Its what you do next…

conversation - photo credit - David Marcu

Whether its at work, at home, or in your social circle, when you realize that you are the source of another person’s pain, its what you do next that matters. Truly I hate that moment. Most of us who are conscientious hate it too. These are the moments when our self-defence rituals kick in: blaming, shaming, and fear dancing! We don’t want the conflict. We don’t want a share in the pain. We want it to be the other person’s problem. And so if you are at all familiar with that script it probably means you are going to argue with God when He interrupts your worship.

23“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.  Mathew 5:23-24

When self-justification takes over as our lens for relationships it makes us confident that the real problem is someone else’s problem. “They” have a problem because “they” are wrong, “they” are too sensitive, “they” are too reactive.

But reconciliation is our problem. Jesus wants us to see conflict and pain through the lens of reconciliation not self-justification. When self-justification is our lens for seeing people and conflict then even our worship will be framed by self-justification. We will turn the worship of God into a moment in which we are self-justifying ourselves before Him. We are using God instead of loving God.

That’s why Jesus shows his disciples how God interrupts worship. “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you… leave… Go… and be reconciled…” Why would we suddenly remember? I believe the Spirit of God calls us into the ministry of reconciliation. The Gospel shows us the King’s Mission of reconciliation and brings us into it. A true worshipper saved by Jesus is going to have moments in which worship is interrupted by Jesus for reconciliation within the realm personal relationships.

This passage is one of the reasons why I think our worship gatherings are meant to be way more dynamic and active than they are!

The good news: obedience to Jesus leads us into new options for relationships. You are not in charge of what the other person does next after you approach them. You are only in charge of what you are “doing next” because God approached you in worship and reminded you of the pain another is experiencing in relation to you.

So what are you going to do when you go to them? Try this:
1. I was meeting up with God and He reminded me of you.
2. I think you may be pained by me in some way.
3. Would you like to let me in on what you are feeling and thinking?
Then wait, listen and respond appropriately.

Some of your possible responses: Agreeing with them. Acknowledging their pain. Sharing in their sorrow. Asking forgiveness. Confessing your own. Granting forgiveness. Making amends. Making restitution. Praying together. Creating new boundaries. Waiting. Worshiping God together through Christ.

Reconciliation is a miracle work through the grace of Jesus and it cannot be rushed, but it must be started when the Spirit of God interrupts your worship. When God interrupts your worship, its what you do next that matters.

Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. 17He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. Ephesians 2:16-18

Photo Credit: David Marcu

Our Courageous Saviour Painted in Shades of Shame

IMG_7289 - Version 210The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

John 10:1-15

Perhaps you don’t see yourself in the centre of a conflict. Jesus does. In John 10 Jesus describes the human condition with the metaphor of sheep. The thief, the wolf, (Satan) comes to steal, kill and destroy sheep. Jesus comes to give life, abundant life to the sheep. Hired hands would run away from the cost of winning this conflict. But not Jesus, He is the good shepherd; He lays down His life for the sheep. He lays down His life for you.

Jesus is the courageous Saviour. Laying down His life required a cross. A cross was not the typical vision of courage. Such a death would have been painted in shades of sinful shame. And yet, Jesus decided the will of the Father’s love for you and me was worth it. You are immensely valuable to God. It took a courageous Saviour Shepherd, Jesus to show us.

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
(Hebrews 12:1-2)

If you are yelling…

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1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.  2The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. 3 The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. 4 A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.  Proverbs 15:1-4

If you are yelling, you are probably not listening. And the other person isn’t able to listen either. If you are party to such I must commend to you wisdom that roots out the anxiety, folly, and perverseness.

The mouth of the wise contrasted with the mouth of a fool:

Soft answers    –    Harsh words
Knowledge     –     Folly

Gentle tongue brings life   –   Perverseness breaks the spirit

In the middle of the short discourse on speech and conflict the teacher commends awareness of God: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”

It reminds me of Paul’s pursuit of the Lord’s peace for a conflict among two leaders in the church of Philippi:

5Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So next time in the midst of conflict remember: Jesus is here; anxiety ramps up irrationality disturbing the heart and mind; seek God and speak softly.

You don’t have to listen to me…

My 2+ group read these verses last week and I have not been able to get away from them:  James 3:13-18

13Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

The meekness of wisdom.  Meekness is not a popular word.  So meek and mild.  Why is mild put together with meekness?  It has nothing to do with it.

Meekness has to do with controlled strength.  Think of sitting on the strongest and mightiest horse, giving a subtle command, and having the horse respond.  That’s meekness.  Controlled strength.

That’s Jesus.  Truly He IS the wisdom that came from heaven.  Controlled strength.  See Jesus, the magnificence and majesty of God wrapped up in flesh.  The meekness of wisdom.

Is that me and is that you?  Meek.

The meekness of wisdom says, “You don’t have to listen to me for me to feel good about myself.  You don’t have to listen to me for the world to be set right.  But I will listen to you… for a while.

And then hopefully we can draw out the wisdom of heaven

and all be better for it.”

ilinktoit, 28 August 2008