Introduction and offering:
Did you notice the new Bibles? There are about 1000 of them in the room—enough for everyone to have one, or to share with a neighbor. This has been several months in the making. Instead of us putting all the Scriptures up on the screen, we are going to help you find them in the Bible. We’ll still occasionally put Scriptures on the screen, but most of the time we want to help you find them in the Bible. Here’s why: we want to increase your Biblical literacy. We want to help you become more familiar and comfortable with the Bible.
Using a paper Bible helps you see the context. You see where the passage falls in the big story, and what’s immediately around it. You don’t see that on your phone, or digital device, or the big screens.
Using a paper Bible teaches you to navigate the Bible. The Bible can be intimidating. It’s over 1000 pages! It’s 66 books in one! Where is everything and how does it all fit together? You learn that better in a paper Bible. You may not learn it all in a digital device or on the big screens.
Using a paper Bible makes all of us Bible students, not just the speaker. Last fall, I was at a conference and heard Pastor Larry Osborne explain why they didn’t put the Scriptures up on the big screen and why they used paper Bibles instead. He shared a new thought for me. When a new person sees everyone with a Bible open and following along, he thinks, “Oh, reading the Bible is normal. Everyone does it. Everyone knows where to look.” But if he/she sees the verses only on the big screen, then he thinks, “The pastor is the expert; he knows the Bible; the rest of us don’t.” In other words, it democratizes Bible reading and knowledge. It makes “experts” of all of us, not just the pastor.
So here we go! This means that it will take us a few moments longer to get to a passage, but that’s ok. And to help you find the passages, we will put the reference on the big screen with the page number! One last thing: please don’t take these home—leave them on your seat when we’re done. If you really want one, we bought extras and you can buy them at the Welcome Center for $10. Ok—let’s get started! Turn to Matthew 5:9 (p. 830).
Today we wrap up our series on reconciliation. I know it’s been hard for some of you—we’ve talked about some difficult and uncomfortable subjects. Reconciling broken relationships is hard. Bridging the divides between people is difficult. It’s uncomfortable; it’s hard conversations. But please, don’t run from the discomfort. Stay in the conversation. Move toward the other—whether it’s someone who is different (race, gender, age), someone with whom you disagree (politics or religion), or even someone who has offended you. And that’s where we’re going to wrap up. One of the most difficult and practical expressions of reconciliation is making peace with someone who has offended you, or you’ve offended them. The relationship is broken—how many of you have one of those? What do you do? Let’s see what Jesus says.
The Big Idea: Jesus calls us to take the initiative to make peace, just as He did with us!
Do you have your Bibles open to Matthew 5:9 (p. 830)? Let’s read Matthew 5:9 out loud together.
Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
This is one of the beatitudes, one of 8 qualities of blessed people. These are the qualities of Jesus’ followers, the qualities of people who live in the Kingdom of God, under God’s gracious reign. Blessed are the peacemakers. To be a peacemaker is “to endeavor to reconcile persons who have disagreements.” A peacemaker is a reconciler. Of course, God is the ultimate peacemaker. Keep your place in Matthew 5 and turn to:
Colossians 1:20 (p. 1015) and through Jesus to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
In this passage, the apostle Paul is talking about the supremacy of Christ, and that God reconciled all things to Himself in Jesus, making peace—it’s the same word as Matthew 5:9—through Christ’s sacrificial death. When we were God’s enemy, He moved toward us in Jesus to make peace. God is a peacemaker, and that’s why Jesus said that the peacemakers will be called children of God. Like Father, like child. God our Father is a peacemaker; so we His children are peacemakers.
What does it look like to be a peacemaker? I want to come at it from three angles: when you are the offender, when you are the offended, and when you are stuck and it’s just not working.
1. When you are the offender.
How many of you have someone in your life right now who is not speaking to you? They are offended. They are angry with you. The relationship is broken. What can you do to be a peacemaker? Your Bibles should still be open to Matthew 5:23-24 (p. 830).
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
Look at verse 23. “If you are offering your gift at the altar.” Jesus pictured someone offering his gift at the altar at the temple. In other words, they were worshipping God. And what happens? You “remember that your brother or sister has something against you.” While you are worshipping God, you remember that someone has something against you. You have offended them or wronged them, and the relationship is broken. Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever been in church, singing a song, praying a prayer, worshipping God, and someone pops into your mind?
