Sermon, Sunday August 24, 2014.
Matthew 18:15-20 Steps of grace, not law 15 “If your brother or sister[a] sins,[b] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[c] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. 18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven. 19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Friends, living in peace in any relationship of any kind is not something that just magically happens for us this side of heaven.
I trust we all know this from our own experience, let alone God’s Word on our human condition. We still have a heart that is naturally opposed to him and cannot find him – a heart in need of resurrection every day! Being a person that makes for peace with Jesus’ peace in our heart takes commitment and courage along with trust in his peace.
Oh, how often I have learnt this! How much more will I have to keep on learning this! How many times have I got myself into a conflict or been hurt by someone else and reacted in all the ways of the world we have spoken of – running away, denying, playing things down, letting things go that I know I should not have let go because I find it hard to relate to that person as I once used to….
….Or, flying off the handle, either in silence or in great noise, paying the other back with both or some other thing.
Isn’t it true that often despite our very best efforts to make peace, peace does not quickly come – sometimes not fully either. As Paul puts so well in Romans, “We do what we don’t want to do and we don’t say what we need to say”(Romans 7:14-20) to be a peacemaking person in our family, our school, our friendship group, our church, our community.
Jesus acknowledges that this is how it is for his Christians. He both names the trouble that we all have in living together in peaceful and loving relationships and then gives us his way of working for peace, “as much as it depends on us” in our gospel word. Jesus gives us practical steps to actually do in life – beginning with speaking together one on one, then going from there to do the best we can as we try and get back to peace – “if it is possible and as much as it depends on me”.
We know the causes of conflict: misunderstanding each other, not being able to see eye to eye on things because we have different goals in a thing, or being way too competitive for the biggest share of the pie, and we know that we struggle to deal with these things. So how do we really live as a peacemaker?.
We can say that the peace and love for which we long in our families and other relationships will not be lived by the power of our own positive thinking. That’s what the video we viewed said.
In fact the four G’s (to Glorify God, Get the log out of our own eye before Gently Restoring the other person and then Going and being reconciled) that God presents us with in any conflict, and the seven A’s of how to make a confession to another person, and the skills we have been learning will not in themselves bring the peace and love for which we long into being – they will only be of spiritual, lasting and real value if they are done from a heart that is constantly made a new creation by the word of Jesus and his precious gifts of grace.
In our baptism we were created new and every time we gather in his name we are created new by the power of his forgiveness still at work in his word and gifts. From that heart with eyes firmly fixed on Jesus and filled with his grace and kindness comes the power and ability to use the skills we are learning to truly be peace-filled and make for peace.
Friend, you are in Christ. You have been made new. You are God’s new creation and you are both given peace – His peace. You are now called to be that peace with these skills we have been learning.
Today the Lord calls us to take the pledge of peacemaking personally. To actually commit to approaching our conflicts not from the world’s view of fighting, litigation and assaulting each other, or flight, denial an fear, but from the view that conflict is an opportunity – an opportunity to glorify our great God, serve people as we are served by him and grow into the grace Christ gives us in our baptism. That’s the heavenly view the Lord is calling us to take into our relationships and into any conflict.
Having this commitment comes from having Christ’s view on things. His view is regarding no one (or conflict with someone) from a worldly point of view. But from the view that we are truly Christ’s ambassadors, and that the Lord is actually making his appeal to others through us.
So, would you trust today that you are His ambassador in all your relationships and so, use the skills and insights you are learning?
Would you trust today that you are his new creation that he truly works through you to bring his new peace to any conflict?
Would you not trust in the power of your own positive thinking or even the techniques we have mentioned in these weeks in themselves, but in Jesus and his truth, his way and his life which are yours in his Word and in his gifts of grace and in this community?
Would you commit today not to positive thinking but truth thinking, heavenly thinking, thinking that flows from faith in the holy, pure and blameless One who “made himself sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”? In a moment we as a local church and you as a father, mother, son, daughter, friend, colleague or stranger will be invited to actually express this commitment.
Take the opportunity to make conflicts opportunity to Glorify God in your life for his is all the glory for all of life! In the name of Christ. Amen.
THE PEACEMAKING PLEDGE
As people reconciled to God by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we believe that we are called to respond to conflict in a way that is remarkably different from the way the world deals with conflict. We also believe that conflict provides opportunities to glorify God, serve other people, and grow to be like Christ. Therefore, in response to God’s love and in reliance on his grace, strengthened through word and sacrament, we confess our failing in the past, and commit ourselves to responding to conflict according to the following principles.
TO GLORIFY GOD Instead of focusing on our own desires, or dwelling on what others may do, we will rejoice in the Lord, and bring him praise by depending on his forgiveness, wisdom, power and love, as we seek to faithfully obey his commands, and maintain a loving, merciful and forgiving attitude.
TO GET THE LOG OUT OF YOUR OWN EYE Instead of blaming others for a conflict, we will trust in God’s mercy, and take responsibility for our own contribution to conflicts – confessing our sins to those we have wrong, asking God to help us change any attitudes and habits that lead to conflict, and seeking to repair any harm we have caused.
TO GENTLY RESTORE Instead of pretending that conflict doesn’t exist, or talking about others behind their backs, we will overlook minor offenses, or we will talk personally and graciously with those whose offenses seem too serious to overlook, seeking to restore them rather than condemn them.
When a conflict with a Christian brother or sister cannot be resolved in private, we will ask others in the body of Christ to help us settle the matter in a biblical manner.
TO GO AND BE RECONCILED Instead of accepting premature compromise, or allowing relationships to wither, we will actively pursue genuine peace and reconciliation – forgiving others as God, for Jesus’ sake, has forgiven us, and seeking just and mutually beneficial solutions to our difference.
By God’s grace and in his forgiveness we will apply these principles as a matter of stewardship, realizing that conflict is an opportunity, not an accident. We will remember that success in God’s eyes is not a matter of specific results, but of faithful, dependent obedience. And we will pray that our service as peacemakers will bring praise to our Lord, and lead others to know his infinite love.