Winsomely Weird Wednesdays

“Relationships & Conflict”

October 9, 2019

Welcome & Dismiss Kids to Kids Club

Songs – #11 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” & #397 “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

Testimonies – What is something that you have read in God’s Word lately that has hit you?

Teaching

Recap

Can someone explain what Winsomely Weird means??

We’ve overviewed the concept, then talked about authority and purpose.

Our authority is not the world. Our authority is not ourselves: either our reason or our experience (how I think or how I feel). Rather, our authority is God, as he has revealed himself in Scripture.

And our purpose is God. Our purpose is not self-actualization, self-fulfillment, self-promotion. We live for God’s glory and others’ good… and find our true selves in the process.

Then last week we ran the concept of speech through that grid: weird yet winsome, based on the authority of the Bible and for a noble purpose. After I left I thought of another negative use of our speech that I forgot to mention – quarrelling. Quarreling is a major category in the Bible. Here’s just one example: Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:14 to “charge [people] before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.” Using our tongues to fight is a bad use of our speech.

The world loves to fight, to argue, to debate and bicker. Have you noticed? Just listen to a ‘talk show’. But Christians’ speech is to stand out in this matter. I think this may be one of the biggest areas currently where Christians are not distinct. Christian Twitter is full of quarreling. Paul tells Titus to “remind [people]… to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us” (Tit. 3:1-5).

So there you have another subcategory of speech in which we should be weird to the world – not being quarrelsome. And that leads us perfectly into today’s topic: relationships and conflict.

Conflict

Let’s actually take the topic of conflict first. James asks in James 4:1 – “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?” And then he gives the answer, “Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:1-2). So interpersonal conflict comes from passions, desires within us that are out of whack. Remember what the purpose of the unregenerate world is? SELF! I want to please myself. Other people get in the way of that, and so there is tension, conflict, hurt feelings or worse – violence. That’s the way of the world.

Now, the believer still has these passions within him or her. But he or she also has the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is working to put those passions in their proper place. Instead of interpersonal conflict, we are called to an internal conflict, to fight, to wage war against the passions and desires of the flesh. This is what Galatians 5:16ff is about. There Paul lists 15 works of the flesh. Now here are 8 of them (more than half!): enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy. Those are all words describing conflict. Did it ever strike you how much the Bible identifies sin with people not getting along?

On the contrary, notice how much of fruit of the Spirit applies to relationships: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. The sweet fruit of the Spirit is a people who are not at odds with everyone.

Now, the reality is that because we still struggle with the flesh, we are not perfect. We still have conflicts with others. We’re sinners; they’re sinners. We can be irritable and easily annoyed, prideful and argumentative, selfish and unthoughtful… and so we can sadly have fights. But what do we do? We reconcile.

The Holy Spirit will not allow us to be okay with broken relationships but will push us towards reconciliation. Jesus taught – “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” (Mt. 5:23-24). Christianity is all about reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18 – “God… through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” We offended God and sinned against him, but he took the initiative to seek us out and bore the cost of our sin himself to restore us to right relationship with him. And so we who have experienced that, of all people, will be peacemakers, laying aside our wounds and grudges and bending over backwards to reconcile.

Is there anyone you need to be reconciled to right now? Ask the Spirit to bring to mind any situations, any people from your past or your present that you have a broken relationship with, that God wants you to seek reconciliation with…

Now sometimes it’s not possible. It takes some willingness on behalf of the other party. That’s why Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Do all you can.

And reconciliation doesn’t always mean restored trust. It may not be possible to be restored to regular contact. And it doesn’t mean there are no consequences. I think of cases of abuse and unrepentant, gross sin. But it does mean no malice; we hate nobody. We don’t retaliate (“To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also;” Lk. 6:29). And we don’t take revenge, either by our own hands or even in our hearts. In the next verses in Romans 12 Paul says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink” (Rom. 12:19-20). We leave it with God and love all people, even our enemies.

And that is totally compliant with reporting to the civil authorities. That’s where Paul goes next in Romans 13. The government can enact God’s vengeance on someone. But we can’t. We saw this beautifully illustrated last week in the Botham Jean case, when the brother of the murder victim hugged the convicted killer in court and told her about Jesus. The state serves justice; but we extend grace. Now that’s winsomely weird. It doesn’t come from us, but from the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because of our experience of the gospel of grace, believers in Jesus are to be weird in the world because of the way we deal with conflict. We fight our sin instead of fighting each other. And when we do have grievances, we pursue reconciliation. We repent regularly and forgive freely. We have humility to see the log in our own eyes and not focus on the specks in others’ (see Mt. 7:3-4). We know that we need forgiveness all the time from God and his mercy never runs out, so we extend that to others. After spending some time with Jesus and catching on to this radical concept of conflict resolution, “Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ [And] Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times’” (Mt. 18:21-22). It’s crazy, but such grace is really what the world is yearning for, and when they see it in us it is winsome.

