Summary: The church consists of people, and at some stage in a growing church complaints and differences of opinion will occur. This sermon explores the biblical approach to handling complaints.
As I read the New Testament one of things that becomes clear is that God knows that although He wants us to be living together in harmony,
that we will struggle.
So He gives us guidance, such as that found in Colossians 3:13-15
13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
And even though we maybe different Christ’s peace should influence how we live with each other.
1st Corinthians 12 highlights that even though we maybe different we should work together
and allow our differences to make us stronger and better able to reflect God’s love
in the very diverse community we live.
But unfortunately rather than using our differences to strengthen us
sometimes we allow Satan to use our differences to bring division.
So being different and having differences are not necessarily a problem, unless they conflict with scripture.
And when people with differences gather together it is almost guaranteed their will be disputes or disagreements.
Come to my house at tea time, and if I am charge of tea and only cook what I like I need to be prepared to listen to a complaints from everyone at our table,
not everyone likes spicey hot food like me.
And in particular a church that is living out Jesus’ approach to life of being welcoming church
that has a diverse range of people
and lives the reality of being a community of people who are both saints and sinners
will have differences of opinion and complaints.
But as God’s community
as people who not only receive God’s love but also share it
in otherwords as representatives of God’s community one of our roles is to encourage each other and build each other up.
As 1 Thesselonians 5:11 says
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.
God is very gracious to us,
spending a far bit of time in the New Testament
guiding us to live at peace,
to examine ourselves,
to be careful how we use our tongue
and He even gives us a process to deal with issues and complaints that we may have.
Before we look God’s approach to handling complaints in a healthy way.
It is helpful to understand what leads to complaints in our church and other groups we may mix with.
First of all we have the basic issue of sin,
people mess up and people think primarily of themselves.
We sin and people sin against us.
The reality is at the core of every complaint is sin.
It could be that someone has sinned.
It could be that we are raising an issue because we have a sinful attitude,
that is we want things our way, rather than God’s ways.
And it could be that even though our complaint may be legitmate
we raise that complaint in a sinful way, with the wrong motives and an approach that is sinful.
Remember the old saying two wrongs don’t make a right.
Well likewise justifying your sin because of another sin is also not right.
Another reason complaints occur is that none of us are the same.
None of us all like the same things.
God has blessed us with many different experiences, skills and gifts.
And unfortunately rather than using these differences to always build up and strengthen the church in Christ’s name,
at times we fall for Satan’s tricks.
We focus on our differences as reasons for their to be in conflict.
Another thing that leads to complaints is
when we think of ourselves above what we have agreed to as a community.
Our ideas, thoughts and position on a particular issue by itself may not necessarily be wrong,
but it is wrong when we are part of the Body of Christ
and yet put our position above that or in competition to the rest of the body
especially what we are supposed to be doing and what God has called us to do and be.
Complaints also arise because we often don’t understand the context God has called us to shine His light into.
As the church God has given us the privilege
but also awesome task of not just receiving His love,
but also representing Him and sharing His love with others in our community.
One of the interesting things about church history and the early reformation is that church will always be changing.
God’s love for us doesn’t change, but the way we communicate this love does.
The church throughout history is always looking at ways to bring God’s unchanging love into a changing world.