The Greatest Sermon in History Part 7
Restoring Broken Relationships
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
February 29, 2004

 

Main Passage: Matthew 5:21-26 (NLT)

 

We’ve spent January and February working our way through the Greatest Sermon in History… the Sermon on the Mount… the words of Jesus found in Matthew 5-7. So far, we’ve seen that Jesus was talking about the Kingdom of Heaven. He’s told us that the Kingdom of Heaven is for you and for me. And our admission isn’t based on what we can do, how good we’ve been, how much we give to charity, how many times a week we attend Church, how involved we become in religious duties... It’s based solely upon a relationship with God, founded on meekness and humility, repentance and forgiveness.

We’ve also seen how this Kingdom of God isn’t just meant for you and for me. It’s for everyone in the world. And every living person needs to know God if they want to have any hope at all of entering the Kingdom. So you and I need to be the salt of the earth that preserves and stands up for Godly values, and the light of the world that illuminates the truth of God’s Word and directs people through the darkness of life to the Father of Lights.

Two weeks ago we saw how Jesus told the people on the hillside that day, and how he tells us today, that there are two ways that we can obey God: We can first of all obey Him in our actions. And the Pharisees… the religious leaders… were great at this. They held themselves to a strict code of conduct that most of the people in the society couldn’t live up to. Not only were they so religiously superior that they could obey the letter of the Law that God had given in the Old Testament, but they expanded on those laws and wrote their own laws and kept all of them as well. We can obey God in our actions, and we should, but Jesus makes it clear that true obedience comes from the heart.

And then Jesus goes on. He talks about specific laws found in the Old Testament, and He helps us understand that obedience to these laws needs to flow out of a clean, pure, humble, loving heart.

And that brings us to today. This morning, Jesus says to you and to me…

Matthew 5:21-22 (NLT)
“You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Do not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the high council. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.

Now you need to understand something. In the crowd that would have heard Jesus speaking that day, there were people who were breaking their arms patting themselves on the back because they had never murdered anybody. They were so proud of themselves for how well they had kept the law. But inwardly, they were full of hatred, and contempt, and anger, and bitterness, and prejudice, and malice… Yes, they had kept the letter of the law. But were they obedient to the intent of the law? No. In fact, there were probably some in that crowd that hated Jesus enough that they would soon be plotting his death. Oh, they may not have done the dirty work, but they were just as guilty of murder as if they had done it themselves.

What have you heard? You’ve heard don’t curse someone, don’t give someone the finger, don’t swear at anyone, don’t vandalize someone’s property because they’ve done you wrong, don’t send nasty emails to people you don’t like, don’t burn crosses on anybody’s lawn, don’t broadcast all over town what a rotten scoundrel that person is, don’t slam the phone down on that telemarketer who calls during supper… Maybe you think, “I’ve never done any of these things. How morally superior I am.”

What is Jesus saying to you? He’s saying, “Maybe you have never done these things. Maybe you’re pretty good at controlling yourself. But what’s on the inside? Is your heart filled with anger and hatred? Do your words… whatever those words are… drip with contempt? Do you secretly foster anger and bitterness? What is the condition of your heart, because that’s what really matters.”

Because here’s the thing…

Outward obedience must flow out of inner purity.

You see, you can do all the right things and say all the right things and put on a great show, but if that does not reflect who you are on the inside… in your thoughts, your attitudes, your compassion… then it’s worthless.

As Joan said this week on Joan of Arcadia…

“Thoughts really do count.”
~ Joan of Arcadia

You’ve heard the phrase, “You can’t judge a book by its cover?” Well God says…

1 Samuel 16:7 (CEV)
“People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what is in their hearts.”

One day when Jesus was teaching, a man asked him, “Out of all the commandments, and we’ve got a lot of them, what’s the most important? If you had to rank them, Jesus, what would you put first?”

Mark 12:29-31 (NLT)
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

What’s He telling us? He’s telling us…

God-honouring relationships are founded on love.

Okay, so what I want us to do here this morning is talk about why it’s important to have healthy relationships founded on love, and then we’ll talk a bit about how to mend broken relationships.

Before we get to that, though, I want to talk about some of the unspoken (or perhaps even spoken) rules that we have for public gatherings in our society. Let me give you a type of social gathering, and you tell me what some of those rules are.

  • Going to a movie theatre.
    (turn off cell phones, pagers, sit quietly…)
    I went to a movie recently, and there was a whole herd of teenage girls who were in and out, in and out, in and out… they switched chairs, sat in the aisle, and really were a distraction during the entire movie. Apparently, they didn’t know the rules.
     
