Summary: We learn to have a relationship with others: 1. When we live out the love of God. 2. We understand that we are one. 3. We grow in our relationship with God.
Ruth Bell Graham, the wife of Billy Graham, has written a story which she calls “The Mender.” She writes: “He had built for himself a great house on one of the Caribbean islands. It is a thing to behold. Tall rusty iron columns, collected and resurrected with an ingenious homemade device. This Great House is a masterpiece of salvaged materials. A collector and seller of scrap metal as well as antiques, he was also fascinated with broken bits and pieces of china dug from his front yard. His friends, John and June Cash, laughingly remarked it was the first time they had heard of a yard sale where the man had sold the yard itself. Carefully he fitted and glued the pieces together. Few ever came out whole. They remained simply a collection of one who cared. When I expressed interest, he gave me a blue-and-white plate, carefully glued together — pieces missing. ‘You remind me of God,’ I said. By the look on his face, I knew I shocked him, and I hurriedly explained. ‘God pieces back broken lives lovingly. Sometimes a piece is irretrievably lost. But still He gathers what He can and restores us.’”
Ruth Graham’s story is a parable of the church. We are an unusual collection of broken people. But God has taken us and collected the pieces of our lives and lovingly glued them back together. As we have experienced his grace, he has transformed our lives. Pamela Reeve has written, “Faith is remembering I am God’s priceless treasure when I feel utterly worthless.” How wonderful the grace of God is. It helps us to know that we are loved no matter what. In his presence we experience forgiveness for the past and encouragement for the days ahead. The problem is that this kind of grace and forgiveness is not always what we experience from those who are supposed to belong to God. It is a shock sometimes when we experience the forgiveness of God and the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit, to come among God’s people and find ourselves being criticized and judged. How is it that God is so full of love and acceptance and some of his people are so guarded and unaccepting.? How is it that the forgiveness of God is so free and freeing, but the approval of others is so hard to get? Why is the church sometimes like the TV show Survivor where there are those who say, “You are different from us. You threaten us. You don’t do things the way we have always done them. You are not part of our group. We don’t like you, so we have gathered the council and voted you off our island.” It can be hard to survive in the church. Why is it that the people of God are so unlike God at times — the God who came, not to condemn the world, but to save the world? (John 3:17). It is because we have not made a relationship with others a priority in our lives.
Someone has said, “The church is the only army in the world that shoots its wounded.” The church should not be a place where we are wounded, it should be a safe place where we are supported. The first point this morning is that we learn to have a relationship with others: When we live out the love of God. It seems as though there are many people who want to experience the love of God, but they do not want to share that love with others. They want to be forgiven, but they do not want to forgive. They want to live by the grace of God, while holding others accountable for their errors. They want God to erase their sins while they pick at other people’s faults. They want people to see them as one of the pillars of the church, while they give no credit to others for their abilities and contributions.
I continue to be amazed as I read through the biblical account of the life of Christ, that during Christ’s darkest days, the disciples were arguing among themselves. Time after time he told them that he was about to be taken into the courts of his enemies and be beaten, mistreated, and eventually crucified. But it is as though they never heard him, because they were so preoccupied with their little internal quarrels. Even during the last supper that they would have together, they were arguing about who was the greatest among them. They were so busy taking care of themselves that they were not at all concerned about what was about to happen to Jesus. They certainly were not concerned about the people outside the room where they were eating. They were only concerned about their own position and reputation in the group.