Relationships

So now let’s talk about relationships more generally. How does the world, for the most part, think of relationships? I say ‘for the most part’ because I want to acknowledge that there is a lot of common grace in the world and as a result there are many beautiful examples of relationships even among pagans. Non-Christians can experience healthy, loving relationships. But there is still a predominant way of thinking about relationships that prevails and permeates our culture. How would you describe it?

I think for most people, most of the time relationships are characterized as selfish, idolatrous, and convenient.

Selfish. Remember: the world’s purpose is to live for Self. Relationships then become accessories for self-fulfillment. So we pick our friends based on how they make us feel. Are they fun? Do they make me cool or connected? Or are they like me? If I have to be with other people, I want it to be as much like looking in a mirror as possible – same life stage, same age, same gender, same values, same interests, same culture. Friends are supposed to make life fun. And when it isn’t, I want friends who will be there for me. It might sound good, but it’s really still a self-centered motive. I want relationships that are some benefit to me. These leads to the next characterization of worldly relationships…

Idolatrous. Because the world does not know God, at least as the soul’s delight, constant companion, most intimate and durable and important relationship, then it looks to other things to try to fill that role. The world wants out of other people what they cannot ultimately give. We want friends and family to give us an identity, to give us joy, to make us complete. We’re aching for that experience of connection but because we refuse to find it in God we attempt to get it from other people, but that is a lot of pressure to put on relationships. And that’s why many people are very disappointed in their relationships – because they’ve looked for too much from them.

Convenient. And so, ironically, we treat people as expendable. The world views relationships as items of convenience. And if they become inconvenient, fail to fulfill us, don’t serve our selfish ends any more, we bail. Many people in our mobile society don’t have long-lasting relationships. Maybe a lot of Facebook friends, but not people that I’m actually responsible to and for.

Selfless (instead of selfish). On the flipside, followers of Christ are to view relationships as opportunities to be selfless. Philippians 2:3-5 – “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” What was Jesus like? “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve” (Mk. 10:45). He didn’t seek out the cool people who could do something for him. He went after all kinds of people and loved them. He said, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you” (Lk. 14:12-14). That’s pretty weird, but the world will notice.

God-centered (instead of idolatrous). The only way we can do this is if we have been captivated by God and find in him our deepest fulfillment. Then everything else becomes subservient to God and not a surrogate god. I’m not trying to get something out of my relationships that I haven’t gotten from God. And then my relationships can all be in some way or another, pointing me back to God. I don’t become a Father to have little kids who make me feel good (HA!); I become a Father to get to know more of God the Father’s heart…

Committed (instead of convenient). A Christian knows the faithfulness of the Lord, that he has called you his friend (Jn. 15:15). And so he seeks to be a friend like that. Proverbs 17:17 – “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” We aren’t just in it for when it’s convenient for us, but there through it all.

This is what church is supposed to be. It’s not a place to be with people who are like you and make your life easier. It’s a place for Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, male, female… to serve each other and learn to lay their lives down for each other. Ask not what your church can do for you, ask what you can do for your church.

And church is about God. It’s not there to meet your deep longing for companionship and fulfillment. It’s there to point you to the only One who can, the only One who can be with you 24/7, the only One who can truly get you and satisfy you. All of our relationships in the church are to be geared towards helping each other locate God in our lives.

When that is the case, lo and behold, you will find deep relationships. But they can only come as a gift from God that you are able to let go of. And they only happen after you make a commitment. This is what church membership is. You may not make me feel all excited, you may be hard to love, but I’m going to commit myself to you, to pray for you, to meet with you and worship God together, to be there for you, even though I may have never have picked you as a friend. And in doing so we participate in something profound and otherworldly.

“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1Jn. 4:20).

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3).

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body” (Col. 3:12-15).

And a church – rag tags serving each other, centered on God, and sticking it out even when it’s hard – is extremely winsome. That’s what Jesus was getting at when he prayed – “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn. 17:20-21).

Really fast, maybe you thought this was going to be about dating. Everything I’ve said above applies to romantic relationships. The world by and large views the purpose of dating selfishly – I want someone that makes me feel the tingles. But we want someone to love. I remember when I first met Andrea I thought she was a certain person that I found attractive. On the second or third date I started to notice that the first time we met she was just having a really great day. In fact, her struggles are things that naturally turn me off. And I had a choice to make right then and there. Break it off and keep looking for this imaginary dream girl. Or dig in and love a real girl. It’s not easy, but it’s awesome!

The world thinks that a soul-mate can complete you. But we approach marriage as a means to the end of picturing the ultimate relationship, that of Christ and his Bride, the Church.

And the world views even marriage as something that can be discarded. Divorce is commonplace. Whereas we believe that marriage is a commitment for better or worse, in sickness and health, no matter what, till death parts us.

What’s Next?

What do you want to do next? Fitness; Bioethics; Gender, Sexuality, & Family; Drugs & Alcohol; Entertainment; Work, Money & Possessions…

Prayer – Count off 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Get in groups with others who have the same number as you.

Pray for God to help you reconcile with someone you have a broken relationship with…

Pray for supernatural strength to love others who are different from you…

Pray for our church to demonstrate a ‘compelling community’ to the world…

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