RESOLVING EVERYDAY CONFLICT

New Equipping Hour Class Starting January 7, 2018

This Sunday at Orlando Grace Church we begin this video curriculum study.

Peacemaker Ministries describes it like this:

We all have conflict. Think about the people you know. They may not be in the middle of a big blow up, but they certainly have tense conversations around the breakfast table or difficulties with an overbearing boss. Or more seriously, perhaps their marriage is on the verge of falling apart. Regardless, they are looking for answers.

Resolving Everyday Conflict is an eight-lesson study that unpacks the amazing things the Bible has to say about conflict and relationships. As you go through this study, you’ll find the powerful and practical answers you are looking for to forever change how conflict looks in your life.

Join us for group discussion and video instruction on this strategic subject starting at 9:30 AM in Room F5.

Watch the video promo below!

BLESSING & THE GOOD LIFE

How Peacemaking Commitments Make for the Good Life

 

grace

In The Grace of Giving,  Stephen Olford tells of a Baptist pastor during the American Revolution, Peter Miller, who lived in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, and enjoyed the friendship of George Washington.

In Ephrata also lived Michael Wittman, an evil-minded sort who did all he could to oppose and humiliate the pastor. One day Michael Wittman was arrested for treason and sentenced to die.

Peter Miller traveled seventy miles on foot to Philadelphia to plead for the life of the traitor.

“No, Peter,” General Washington said. “I cannot grant you the life of your friend.”

“My friend!” exclaimed the old preacher. “He’s the bitterest enemy I have.”

“What?” cried Washington. “You’ve walked seventy miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in different light. I’ll grant your pardon.” And he did.

Peter Miller took Michael Wittman back home to Ephrata–no longer an enemy but a friend.

Peter Miller lived the good life as 1 Peter 3:8-12 prescribes it.

The text explains how to love life and see good days in spite of evil and reviling that at times can threaten us and our churches. It takes showing grace and refusing revenge and giving blessing.

Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless! Really? This is radical. It is counter intuitive. It’s the essence of unconditional, Christ-following/imitating love.

Can you hear the echoes of Jesus’ teaching from Luke 6:27-29?

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.

It resonates with Paul’s example in 1 Cor. 4:12–when reviled, we bless–and his teaching in 1 Thessalonians 5:15–See that no one repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

Perhaps Rom. 12:21 says it best: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

In the rest of this passage, Peter makes his case for why this kind of radical way of relating should govern our reactions even to our worst persecutors.

The first has to do with the nature of our calling. For to this you were called. In 1 Peter 2:20-21, Peter explained the first of two callings given to believers in the face of persecution in particular.

But here he gives an additional grace-shaped, love-never-fails calling when persecuted and reviled–-returning blessing for evil.

The second reason for committing to this kind of radical way of relating has to do with the nature of our reward. See the motivation at the end of v. 9?–-that you may obtain a blessing.

I think Peter means for us to look at this in terms of the present life and not the next. Consider how he defends his point in verses 10-12. He quotes Psalm 34:12-16, a psalm of David, when he came under attack by Abimelech and the Philistines.

Look at v. 10. For–-there’s his reason–He who would love life and see good days. That’s not talking about eternity; that’s talking about here and now.

This holds out a promise for a quality of life on earth, even for the believer enduring terrible persecution and conflict of all kinds.

As you head into 2018, do you need to adjust your expectations about the good life you desire?

Be sure to leave room for blessing an enemy.

REVENGE & THE GOOD LIFE

How Peacemaking Commitments Make for the Good Life

revenge

Marcus Aurelius once said that the best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury. The apostle Peter recommended something similar in 1 Peter 3:8-12.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For

“Whoever desires to love life
    and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
    let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Here is a strategy for the good life for a suffering people. The main idea from the passage is this: Our extraordinary identity as God’s people calls for radical peacemaking commitments in the church. 

A suffering church must be a unified church. That takes three different peacemaking commitments embedded in the text.  The first of these commitments in verse 8 is showing grace.

