Thesis: As members of the body of Christ we must learn to understand, protect, rebuke, and forgive one another.
Purpose: To inspire and persuade the saints to act in holy and righteous ways, so that the body of Christ can meet it ultimate destiny.
When one thinks of etiquette, you may think of some sort of training that many of us were not afforded the opportunity to receive. We think of proper English, posture and proper eating habits. My bothers and sisters those things have their place, somewhere. However all those things are man made, and have a tendency to cause one to be burdened and not blessed. Things designed to make us look better on the outside hardly ever do anything to improve our soul. You can put a tuxedo on a pig but he is still a pig, and will waddle in the mud in that tuxedo.
This morning the message is not designed to talk about man made ideas of what is proper and what is not. As a matter of fact, I don’t wish to talk about the “church building” at all. This morning I don’t want to talk about what you should wear, say, do, sing, how you should sit, where you should sit and how long you should sit or sing. For there are many who would take offence to my opinion. So as in all my messages I seek not to come to you in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
The church as you all know is more than a building, but it is a body and a bride. The church is more than a corporation or organization, but more importantly it is a living organism. It is made up of many different kinds of people, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Indian, …etc. However in this diverse community there is one thing the causes all of us to be related, and that is the blood of Jesus Christ. He is the one that paid a debt he did not owe; yet it was a debt we could not pay. He was hung up for our hang-ups. He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with His stripes we are healed! The bible clearly states that we are all bought with a price. We no longer belong to ourselves, but we are children of the most high God. So it is my conviction and conclusion that since Jesus died for the church, rose for the church, paid for the church, and is coming back for the church, he has every right to lay down the rules for His Church. For I hear him saying, Upon this rock I will build my church!
As stated earlier church etiquette has nothing to do with the length of your skirt, the color of your hair, the beat of your song, the movement of the choir, whether or not we have drums, but Jesus makes it clear the what is most important in the Church is how we treat one another! Church etiquette is about my relationship with my brother or sister in Christ Jesus. For we must realize that one may have a nice suit, give the most on Men’s Day, know his or her books of the bible, and still die and go to hell. My brothers and sisters it is clear through out scripture that only the Pure in heart shall see God!
In our text today, Jesus instructs His disciples on their relationships with each other. He teaches them about their responsibility to and for one another. In the previous chapters, Jesus has encountered many who object to his teachings. When you study the book of Matthew you can clearly see that Jesus after being rejected became reclusive. Whereas before his rejection he spoke clearly, but now he has began to speak in parables. He no longer speaks to the crowd, but primarily he speaks to those who are a part of His sheepfold. Here in our text we see Jesus talking directly to those who are a part of the Kingdom of God. He teaches them that no matter what happens they are to deal with one another in a certain way.
First, Jesus teaches, in verse one, that we are to understand one another. He says in verse one that offences will come. People will sin. It is interesting that the bible tells us that God knows that we are flesh. The bible says in Psalm 103, and I quote, Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. 14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. 15 As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. 16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. God remembers that we are made of dust and we are prone to sin, and just as dust we are easily blown away. He tells his disciple who are made of dust to remember this very fact. People are only human, they make mistakes, they fall prey to the enemy, and sometime in the process they offend you.
One thing that we must all realize is, that no matter how perfect and together one seems to be, he will sin. This flesh that we live in does not have to have the victory over us, but remember everyone has not come as far as you have. For Jesus said, it is impossible, but offences will come! Jesus says that you can always count on man to let you down. He is not saying that you should never trust anyone. He is not saying that all people at all times will hurt you. What he is saying is that even in the church, we will be offended. In this place that is full of delivered, sanctified, holy, righteous people that there is room for improvement. Jesus is saying don’t trust man to be who and what only I can be too you. Man is not perfect, but Jesus is. Man is not always right, but Jesus is. Man does not always care, but Jesus does. Man can’t always come, always make a way, always be a friend, always walk with you… but Jesus can.
Remember that man is flesh just like you. If you are not perfect, you should not expect any living human being to always be right on. The only one that you can trust to be right all the time is our savior and King Jesus Christ.
Secondly in this pericupe Jesus tells us not only to understand one another, but to protect one another. In part B and verse 2 of chapter seventeen he tells us that although the best of us is prone to wrong, it is best that we not cause it. He says, but woe unto him, through whom they come! 2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. My God, what a serious statement brought to us by our Lord. He teaches that we should not aid in the sin of others. He teaches us that one should watch what they do and say in the presence of others.
We should lead by example. The philosophy of “do as I say not as I do” will not work, for no matter what phase of life you are in, remember somebody sees you. One thing I will always remember is an older person once told me that you know whom you see but you don’t know who sees you. That will always stick with me because people are watching, and it behooves us to watch what we say, do and how we act. However I have learned that people watching will not always cause one to walk uprightly before others. One thing that should cause us all to walk right is the fact that God sees us even when people do not.
