Broken Relationships, 4 November 2018

Why Can’t We Just Get Along? (Broken Relationships)
D6 Series—When Life Gets Hard
Matthew 18:15-20

Series Overview:
In this world we will have trouble, but we are never alone.

Big Idea: There is always hope for reconciliation when we obey God’s Word.

Life is all about relationships. Nothing can bring more joy than a deep friendship, an encouraging conversation, a loving embrace, a kind word, or a thoughtful note. Relationships are the heart of life itself. We were created for a relationship with our Creator God. We were created for relationships with one another. God’s design was for a man and woman to have an intimate relationship…knowing and being known by one another. Children are often the result of such a relationship, creating a multi-generational family, the core of any society. Extended family relationships can bring tremendous fulfillment in life, extending love, security, wisdom, and trust.

The church was also God’s design, a family rooted not in biological blood but rather the blood of Jesus Christ, reconciling us to our Heavenly Father and making us spiritual siblings with one another. Relationships are the most wonderful thing in life…except when they’re not!

Today we’re beginning a series entitled
When Life Gets Hard. While it’s true that God is good—all the time—life is not always easy. We were never promised happiness, comfort, and wealth…yet we seem so surprised when life gets hard. Jesus said,

In this world you will have trouble… (John 16:33b)

How many of you have experienced trouble in this world? All of us! It’s guaranteed. We’re all in the midst of trouble, coming out of a trial, or about to experience suffering. Why? I don’t always understand. A few weeks ago we noted how suffering produces perseverance which produces character which leads to hope, but that’s little consolation in the midst of the storm when we’re shouting, “Help!”

One thing I know for certain: we are never alone in our trials. John 16:33 continues…

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33b)

Because relationships are so central to our existence, a broken relationship can often be far more excruciating than a broken bank account or even a broken bone. What do we do when they can’t just get along?

I’m so glad you asked!

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We’re going to get to broken relationships, but first let’s look at what God says about relationships. How are we to live as brothers and sisters? The Bible is loaded with timeless wisdom which—if followed—would transform our lives, avoid misunderstandings, quench gossip, increase harmony, and accelerate peace.

Let’s begin with Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18:

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. (Matthew 18:15)

Family, if we would follow this one, simple command, our church would be so much different. I admit, this is radical. Our culture says if someone treats you poorly, tell their boss, call the cops, slander them on Facebook, or tell your closest fifty friends about the indiscretion.

If I had a nickel for every time someone has brought a complaint to me about a person before they went to the accused, I’d be a rich man.

Is Jesus clear? If I offend you, first go to…me.

If someone in your small group does something in appropriate, go to…them.
If a staff member does something you don’t like, go to…them.
If a deacon or elder or anyone else is engage in sin, go to…them.

To do otherwise is…sin! It’s gossip.

Many of you are familiar with Dave Ramsey. He’s a best-selling author and media personality. He may be best known for his financial counsel, but he also runs an organization in Tennessee which is consistently rated one of the top places to work in Nashville. One feature of his business is a no-gossip policy. Listen to this excerpt from his website:

Gossip is defined as discussing anything negative with someone who can’t help solve the problem. If you’re having computer problems, and IT is slow about helping you, you don’t complain about it to the sales rep in the break room. You talk to your leader because he or she can and will do something about it.
If a team member is discovered gossiping, they receive one warning. After that they’re fired, and, yes, Dave has fired people for gossiping and will do it again to keep it out of his company.
I can’t fire volunteers at First Alliance Church for gossiping, but I wish I could! It’s sin. And it happens. Here. It’s unacceptable! It’s poison. It’s toxic. It destroys unity. It is a form of hate. Am I clear?

When I arrived at three years ago, I was told since seemingly everyone in our church is related, there’s not much gossip here. That may be true, but any gossip is too much. Proverbs says,

Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts. (Proverbs 26:20-22)

I know it’s hard. I know it’s more fun to talk behind their back. I know speaking ill of someone makes us feel superior. I know everyone in the world does it. One recent study revealed about 80% of our conversations are about other people and their habits! But gossip is unacceptable. If you hear even a whisper of negativity toward someone not in the conversation, please simply stop and ask these six words:

Why are you telling me this?