The second is refusing revenge (verse 9b). Peter gets painfully specific in this verse about a particular aspect of showing grace in our relationships—not getting even. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling.

If you and your church are going to stay out of conflict city, then you have to determine not to play the payback game. You don’t do revenge.

Whether it’s someone does you wrong or reads you the riot act, you don’t return in kind. You refuse to go toe-to-toe in a war of evil works or reviling words.

Now that’s radical. Someone does you wrong, someone slanders you behind your back, and you don’t respond in kind. How in the world is that possible?

It starts with taking our cue from Jesus example in this regard. Look at 1 Pet. 2:20-23:

For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

When you resist the temptation to get even, when you bite your tongue in the face of someone’s gossip, you stand in excellent company. Jesus is truly your closest friend in such hard things.

Charles Spurgeon likened dealing with evil and reviling as a fight to the death:

You cannot let evil alone and evil will not let you alone. You must fight. And in the battle you must either conquer or be conquered. The words before us remind me of the saying of the Scot officer of the Highland regiment when he brought them up in front of the enemy and said, “Lads, there they are: if you dinna kill them they’ll kill you”. . . . “Overcome, or be overcome.” There is no avoiding the conflict, no making truce or holding parley, no suspension of hostilities after a brief skirmish. The battle must be fought through to the end and can only close with a decided victory to one or the other side.

In the rest of these verses, Peter shows us how to win. More on that in subsequent posts.

In the meantime, where might you need to ask the Lord to help you overcome the temptation to get even?

GOOD DAYS, GRACE DAYS

How Peacemaking Commitments Make for the Good Life

good life

How do you define “the good life?”

According to one source reported by Psychology Today, happiness consists of four things: experiencing pleasure, avoiding negative experience, seeking self-development, or making contributions to others.

The apostle Peter wrote a different prescription for loving life and seeing good days in 1 Pet. 3:8-12.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For
“Whoever desires to love life
    and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
    let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

In my last post, I introduced this passage as a strategy for the good life for a suffering people. The main idea from the passage is this: Our extraordinary identity as God’s people calls for radical peacemaking commitments in the church. 

A suffering church must be a unified church. That takes three different peacemaking commitments embedded in the text.

The first of these commitments in verse 8 is showing grace. I take that from the four specifics which follow the need for unity of mind.

One, sympathy. The word means literally to suffer with someone in something. It’s the idea of empathizing with others in all kinds of situations, good or bad. Romans 12:15 says it well: Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 

Two, brotherly love. Our affection for others in the body of Christ should resemble the love we have for our physical families.

Three, a tender heart. The root means kidney or bowel. It was used to describe the visceral area of the body. It conveys the idea of a depth of feeling for others that comes from the gut—way down deep inside.

Four, humility. We simply can’t overstate the importance of this quality to a peacemaking ethic. Peter will hit it again in 1 Pet. 5:5: Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Henry Scougal, in his treatise, The Life of God in the Soul of Man, comments on this:

The leaves of high trees do shake with every blast of wind; and every breath, every evil word, will disquiet and torment an arrogant man; but the humble person hath the advantage, when he is despised, that none can think more meanly of him than he doth of himself; and therefore he is not troubled at the matter, but can easily bear those reproaches which would the other to the soul (1996, p. 84).

Does “showing grace” make your list for defining the good life? The apostle put it at the very top. Do you need to alter your priorities?

A STRATEGY FOR LOVING LIFE AND SEEING GOOD DAYS

How Peacemaking Commitments Make for the Good Life

Blaise_Pascal_2

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), the French philosopher warned:

Let it not be imagined that the life of a good Christian must be a life of melancholy and gloominess; for he only resigns some pleasures to enjoy others infinitely better.

The apostle Peter, writing to believers suffering severe persecution, would concur with that sentiment. Consider his words in 1 Pet. 3:8-12.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For
“Whoever desires to love life
    and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
    let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Verse 10 holds out hope that Pascal knew what he was talking about. “Whoever desires to love life and see good days.”

Know anybody who does not want that? Nobody in his right mind wants to hate life and see bad days. We all want the best life has to offer.