What do you do? Most of us just push that thought down; ignore it. But Jesus says, “leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” First, go and be reconciled. This is astonishing! Jesus says that being reconciled to your offended friend is more important than worshipping God! It’s almost like God is saying, “I don’t want your worship until you’re reconciled with your friend.” Peter wrote something like that to husbands in 1 Peter 3:7 (p. 1048).
1 Peter 3:7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
Notice that Peter seems to say that if a husband doesn’t treat his wife with respect and consideration that his prayers will be hindered. It’s like God says, “I don’t want to hear your prayers until you make it right with your wife!”
ILL: I’ve had several times when I’ve been in church, singing my heart out to the Lord, and I remember that I hurt my wife’s feelings, that I didn’t treat her well or said something stupid. And I knew that I needed to fix that if I wanted God to receive my worship and prayers. So what did I do? If she was standing beside me, I turned to her and apologized and asked her forgiveness. She is very gracious and always forgives me. If she wasn’t with me, thenI promised the Lord I would take care of it immediately after service. And I did.
You’re thinking, “Why didn’t you do what Jesus said and leave immediately?” In Jesus’ time, people brought their gifts to the altar whenever they could—there wasn’t a service, like Sunday at 11. It was all week long. So they could leave their gift, and come back later and not miss anything. In our context, if you leave church, you don’t get another chance for a week. So I adapted, and promised the Lord I’d take care of it afterward. And I did. And I think He’s ok with that modification.
So the big idea here is that if you are the offender, first go and be reconciled. It’s a priority to God; it should be to you. So go—move toward the other—don’t wait for them to come to you. Take the initiative. Take the first step. First, go! Move toward the other.
Then what? Here are a few practical suggestions for approaching someone you’ve offended.
1. Pray first. Ask God to soften their heart and make them open to reconciling. Ask God to give you the right spirit and right words to say. Ask God to help you be a peacemaker. God is a peacemaker and wants us to be too, so this a prayer God loves to answer. Pray first!
2. Get their perspective. “Help me understand what happened and how you felt about it.” Don’t assume that you know what is wrong. Remember that everyone sees through their own lens. What you are trying to do is see it through their lens, not yours. Get their perspective. You may be tempted to defend yourself or explain yourself—don’t! Just listen and ask questions to understand their point of view.
3. Own whatever you can. When you understand the offense, own it. You don’t have to own stuff that you didn’t do, but own what you can. Here are three of the most powerful words in the English language: “I was wrong.” Try it! Here are three more. “I am sorry.” Try it! Which leads to the next step:
4. Ask forgiveness. Here are three more powerful words: “Please forgive me.” Try it! By the way, the other person may say, “It’s ok,” or something like that. If they do, I say, “It wasn’t ok,” and I say again, “I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” We’re not reconciled until we’re forgiven.
5. Make it right. Sometimes we need to do something to make it right. Maybe we said something untrue about them to another person. Then we need to go to that person and tell the truth—make it right. Maybe we did something that cost them money. Then we need to pay them back what it cost. “What can I do to make this right?”
When you are the offender: first go and be reconciled. Move toward the other and be a peacemaker.
2. When you are the offended.
What if the other person was in the wrong? What if they did something that offended you and broke the relationship? Shouldn’t they come to you? Let’s see what Jesus says in Matthew 18:15–17 (p. 844).
15 “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. 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.’ 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.
First of all, notice that Jesus is giving instructions to the church on what to do when someone sins against you. This is about sin—doing something wrong—wrong enough that if you don’t repent, you could be removed from the fellowship! So this isn’t just “someone hurt my feelings” or “when you said that you offended me.” This is about sin—sin that is serious enough to warrant an intervention! But the principles Jesus teaches here can certainly be applied to lesser offenses as well, at least to some degree.
If someone sins against you, offends you, and breaks the relationship, what does Jesus say to do? Wait for them to come and confess. No! Go! Go and point out their fault just between the two of you. This is huge! In Matthew 5, Jesus said that if it’s your fault, go and reconcile. Here, Jesus says that if it’s their fault, go and reconcile. You go, you take the initiative, you take the first step, you move toward the other no matter whose fault it is. Why? Because you are a peacemaker.
Go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. Don’t go to someone else and tell what they did—go to that person, just the two of you. Don’t post it on Instagram or Facebook—go to that person, just the two of you. Don’t send a text or email—go to that person, just the two of you. Get face to face, and talk it out. If it works (and it doesn’t always), you’ve made peace; you’ve won back your brother.