Jesus says that it is better that a millstone was hanged about your neck and you were drowned in the sea. A millstone is a heavy stone that was used to grind grain. In other word Jesus takes such offense to you causing another to sin that he says you are better off dead! That is why I believe that every time you stand to preach you ought to have your lesson together. Every time you usher you ought to pray that God gives you the right attitude. Every time you sing in the choir or a solo remember that the beauty of your voice is not what has power, but the condition of your heart. In other words be careful how you serve and why you serve in and outside the sanctuary, for there are many eyes upon you and the biggest set are those of God almighty.
Thirdly Jesus teaches us not only understand one another and to protect one another, but to rebuke one another. This is easier said than done. In verse 3a He says, 3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; He tells us as believers church etiquette suggest that if one offend you or sins rebuke him. Now my brothers and sisters be careful when reading this passage that you do not become prideful. The word clearly says trespasses, not get on your nerves, not stepped on your toe, or said something that you did not like, but literally sinned. When it says sin it speaks of what God calls a sin. The bible tells us that when you see a brother or a sister involved in wrong that you ought to rebuke them. To rebuke one does not mean to curse, slander, or murder with the tongue, but it means to forbid or straightly charge in love, in love, in love, in love. In other words, tell me when I am wrong and show me how (according to scripture) to get it right.
My brothers and sisters this is where we so often fail. Yes we will talk about you after you’ve been arrested, but never say anything to you when we saw you headed down the wrong path. Yes we will scandalize your name when you come up pregnant out of wedlock, but never did we bother to pull you to the side and remind that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost. When you are in debtor’s court or bankrupt, we talk about you as they repossess your car, furniture and home, but never took the time to teach you to pay your tithe. We fail miserably in the rebuking department.
I hear someone saying, well Reverend Ivey it aint my business. My brothers and sisters one does not have to be ugly to rebuke. Just a gentle reminder can go a long way. As a matter of fact I believe that Jesus did not have ugliness in mind when he says this but more straightforward words from God’s word. Then too it is your business when your brother or sister is in sin for we are all in the same house just different rooms. If there is a fire in your brother’s room, you can’t afford to turn up your nose and close the door to your room, for fire travels. You may think it is just about them, but it is your problem too. So when a brother trespasses against you tell rebuke in love!
Fourthly and finally Jesus says, not only should we understand, protect and rebuke one another, but also we should forgive one another. In verse 4 he says, and if he repent, forgive him. 4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
Jesus clearly says that if one repents we should forgive him. The word repent means to change ones mind or to turn away from. So Jesus says if one changes his mind then we should not hold grudges. Then He goes on to say that if one sins against you seven times in a day and repents then one must forgive him seven times. Jesus uses the number seven, the number of completion, to show that in the church one should be forgiven as many times as he messes up. He says in essence your forgiveness of one should be as complete as his sins against you.
Now my brothers and sisters this is also easier said than done. Jesus tells us that in the church we should forgive no matter the offence. You will be surprised to know that people in the church can be as harmful and hurtful as sinners. Some would even dare to say that they should have stayed in the world if they knew that they would be treated like this in the church. However we thank God that we are not in the church for them but because of Jesus. So Jesus says that we ought to forgive one another.
It is not an easy task to forgive. People can be low down and evil. However when I think of forgiveness I cannot help but think about what Jesus did for me. When I really take inventory of my life, it causes me to rethink my prideful ways and forgive others. I can forgive because I have been forgiven. As I take a look in retrospect, I have been low down, hurtful, harmful, dishonest, riotous, and hateful and Jesus forgave me. Still I struggle sometimes to do the right thing and I fail miserably, and he still forgives me. Before I was born or even conceived God had me on His mind. He loved me so that he sent His son Jesus to pay my debt. On a hill far away stood and old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame. But I love that old cross where the dearest and best, for a world of lost sinners was slain. So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at least I lay down, I will cling to the old rugged cross and exchange it someday for a crown. Jesus forgave me I can forgive others. For I was sinking deep in sin far from the peaceful shore, very deeply stained within sinking to rise no more, but the master of the sea heard my despairing cry. From the waters he lifted me, now safe am I. Love lifted me, love lifted me, when nothing else could help, love lifted me. He forgave me, so I can forgive others. Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a retch like me, I once was lost but now I am found, blind but now I see. He forgave me, so I can forgive others. Thank God he forgives!
Understand, protect, rebuke and forgive me, for we are all in this together. When we learn this we can come together in the unity of the faith. There will be no big I’s and little you’s. The reality is, God’s people belong together. When all of God’s children get together, what a time what a time what a time.