Few things can threaten a Christian’s sense of happiness and well-being like their church imploding with conflict.

The summer our church melted down I recall for many among us at OGC as some of our worst days. Loving life fell far short of how any of us would describe our experience.

If King Solomon got it right in Prov. 17:14 (and of course he did)–“The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.”–then heeding Peter’s advice here makes a lot of sense.

The best church fight we will ever have is the one we never experience. We all have to get equipped with this kind of strategy particularly as it pertains to countering evil when it rears its ugly head in our relationships.

I will warn you up front. The strategy prescribed here flies in the face of the world’s approach. This is a distinctly counter-culture way to fight for the good life.

But Peter has been arguing ever since 1 Peter 2:9-10 that, based upon who we are as God’s chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation, and treasured possession–based upon these extraordinary appointments of grace–we must make certain radical commitments.

We must determine to conduct ourselves in strategic ways with God’s help in all kinds of places–from the state, to the home, and now, wrapping this section up with Finally in v. 8–the church.

Here’s the main idea I think he is saying: Our extraordinary identity as God’s people calls for radical peacemaking commitments in the church.

There are three. They are showing grace (8), refusing revenge (9a), and giving blessing (9b-12). Future posts will unpack each in the interest of loving life and seeing good days.

LIVING IN PEACE & THE KISS OF LOVE

How Striving for Peace Fuels the Kiss of Love

peace

A church at odds will not likely have many of its folks practicing the gospel virtue of greeting one another with the kiss of love (1 Pet. 5:14). Perhaps that’s why Paul finishes the way he does in the passage under consideration in this latest series of posts.

After emphasizing the role of joy, wholeness, submission and agreement for enhancing the practice of greeting with a holy kiss in 2 Cor. 13:11-12, the apostle Paul ends with one final factor.

“Live in peace.”

Rejoice, aim for restoration, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace.

So many texts of the New Testament point us to this last virtue. Consider Heb. 12:14:

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

It is the duty of the church to strive for peace, to work hard at peacemaking, as those shaped by the gospel of the ultimate peacemaker, Jesus, who reconciled us to God (2 Cor. 5:18).

Notice the sweet promise with which Paul finishes for the church that prizes these five things: and the God of love and peace will be with you.

The God who supplies love and peace, given that’s His nature, will abide with the church in a special way with that love and peace. Of course inherent with the promise comes the warning that to fail to do these things means He will withdraw the same.

If we consistently do these things–rejoice in God, aim for perfection, submit to godly, gospel-laced, Bible-saturated authority, agree on the truth, and strive for the peace of our church–we stand to excel as one holy kissing bunch of believers!

Not that I necessarily want to say that you go out and from now on do the peck on the cheek thing. But as a rule something more may befit us than the token handshake of our culture.

Holy hugs (men with women and vice versa remember – side hugs or A-frame only) capture a whole lot more of the spirit of what the Bible teaches here than the casual wave or minimal greeting.

Let me leave you with this one thought. If the idea of giving someone else in the body a holy kiss seems unpleasant, even repugnant to you, you more than likely have some peacemaking to do.

Determine to rely on Jesus’ peacemaking power and the gospel’s impetus to help you engage others with a holy, tangible intimacy.

Greet one another with the kiss of love.

 

LIKE-MINDEDNESS & THE KISS OF LOVE

How Agreeing on the Truth Fuels the Kiss of Love

agree

Our church learned the importance of the lesson of this post the hard way. Unity disintegrated big-time over major doctrinal differences. It was ugly, according to those who endured it.

After emphasizing the role of joy, wholeness, and submission in enhancing the practice of greeting with a holy kiss in 2 Cor. 13:11-12, the apostle Paul turns to yet another significant factor.

“Agree with one another.”

The text reads literally in the Greek this way: the same thing, think. I call it like-mindedness.

Paul says this kind of thing a lot in his epistles. He likes this command.

For example in Phil. 1:27 we read, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”

Phil. 2:2 provides another example. “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”

He doesn’t lobby for uniformity in all thinking. It’s not possible. But he does argue for a oneness of mind about especially the priority of the gospel in the community of faith.

