt as they are walking around the house. You can break one glass or ceramic vessel every single day, and if you’re always prompt at cleaning it up, the house is always safe and clean. But just imagine what happens when a glass breaks, and no one cleans it up. Then a ceramic plate breaks, and no one cleans it up. Then a ceramic bowl breaks, and no one cleans it up. Then a glass pitcher breaks, and no one cleans it up. And on and on it goes. The house is no longer safe! The problem is not the number of glasses and vessels that were broken. That is not the problem, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The problem is the number of broken glasses and vessels that weren’t cleaned up. And so it is in the body of Christ: the problem is never the number of sins and offenses that take place; the problem is always the number of sins and offenses that aren’t cleaned up through the biblical processes that have been highlighted in this sermon.
Start today. Maybe you have allowed too many complaints and offenses to go unaddressed. There is grace for that also: repent of the refusal to address issues, receive God’s grace, and make a fresh start today – a fresh start of dealing with issues. Make a small but intentional beginning: pick up the broom and sweep one area of broken glass. Begin to reclaim lost ground. Who knows, you might inspire a few others to join you!
If the fruit of this sermon is thoughtful letters being written and sent and answered, or phone calls being made, or meetings being arranged, or focused conversations taking place after the service, then we’ll be on the right track. Remember, the deliberate aim of every letter, phone call, or personal meeting must be to give and receive grace, to bless and build up, to heal and restore fellowship. Keep our Lord’s instruction always in mind:
“Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies,but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:13b-24)
 Mike McClintock, A Fly Went By. Beginner Books (A Division of Random House, Inc.), 1986 (original copyright 1958): p. 61.
More in Peace in the Church
February 25, 2024Snapshots of the Pride that Hinders True Peace
February 18, 2024An Earnest Appeal to Preserve and Promote True Peace within the Body of Christ (Part 6)
February 11, 2024An Earnest Appeal to Preserve and Promote True Peace within the Body of Christ (Part 5)