Summary: Being reconciled is more important than being religious.
How to Handle Conflict
Rev. Brian Bill
On Monday Megan and I did some errands together. Our first stop was to M&H to drop off our lawnmower blade for its yearly sharpening. When we walked in I held up the blade and Rob immediately told me that I had had it on upside down. I asked him how he knew that and he said he could tell just by looking at it. After feeling myself turn red I asked him if he was going to tell anyone else what I had done. He grinned and said, “I wouldn’t think of it.”
Well, I got out of there in a hurry and when I was back in the car I told Megan that I always wondered why our lawn didn’t look very lush after I cut it last spring and summer. Thinking I was in a safe place I began my lament, “What was I thinking? I had it on upside down all year! Why did I do that?” To which Megan immediately replied, “Hello…you are from Wisconsin!” Later that day I told Lydia what happened and she asked me if I was going to have someone else install it for me. Funny girls.
Here’s the deal. In order for the lawnmower to work properly, the blade must be put on correctly. As we begin a brand new series called “Finding Hope in Hard Times,” we’re going to work hard at putting the blade of the Bible on properly so that it does what it’s designed to do. In what is no doubt the most famous sermon ever preached, John Stott argues that the Sermon on the Mount is the least understood and certainly the least obeyed. At its heart, this sermon is a call for Christians to be counter-cultural, to do things differently than non-Christians, or as Jesus said in Matthew 6:8: “Do not be like them.”
It’s no secret that during economic stress and distress, domestic disturbances become more prevalent, substance abuse increases, worries can wipe us out, and making our money last becomes an all-consuming concern. According to a Reuter’s report this week, the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services reported a 5.8 percent rise in child abuse cases in 2008. In the Chicago area, child abuse cases rose more than 9 percent last year. During these tough times in our country and in our county, let’s allow the sharp words of Jesus to speak into our situations.
Could I give you an assignment right at the beginning? Between now and the end of May, read Matthew 5-7 every day. That’s what I’m doing. Here’s where we’re headed in the next few weeks.
* Learning How to Pray
* Overcoming Anxiety
* Helping Those in Need
* Making Your Money Last
* Taking the Narrow Road
* Building on a Firm Foundation
And our topic today is “How to Handle Conflict.” I have a theory. It goes something like this. Most of us know what we’re supposed to do, but we don’t always do it correctly. This is especially the case when it comes to conflict. We’ve preached on it several times but in practice many times this particular preacher gets it all backwards and upside down. For our purposes this morning, we’ll have some preaching but I also want you to hear from others so that we’ll be more prone to put it into practice. The preaching time will not uncover anything new – in fact, some of what I’ll share is a repeat from several sermons over the past years; my heart is that God will use His Word to renew our desire for reconciliation.
Preparing to Preach
Please turn to Matthew 5:1-2: “Now when he saw the crowds…” We see two concentric circles here in this passage: The inner ring of the committed disciples, and the outer loop, composed of the curious crowd. That’s why we like to have our Easter and Christmas outreaches at the PTHS auditorium – it’s an easier place for the curious to come. While Jesus pulls back from the multitudes on occasion, He also loved to minister to the masses. Matthew 9:37: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
It’s clear that while this sermon is primarily addressed to the committed, the crowd was also listening in. Mark 12:37 says that when the throngs paid attention to Jesus, they did so with “great delight.”
“…He went up on a mountainside…” While Jesus had no permanent place to preach from like the scribes and Pharisees did, He made use of a common mountain. Commentators have suggested that Jesus deliberately used this mountain to draw a parallel between the message given to Moses and the one coming from the Messiah.