He pleads for a focus on the truth so passionate that when it comes to the essential truths of the gospel and the great doctrines on which it depends, as opposed to any kind of false teaching, let us all be thinking the same thing.

John MacArthur credits this reality significantly for the unity enjoyed at Grace Community Church over the years:

I’ll tell you right now, the key to living in peace is having the same thoughts, isn’t it? One of the reasons this church is so harmonious, one of the reasons this church doesn’t split up and fracture all the time is because we believe the same things. And whenever…listen carefully…and it’s only really occurred once in my tenure here, there has been a fracturing of this church, it is because some people believed something different was true and we didn’t have that truth. Where you have a common grasp of the Word of God, you have the commonality that perpetuates itself in peace. But when you get some people who start teaching something different, then you create the fracture. So if you’re going to live in peace, you have to be like-minded and submissive to the truth and expressing joy in that truth.

For this reason among others I rejoice that OGC is a confessional church. A document like the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith helps us do that by spelling out the truth so we know what we believe together.

Does your church have a clear statement of faith upon which you can agree? It definitely helps make for a unity that fuels the kiss of love.

SUBMISSION & THE KISS OF LOVE

How Following Leadership Fuels the Kiss of Love

File'-Saint_Paul_Writing_His_Epistles'_by_Valentin_de_Boulogne

When you blog as a pastor you never know. Does anyone read what you write?

I was both blessed and bothered recently by a report. Someone told me they were glad I have been writing lately on the New Testament exhortation to greet one another with a holy kiss (2 Cor. 13:12).

Great. Score one for this pastor/blogger. Somebody actually reads these posts. My elation was soon tempered.

“We think your church has become unloving.” Ouch. So much for self-congratulation.

Guess I need to keep hammering away at this subject.

In the first post I explained how the gospel shapes our community with oneness when we engage one another intentionally by greeting with the holy kiss of love.

In the second post I emphasized how rejoicing in the Lord is the first of four things Paul proposes for motivating the practice of greeting one another with a holy kiss.

In the third post, I unpacked how aiming for restoration–setting high goals compels doing the holy kiss thing in church.

In this post we turn to the next imperative in Paul’s arsenal from 2 Cor. 13:11 to promote his unity purposes at Corinth: submitting to the leadership.

The ESV offers an alternative in the margin to the next command, comfort one another.

For reasons I won’t elaborate on, I prefer the footnote. Listen to my appeal.

Throughout this letter Paul has brought apostolic correction in the way of inspired teaching designed to cure what ails them as a church.

It is imperative that they heed his counsel and follow his instruction if they have any hope of righting the ship, mending their ways, and going on to maturity.

In this he directs them yet another time away from the destructive influence of the false teachers plaguing the fellowship and draws them back into the safety of his pastoral and apostolic leadership.

In a community, some have to lead and others have to follow. Elders don’t possess apostolic authority, but God has entrusted them with ecclesiastical authority for which they will give an account (Heb. 13:17).

Without order in leading and following you have little likelihood of a church of peace where love can be readily expressed including things like the holy kiss.

Thus Peter says in 1 Pet. 5:5: Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

John MacArthur put it this way:

There must be a character of submission in the church in that it submits itself willingly to the authority of God, to heed all the appeals based on truth, all the calls to righteousness. Paul is saying to the Corinthians, “Look, if you’re going to be the kind of church you ought to be and enjoy the perfection that I desire for you . . . there needs to be a pervasive submission to that which is authoritative from the mind of God to you.”

Nobody likes the “S” word. I get that. But rightly understood, it matters greatly for preserving the gift of unity in the church.

Submissive types hug; rebels self-protect. Which are you?

THE GOAL OF THE KISS OF LOVE

How Aiming for Restoration Fuels the Kiss of Love

goals

Does your church have goals? The apostle Paul prescribed an important peacemaking one for the church at Corinth in 2 Cor. 13:11. Aim for restoration.