  • Going to a hockey game.
    (No swearing, wait for stoppages before entering/leaving…)
    I was at a Rocket game a couple months ago with a few friends, and we ended up sitting in a section next to a few guys who had had more than enough beers. And they were yelling about everything and swearing, all the while with a row of elementary school students right in front of them. Apparently, they didn’t know the rules.
     
  • Going to a play or concert at Confederation Centre.
    (Be on time, be respectful…)
     
  • Going to church.
    (Turn off phone, pager, you can play Tetris—just turn the sound off, stay to the end…)

 

Let me tell you, I have sat through the most boring church services, the most useless seminars, the most ridiculous of movies… Why? Because that’s the rule. You don’t get up in the middle of something and walk out, you endure it to the end. And if it’s really bad, you just don’t go back. (Of course, that would never happen here.)

Well, the Jews of Jesus’ day had a very strict religious protocol when it came to going to the temple. Be on time, sit quietly, and stay for the whole thing. Don’t you dare try to leave early. If you remember you let the iron on, you hope your insurance is up to date. If the service goes overtime and you’ve got a roast in, you just consider it a burnt offering as unto the Lord. What you don’t do is leave before the service is over. But here in the passage that Chris read we see Jesus actually giving permission to get up and walk out in the middle of a worship service. When does he say we should do this? When we realize that somebody is holding a grudge against us. Here, listen to what He said…

Matthew 5:23-24 (NLT)
“So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”

So Jesus sees reconciling broken relationships as being as being so important that if you need to walk out of a church service to fix it, then so be it. Why? Why is relational healing so critical?

 

Why Is Relational Healing So Critical?

 

1. Broken relationships hurt you.

Stress, loss of sleep, anxiety, guilt, time and energy wasted putting out fires, the mutual friends you start to avoid because you don’t want to face them and don’t want to have to answer their questions… a broken relationship can hurt you in ways you’ll never be able to measure. But the damage is very real.

 

2. Broken relationships hurt your reputation.

When a relationship blows up, the resulting shrapnel usually includes people talking about you and making all kinds of assumptions about what happened. People start gossiping, and pretty soon there are all kinds of stories, some real and some fictitious, that that are being spread all over town.

 

3. Broken relationships hurt your worship.

I think Jesus said what He did because He knows that relational problems cause a barrier in our relationship with Him. They interfere in our worship of Him. So if you’re in a worship celebration sometime and you’re amazed at how dry it is and how little you’re engaged in worship and you’re wondering what’s wrong, it may not be that the service stinks. Before you blame the service, look inside. Soul search. Are you harbouring bitterness against someone? Is someone else ticked off at you? Is there some broken relationship that desperately needs to be fixed? Because if there is, that’s the problem.

 

4. Broken relationships hurt church unity.

I was at a breakfast meeting this past Friday about a Franklin Graham Festival coming to the Maritimes in October. And one of the things we talked about was that the greatest benefit of these Festivals is not flying in some great preacher; it’s the unity that develops among churches in the community. For Billy Graham or Franklin Graham or anyone else to come into a city and hold a huge Festival is great, but the Billy Graham Association itself has released a report stating that the Festival accomplishes very little… in fact it’s almost worthless… unless the churches in the community work together before and after the festival to make sure that there are systems in place to help the people who make commitments get established in growing relationships within a local church.

If there is bitterness between pastors, between churches, between church members, or even between people in the same church, the results can be devastating to church unity. I’ve seen church splits happen as a result of what started as a difference of opinion. In my experience, the times that churches go through rough times almost always coincide with broken relationships.


Did you know that just hours before He died, Jesus prayed for you? If I knew I only had hours to live, I’m not sure what I’d pray for. But Jesus chose to pray for you and for me. This is what He said…

John 17:20-21 (NLT)
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me because of their testimony. My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father—that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me.”

And that goes right into the next reason relational healing is so critical…

 

5. Broken relationships hurt church effectiveness.

What did Jesus say? They will know that we are His disciples because of the clothes we wear? Because of the sign in front of the building? Because we walk through town carrying a Bible? No, none of these things will prove that we are His followers. This is what Jesus said…

John 13:34-35 (NLT)
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

You can tell someone all you want that you are a believer, but unless they see the proof in the way you love others, your testimony is worthless.

I was having coffee with someone just the other day who is not a believer and is a bit of a skeptic. And one of the things he asked me was, “Are the churches getting along any better yet?” He hasn’t seen the proof that Jesus makes a difference in our lives. He has seen the hypocrisy of saying that we follow Jesus but we don’t love each other. And if we want to be effective as believers and as a church, we need to love each other right here at Sunrise and love outside of these walls, too. No backbiting, no target practice, no slandering.

