Summary: Although leaders in a church are crucial, the real strength or weakness of Christianity is found in its laymen, those who populate the pews and live out their Christian values throughout the week.
Sweet and Sour Christians
1. A society cannot be governed if most of its members do not buy into its laws.
The English philosopher, John Locke, who set the tone for the American Revolution, in his Second Treatise, wrote "the ruling power ought to govern by declared and received laws, and not by extemporaneous dictates and undetermined Justice…"
2. Locke understood that laws worked best when people received them. We are more likely to break laws with which we do not agree than those we receive.
3. This is more true with Christianity than with government. We must freely choose to receive God’s Word and follow it. No one can make us do this against our will. We will not be clubbed if we do not love our brother, we will not serve time if we fail to encourage others, and we will not fined if we fail to study our Bibles.
4. God’s laws get very personal, addressing even our very dispositions.
5. The laws of our nation are only enforced when the majority of our people embrace them. The same is true with God’s laws and the church. No matter what our leaders decide, the strength is in the pew.
6. Leadership is foundational, but where do leaders come from? From followers.
7. When Christian are noted to be sour, few are drawn to consider their testimony; but when it is obvious God has sweetened a person, people notice.
Main Idea: Although leaders in a church are crucial, the real strength or weakness of Christianity is found in its laymen, those who populate the pews and live out their Christian values throughout the week.
I. Preventing the Sour: We Must Check VINDICTIVENESS
A. NOBODY, not just us
1. When we see it happening, we need to address it
2. "Make Sure Nobody Pays Back Wrong for Wrong" (NIV)
3. The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates it this way, "See to it that no one repays evil for evil"
B. COUNTER INTUITIVE: Not Returning Wrong for Wrong
1. Have you ever noticed the vindictiveness of Country Music? Rap?
2. The text here is not talking about behaviors which are against the law
3. In Romans 13, Paul makes it clear that God ordained government to punish evildoers
4. Matthew Poole adds a clarifying comment in about 1670:
"But it is to be understood of private revenge rising out of malice, not of public censures, either civil or ecclesiastical, or of seeking reparations for injuries received in courts of justice according to law and equity."
5. Paul may have had in mind the way believers hurt their fellow believers; the argument for this is the context (vs. 14 and 20).
6. John MacArthur comments, "For Christians, the severest, most painful disappointments come not from the wickedness of the unbelieving world but from other sheep within the church. Sheep are definitely capable of harming other sheep, sinning against them in a variety of ways…"
7. It is in the midst of a conflict among believers where a person’s real character shows itself -- and sometimes it is not a pretty picture; Paul is saying, "no double standards; the rules do not change just because you are in conflict."
C. Desiring to be VINDICATED is good; taking REVENGE is not
? Many Christians are like the woman who had been bitten by a dog and was advised by her physician to write her last wishes, as she might succumb to hydrophobia. She spent so long with pencil and paper that the doctor finally remarked something about how long the will would be. "Will!" she snorted. "I’m writing a list of the people I’m going to bite!" (Pulpit Helps)
1. Webster defines vindictive as, "…revengeful in spirit; inclined to seek vengeance…"
2. The desire to be vindicated can be a good thing, not the same as being vindictive;
3. Webster defines vindicate as, "to clear from criticism, blame, guilt, suspicion, etc.; uphold by evidence or argument;" It implies the desire to be proven right, not get even.
Revelation 6:9ff, "When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed."
Romans 12:17ff, "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"[says the Lord. On the contrary: ’If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."