Recently I’ve been writing about the kiss of love (1 Pet. 5:14) as a gospel grace for guarding unity in the church.

In the first post I explained how the gospel shapes our community with oneness when we engage one another intentionally by greeting with the holy kiss of love.

In the second post I emphasized how rejoicing in the Lord is the first of four things Paul proposes for motivating the practice of greeting one another with a holy kiss.

Another factor in guarding unity through practicing gospel greeting is setting our church sights high for what Paul calls “restoration.” This matters a great deal for all churches but especially for those marred by a history of conflict.

Aim for restoration. He used a form of the same word back in v. 9. Your restoration is what we pray for.

The idea behind the word is to be made complete, whole, perfect in the sense of mature, put thoroughly in order. It’s used in the gospels for the mending of nets and in the culture for setting a fractured bone.

The same root appears in Eph. 4:11-12 concerning the role of gifted people in the church to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry so that the body can be made whole and mature.

See also Gal. 6:1-2 where it applies to helping restore spiritually someone trapped in sin. We might translate it mend your ways.

The Corinthian community lacked in so many ways. Paul exhorts them to set their aim high at cleaning up their act. Make right the wrongs. Get their ducks in a row. For just one example, consider 2 Cor. 12:20.

For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

Now there was a church with a lot of work to do in cultivating a culture of peace! Paul exhorts them not to settle for such a distorted form of community but to aim for something far superior.

In my next post I will share a number of concrete ways a church can aim at the perfect in this all important virtue in our gospel-shaped community.

You won’t likely offer the holy kiss of love to some member of the body you’re fighting with. You’re more likely to hide from them in the cave so as not to even make eye contact.

God help us to aim higher!

 

JOY & THE KISS OF LOVE

How Rejoicing in God Fuels Greeting with Love

hugs

I married a hugger.

Jan loves to greet folks she knows with a warm embrace. She’s just about the best example I know of someone who takes seriously the Bible’s command to greet one another with a holy kiss (2 Cor. 13:12). She’s turned me into more of a hugger!

In my last post I wrote about the kiss of love (1 Pet. 5:14) as a gospel grace for guarding unity in the church. The gospel shapes our community with oneness when we engage one another intentionally by greeting with the holy kiss of love.

The way I see Paul’s flow in the argument makes me think we most likely will embrace his command in 12, or some modern-day, culturally appropriate version thereof, IF we take seriously and obey all five of his rapid-fire, staccato, summary-of-the-book imperatives in 2 Cor. 13:11.

 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

I call them five virtues which must be operative in a gospel-shaped community if it’s going to show genuine, holy intimacy in relationships: rejoicing in the Lord, aiming at the perfect, submitting to the leadership, agreeing on the truth, and striving for the peace.

The first is rejoicing in the Lord. Finally, brothers, rejoice. Some translations have farewell. And it can mean that. The Greek word became a familiar form of greeting and parting in the New Testament world.

But the word literally is, as rendered by the ESV, the word for rejoice. Paul ends the same way in Phil 3:1 – Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord and Phil. 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Paul made it very clear in the opening of the letter, 2 Cor. 1:24, of his priority agenda in this regard – we work with you for your joy.

This way of saying hello and/or goodbye doesn’t differ all that much from the Jewish salutation shalom. Peace be to you. It conveys a certain sentiment, blessing, and hope for the party given the greeting.

It is decidedly vertical in its trajectory, for the object of rejoicing isn’t in one’s circumstances which vary substantially, but in God who always remains the same and always works all things together for a believer (Rom. 8:28).

People grounded in the bedrock theology of God’s sovereignty that contributes a deep running current of joy in His control of everything best fight against anxiety and more often than not bear the fruit of the Spirit that is joy (Gal. 5:22-23).

And because they keep their eyes on Jesus on the throne and the certainty of His love in the gospel, they possess a power to rejoice even in suffering and touch others with tangible, holy forms of intimacy rather than drown in a sea of self-pity that ignores the needs of others.

What greater need do we have than to be loved by others?

Consider giving more attention to your greeting ways in the church fueled by your rejoicing ways in God.