If it is truly a sin issue and they won’t own up, then Jesus says to do an intervention: take a couple other witnesses with you.
But what if it’s not exactly sin—what if they just did something that hurt my feelings, but doesn’t rise to the level of an intervention or church discipline?
ILL: I just had an experience this week with this.
Last year, I spoke at an event in our city, and afterwards a friend named Carl approached me, gave me his card and said he wanted to take me golfing at my favorite course. I promised him I’d contact him and get it set up. Well…I put the card somewhere (no idea where) and forgot all about it.
A couple months ago, Carl’s pastor was preaching on reconciling broken relationships, and Carl thought of me. We met for coffee a few weeks ago, and he explained how hurt and disappointed he was when I never responded to his offer. He felt like I had just blown him off, and didn’t value his friendship—all understandable conclusions on his part. I apologized profusely and assured him that it wasn’t a value statement, just me being busy and misplacing his card and forgetting. Carl forgave me, we had a great talk, and on Friday, we played that round of golf. And he smoked me…he’s dead to me! Now I’ve got to find a way to forgive him!
I am grateful that he took the initiative and moved toward me. If he hadn’t done that, where would we be? He would still be feeling hurt, and I’d be oblivious to the fact that our relationship had been damaged. And we’d have missed out on a fun round of golf!
Is there someone who has offended you and you’re still carrying that offense, that hurt? It’s time to go to them and get it cleared up.
That was a story of peacemaking that worked. It doesn’t always work. So, what do you…
3. When you are stuck.
Has anybody here tried to make peace and it didn’t work? The other person wasn’t interested, didn’t want to forgive you or didn’t want to own their junk? It happens! What then. Let’s look at Romans 12:17-21 (p. 976).
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This is all about broken relationships. Look again at v. 18. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Live at peace with everyone. Be a peacemaker! But notice the two qualifiers.
First, if it is possible. It’s not always possible. It takes two to reconcile; it takes two to heal a broken relationship. If the other person refuses, it may not be possible to make peace.
Second, as far as it depends on you. In other words, you do what you can do. Give it your best shot. Make the effort. Do what depends upon you. You can’t do their part, but make sure you do yours.
Both of these qualifiers make it clear that you won’t always be at peace with everyone. Sometimes it’s not possible. Sometimes you do all you can and it’s not enough; it’s not reciprocated. Sometimes it just doesn’t work, despite our best efforts. You’re stuck. Then what? Here is Jesus’ answer in Luke 6:27-36 (p 885-6).
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
When someone refuses to reconcile, to make peace, I guess you could say they are an enemy. Reconciliation is about turning enemies into friends. So how do we treat our enemies? We love them. Look again at verse 27: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. What do we do when we’re stuck, when we’ve done our best to make peace and it isn’t enough?
We love them. We don’t hate, we love them.
We do good for them. That’s what love is: doing what’s best for another no matter what it costs us. Loving our enemy is doing something good for them.
We bless them. That means we speak well of them. We don’t bad mouth them, slander them, spread bad news about them on our social media. We bless them.
We pray for them. We pray for blessing, for peace, for reconciliation.
And why do we do these things? Because that is how God treats us. Look at verse 35-36: But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. When we act like this, we are acting like God’s children, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked, and He is merciful! God is a peacemaker, and when you’re a peacemaker, you are like your Father. Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.
ILL: Max Lucado, in his book The Applause of Heaven writes about a big, muscle-bound man named Daniel who was swindled by his own brother. Daniel vowed that if he ever saw his brother again, he would break his neck. A few months later, Daniel became a Christian. Even so, he couldn’t forgive his brother. One day, the inevitable encounter took place on a busy street. This is how Daniel described what happened:
“I saw him, but he didn’t see me. I felt my fists clench and my face get hot. My initial impulse was to grab him around the throat and choke the life out of him. But as I looked into his face, my anger began to melt. For as I saw him, I saw the image of my father. I saw my father’s eyes. I saw my father’s look. I saw my father’s expression. And as I saw my father in his face, my enemy once again became my brother.”
The brother found himself wrapped in those big arms—not in a stranglehold, but in a hug. The two stood in the middle of a river of people and wept.
“When I saw the image of my father in his face, my enemy became my brother.”
Can you see the face of your Father in your enemy? That person who refuses to make peace is someone made in the image of God, and is deeply loved by God. So when you’ve tried to reconcile and failed, what do you do? You love, you do good, you bless, you pray. And maybe your enemy will see the face of our Father in you.