17 September 2017 Sunday Message: Triangles and forgiveness. (Romans series ctd.)
Readings: Romans 13:8; Matthew 18:15-20
How were you with triangles? Not the musical instrument you played in the primary school orchestra. That usually meant you had limited musical skills. 😊
I was thinking geometry. Equilateral triangles are the only type I remember off hand.
And then there are the triangles you see in soap operas. They are usually more complicated.
Most of us avoid those.
School kids sometimes have friendship problems that involve triangles. Friend A likes you but then likes friend B more, and the poor kid who is friend C gets ditched by A.
So how are your friendships doing? Hopefully well. We do value friendships that are long-lasting and steadfast.
In this modern generation people have on-line friends too – because people are so mobile the internet helps us to keep connected.
On Facebook, you can unfriend them when you are fed up. Just a click of a button. Mind you, his generation of school kids break up by text anyway. Crazy world. No more Dear John letters.
In my generation, people are more likely to neglect people and just drift away. Or more move away. Usually to another continent.
Communities and families.
In close communities like a family or church there is a good chance that people can fall out over something rather trivial that grows and grows out of all proportion.
Or worse still, something really bad happens and it’s a painful separation or estrangement.
Jesus gives this method in Matt 18 to fix that. It obviously mattered to him when people wronged each other.
We fail in this most times. It’s the triangle that we often slip into.
- We don’t go to the person directly when things have gone wrong.
- We tell someone else.
If someone complains about someone, the first question we should ask is simply this: have you spoken to them directly? If not, its gossip. (I’m sure you’ve NEVER had that happen to you.)
There’s a saying that goes – “don’t allow someone rest their gun on your shoulder.”
If you do:
- Suddenly there are three people.
- Your friend – their friend they are fed up with – and you.
- And your friend drags you into something the two of them need to fix.
Of-course Jesus gives a way to sort it out if the person doesn’t respond.
The real challenge is for us not to get sucked into triangles.
Ironically – whether there are two or three who come together in His name – what does He say in verse 20? He is in the midst – with them. Where Christians are – Jesus is.
And if we took that seriously, we would watch what we said about people in general. We would certainly avoid gossip. Or scandal.
COMING TO THE TABLE
When we come to the Lord’s table it’s a good idea to reflect on relationships and perhaps resolve to make things right.
Paul in the reading from Roman 13 puts it like this:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.(vs8).
And this is even more important:
Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (vs.10)
So what is the way forward? This is what Jesus says:
Mat 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. Mat 18:16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ Mat 18:17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
There is a place for a triangle or a quadrilateral setup. If they don’t respond to you appeal to sort out something that is wrong, you can take one or two others along to show it is serious. If they are unrepentant, you tell the whole community – mainly I think so they can pray about it and realize that it matters. If that doesn’t help -you cut them off. Treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
The wonderful thing is that Jesus always kept the door open for tax collectors.
The hope was always reconciliation and restoration.
Like a family, you’d want the estranged member to come back so when you have those family meals they are at the table.
- For most things, I reckon we can resolve things.
- The little foxes that cause trouble are often things we can compromise on. Or at least forgive.
And so – if I hear you mutter about anyone, I will probably not say – “have you applied Matthew 18 sister?” That’s a bit too weird.
I might say “please don’t rest your gun on my shoulder” just to remind you of today.
Paul goes on to say:
Rom 13:11 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
Rom 13:12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light.
You might think – ah this is not so bad. Probably not considering what he deals with in the next verse: Rom 13:13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery…
But he also adds at the end of verse 13: not in dissension and jealousy.
He ends this passage with this: Rom 13:14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
That’s quite good really. Jesus becomes our covering. It along with Colossians 3:12: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. After all – whatever you do to the least of his brothers you do unto him (Matthew 25).
That includes taking pot shots at each other.
Best have the right kind of triangles or groups with the right focus: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”