Have you ever played the telephone game? You tell a message to someone who tells someone else who tells someone else and after a while the original message is nowhere to be found. This is why I like prayer requests and messages in writing, by the way. You might think your intent is good in critiquing the behavior of a brother or sister, but if it goes around them, it won’t take long for lies to be spread. Let me say it one more time:

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. (Matthew 18:15)

In a small number of instances, speaking the truth in love to a brother or sister does not produce the desired results. Jesus continues,

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.’
(Matthew 18:16)

One-on-one is not always successful, especially when there is a power imbalance. God makes provision for mediators. The Alliance even has an extensive course called Peacemaking. Kendra Sankovich recently completed both sections and is a trained facilitator for such conversations. Your spouse, small group leader, or mutual friend might be useful. In some instances, a professional counselor can help. This usually works, but if not, then and only then step three and four can be executed.

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.
(Matthew 18:17)

In this case, “the church” may be the elders. These are rare and serious situations. The Bible gives instruction for church discipline and it is sometimes needed, not to kick someone out, but rather to create pathways for repentance and reconciliation.

Here’s the bottom line: if you have an issue with someone, go to them first. Gossip is a deadly cancer that has destroyed countless relationships.

Jesus adds a few words to this message about loving one another.

“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:18)

That’s cool! When we are united with God and one another, we’re all working together, seeking the same thing, on the same mission, and God’s will is accomplished.

“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. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:19-20)

The context is not where two or three gather to fight or gossip, but to pursue unity, truth, and understanding. Christ acts with the Church in matters of discipline. That’s a vision of how we are to do life together as family with one another, our heavenly Father, and our big brother Jesus.

Here are some related scriptures on relating with one another:

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Hebrews 12:14-15)

We talked about grace—unmerited favor—last month. We are to be people of grace. We are to be recipients of God’s grace and conduits of it to others. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Believe the best in others. Don’t avoid conflict, but before attacking, begin with a clarifying question or one of my favorite phrases, “Help me understand.”

We have a real enemy, family, and he wants us divided, critical, negative, gossiping, backstabbing, arguing, and complaining. When we hit pause and lovingly get to the heart of the matter, he loses…and I love it when he loses!!! Peter said,

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8)

Humble people make the best friends, the best leaders, the best neighbors. In fact, we’re told,

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, (Philippians 2:3)

A few verses later Paul writes,

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”
Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky (Philippians 2:14-15)

Here’s a good summary of life together:

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:16-18)

Sometimes we can go through all of the steps in Matthew 18 and still not find resolution. Unfortunately we cannot control the behaviors of others. It’s hard enough controlling our own!

I know many of you are living with the pain and anguish of broken relationships. I am, too. Out of respect for those involved, I’m not at liberty to provide you with details, but there are two family members I love deeply who have become estranged from other members of my family and, somewhat, to me. These are good, Christian people who love God, but have unresolved conflict. I don’t understand. I have engaged in “help me understand” conversations, but brokenness remains.

The Bible does not simply say to live at peace with everyone, but rather if it is possible, as far as it depends on you. Sometimes we need to simply step back and fall to our knees. Prayer works. It usually takes time. I’m praying for healing in my family. I’m praying for healing in many of your families, too.


I want to remind of some other words of Jesus.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

We aren’t identified as Christians by our theology.
We aren’t identified as Christians by our politics.
We aren’t identified as Christians by our denomination or doctrine.
We aren’t identified as Christians by our diet or appearance or media habits.
We are identified as disciples of Jesus if we love one another.

Family, we
will hurt and offend one another, whether intentionally or accidentally. The Bible is filled with conflict. For example, Paul and Barnabus had serious issues with one another (Acts 15:37-38) but they mended their relationship (2 Timothy 4:11). We must be willing to quickly forgive, seeking restoration and reconciliation.

A popular passage of the Bible says,

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

Keep short accounts. Forgive quick. No regrets. Tomorrow may be too late.

About 2000 years ago Jesus gathered his best friends together for the Passover celebration. It would become so much more as he presented himself as the sacrifice, the lamb who would be slaughtered to take away the sins of the world. You can call it the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist or Communion. It’s a time to remember Jesus, his love, his death on the cross for our sins, and his resurrection. He died to heal the brokenness in our relationship with God caused by our sin. It’s also to be done together; communion is to be done in community. Paul said,

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 11:27-30)

Perhaps Paul was thinking of these words from Jesus:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:21-22)

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)


Quoting from a 1982 document from the World Council of Churches,

The Eucharist celebration demands reconciliation and sharing among all those regarded as brothers and sisters in the one family of God and is a constant challenge in the search for appropriate relationships in social, economic and political life. All kinds of injustice, racism, separation and lack of freedom are radically challenged when we share in the body and blood of Christ…

Communion is about broken relationships restored.
Communion is about our sins washed white as snow.
Communion is about one imperfect family unified in grace, forgiveness, and love.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.