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Summary: Jesus gives his followers rules for the community to live by. They are good rules as we strive to live our Christian lives together in ministry and fellowship

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Matthew 18:15-20

INTRODUCTION

For the last several Sundays, we have been seeing examples of great faith and discussing how such faith applies to our lives today. In the story of Jesus beckoning Peter to walk on water, we learned that great faith involves getting out of the boat. The story of Jesus and the Canaanite woman with the demon possessed daughter demonstrated the necessity of persistence in a life of faith. Last week we read what Jesus taught his followers concerning discipleship. Jesus calls his disciples to live in faith by denying themselves, taking up their crosses, and following him—even if we do this in a far from perfect manner.

The gospel lesson for this Sunday reveals to us another element of living faithfully—the nurture and maintenance of relationships.

GOD OF RELATIONSHIPS

It should be of no surprise to us that the God whom we worship is a God of relationships. Humankind was created in God’s image. Our likeness to God allows us to be in relationship with God. Even when we broke our relationship with God through sin, God moved to restore that relationship. The gospel of John proclaims that God so loved the world that he gave his only son …

Our journey is imperfect, as we walk with God. We are still sinful beings; at our core we seek to be lord of our lives and rebel against God. Our sinfulness is exhibited by our sins against God in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and left undone. The Holy Spirit moves in our lives to convict us of our sin and to move us to change our behavior. The Spirit may speak to us through our conscience, through Scripture, or through the voice of a friend.

We frequently confess our sinfulness and our sins either in the privacy of our prayer closet, or in our community worship. We seek God’s forgiveness that is always freely given, and we avail ourselves of the Spirit’s power to turn from our sin and walk along Jesus’ path rather than trail blaze our own path through the wilderness of life.

God’s movement in our lives is never vengeful, or meant to cause us harm. God purpose is to move in our lives and restore our relationship with him. God created us for a relationship with him and he realizes that we do not experience either peace or the abundant life until we have that relationship with him.

MIRROR IMAGE

The gospel lesson for today invites us to be mirror images of God in our relationships with others—especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. Of course this is easier said than done.

When we are offended and hurt, it is our natural, human response to avenge ourselves against the one who offended us. We may do this in a variety of ways, of which the most destructive is gossip. Seeking to get sympathy, amass allies, and at the same time cause harm to the individual, we gossip. A follower of St. Francis had a problem with the sin of gossip. As punishment for his gossiping behavior, St. Francis had him lay a feather on the doorstep of every household in the town of Assisi. When the man return to St. Francis and reported that he had accomplished his penance, St. Francis then directed him to go and pick up all of the feathers. The man objected, “I can’t do that,” he said, “the feathers have been blown all around town by the wind.” St. Francis slowly nodded his head and said, “So it is with gossip, the words you say can never be picked up again.”

Our goal when offended and when our relationship with another is strained, bruised or broken is to heal, restore, and renew that relationship. We are called not to hurt, not to insist on our own way or the correctness of our position, and not to get even. Relationships are too important to suffer the attacks of bruised egos.

The first thing we do when offended or hurt is to communicate with the one who hurt us. We do not confront him and tell him or her that he or she is wrong. Instead we simply share how we were hurt by what he or she said or did.

Forgiveness is a constant. Whether the individual asks for our forgiveness or remains unrepentant, forgiveness is given. This is not only for the sake of the relationship, but also for our own physical, spiritual and emotional health.

We live with the hope and prayer that the relationship will be restored, even if it takes some time for that to happen. We are challenged by Christ’s example never to close the door on a relationship.

THE IMPORTANCE OF RELATIONSHIPS

We, at times, downplay the importance of relationships. Assets, prestige, career, and ego are sometimes considered more important. Relationships are broken because of what people have done or said. We severe relationship with people who don’t do what we want them to do, or don’t believe as we do. Relationships, though, are one of the most important parts of our lives. We are social beings who were created for relationships with our creator and with our fellow creatures.

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