Catch what the apostle John wrote…

1 John 2:9-11 (NLT)
If anyone says, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves other Christians is living in the light and does not cause anyone to stumble. Anyone who hates a Christian brother or sister is living and walking in darkness. Such a person is lost, having been blinded by the darkness.

John Maxwell estimates…

“The average pastor spends 20% of his/her time dealing with conflict.”
~ John Maxwell

There have been times that I’ve had to spend a lot more time than that handling conflict. Right now, this isn’t a huge problem at Sunrise. And I’d like to keep it that way. Because we can waste all our time and energy and resources dealing with problems that never should have arisen while at the same time people all around us are heading for a Godless eternity.


So those are some reasons why relational healing is important. Now, let’s take a look at how to mend a broken relationship.

 

How to Mend a Broken Relationship

 

A. Take the initiative.

Jesus told us that if someone else has something against us, it is our responsibility to go to them. We are to leave our worship or whatever we’re doing and go to them to make amends. If someone else has a problem with us, we go to them. Other passages would tell us that if we have a problem with them, we still go to them. Either way, wherever the problem lies, it is up to us to take the initiative to try to reconcile the relationship.

What happens if you take the initiative and your efforts are rejected? I would say that if you make a genuine effort and you are repeatedly rejected, then you have done all you could do. You have fulfilled your responsibility.

Our church operates a family camp in New Brunswick with thousands of people every summer. And all the pastors at churches in our district are expected to do a job to keep the camp running. My job is renting out rooms in the dorms and hotels. And last summer, we had a bit of a mix-up. One of the other pastors double-booked a room, and I had to go to tell the couple that was in the room that we needed to move them. The wife was there alone when I knocked on the door, and I thought I did a good job of explaining that we had made a mistake and that someone else had booked that room for the entire week so we needed to ask them to move to another room in another building. I felt bad doing that to them, so I offered to help them carry their stuff over. She asked if she could stay there until her husband got back, and that seemed logical to me so I agreed and left.

Later on that week, I found out that they went home that night all the way to Maine because they thought they weren’t welcome. What they heard me say was that if they didn’t move I was going to move them. I was just offering to help, but they thought I was going to throw their stuff out the window!

Well, when I found out I called, I emailed, and they never responded to my efforts to make things right. As far as I’m concerned, there was a misunderstanding, I took the initiative to fix it, and my efforts were rejected. There’s not a whole lot more I could have done.

You take the initiative. Their response is not your responsibility.

 

B. Don’t feed the fire.

If you tell others about what this other person did to you or what they’re saying about you, you’re gossiping. And that only serves to make the problem worse and drive the wedge deeper.

 

C. Accept responsibility when applicable.

If you’ve made a mistake… if you’ve done something wrong… admit it! Take ownership of it and make it right. Apologize and actually say, “I’m sorry.”

But at the same time, don’t take the blame for something you didn’t do. If you apologize for something you didn’t do, that’s lying. You’re saying you did it. You can express regret that there’s a misunderstanding, you can apologize that you didn’t communicate very well, you can explain that whatever their perception is was never your intent, but don’t lie about it.

 

D. Correct the causes of conflict.

CARTOON – FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE 4/28/04

What are some personality traits that contribute to conflicts?

PARTICIPATION
(edginess, irritability, jumping to conclusions, judgmental, moody, rude, selfish, obnoxious, arrogant…)

If these things are causing conflicts in your relationships, fix them! Don’t settle for, “That’s just the way I am.” Change it. There’s nothing admirable about being temperamental. You need to correct the causes of conflict. Instead of just repairing existing problems, make strides to avoid them in the future. Ask yourself, “What can I do to avoid this conflict or this misunderstanding next time?”

 

E. Do it now!

Hey, Jesus gave you permission to walk out right in the middle of a service if you need to fix a relationships.

 

Why?

Why do it now? Well, we’ve already talked about some of the problems that can be caused by broken relationships. They say time heals all wounds, but only if the wounds are properly treated in a timely manner. Otherwise the wound can become infected, it can fester, the infection can spread, and what may have been a minor problem with a quick fix can become much, much worse.

So you need to do it now because the problem can grow and spread.
 

  • The problem can grow and spread.

    A second reason is you never know when it will be too late.
     
  • Never know when it will be too late.

    I don’t know how many people I have heard about who were not on speaking terms with their fathers and have waited too long to make amends. And they live with regret for the rest of their lives. The problem is, you never know how long is too long. So you’d better do it now.

 

Would you close your eyes for a minute? I want to give you a chance to respond, and I want to ask you one thing this morning: do you have a broken relationship that you need to take the initiative to fix? If you do and you want to acknowledge that this morning, then just slip your hand up for a second. It will signal your commitment to fix it, and will let me know to pray for you.
 

 

 

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