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Mar 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 27, 2022



Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:12-13

Intro: Before fire engines, cities relied on the “bucket brigade”

Volunteers would rush to the scene of a fire and form a human chain
– beginning at a source of water–a well, river, or pond if close by–,
• draw water, and hand the bucket to the first person in the chain
◦ then the bucket would be passed from person to person until poured on the fire
◦ empty buckets would be returned down the chain, filled and passed again
• imagine, that the buckets stopped moving and no empties were returned
◦ someone runs down line to find the problem – and comes to two men just standing there
“I’m not passing the bucket to him. He’s a cheat!”
“I’m not taking a bucket from him. He’s a fraud!”
– in the meantime, the schoolhouse burns down
• if you’re in brigade, no matter what, don’t break the chain!

You and I have covered a lot of ground in the last three or four years
– some of the subjects we’ve looked at include:
• re-wiring brain’s owner’s manual to aid in transformation
• a brief survey of Leviticus to prepare for close study of Hebrews
• what the Bible has to say about the spiritual significance of the body
• what it means to read the Bible as a sacred text
• and we went through 1 Corinthians as a Primer In Things Unseen
– in all of this, we’ve been seeking a greater experience of God
• our journey aims at a clearer and more constant awareness of his presence
◦ as Paul said, our goal is to know Jesus
• but there is an important truth we cannot ignore
◦ we need each other in order to reach our goal
◦ a fully formed life in the Spirit cannot be developed in solitude

Paul continues to expand his virtue list, but with a slight shift

He provides images of how the virtues look in everyday situations
– for instance, last week we went over the virtue of patience
• how does that affect the way I interact with others?
• well, in some instances, I listen closely when I don’t want to
◦ my listening is not motivated by my need to hear the other person,
◦ but by the other person’s need to be heard
– what Paul says in verse 14 turns out to be invaluable
• it is natural to experience tension with others in community
◦ “community” can be home, work, a team, church, etc.
• Paul provides two ways to resolve the most common tensions

We tense up around certain people for a number of reasons
– we have a history with this person
conflict: we had a run-in with this person in the past
abuse: it did not have to be verbal or physical
◦ this person used me, took advantage of me, mistreated me
wasted time: you felt cornered and subjected to boring chatter
weirdness: left you confused or frightened
◦ you realize it would be impossible to please this person
– there is another type of tension unrelated to any specific issue
• “personality conflict” – we don’t need to look for a reason
◦ “There’s just something about that guy that rubs me the wrong way”
• it’s their look, their voice, mannerisms, general style
◦ there may be unconscious reasons
– for whatever reason, you cannot tolerate that person or communicate with them

The first way to resolve the tension is by bearing with one another

There is a general concern we need to share for each other
– the Christian family looks after the welfare of each member
• this is a basic element of decent human behavior
You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother. And if he does not live near you and you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall stay with you until your brother seeks it. Then you shall restore it to him. . . . You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and ignore them. You shall help him to lift them up again (De. 22:1-4)

Paul doesn’t say you have to be “best buds” with everyone
– you do have to put up with us,
• after all, we have to put up with you too
• at any rate, let’s narrow this down to a feasible size
◦ we don’t have to put up with everyone in the whole world
(it’s okay to “unfriend” abusers and creeps–it’s the safe and smart thing to do)
◦ the circumference of this circle is our spiritual community
– I don’t know how to communicate this effectively
• I just know that even though some people are a little weird,
◦ it’s worth my time to love, accept, and care for them
◦ I sometimes discover a loveable, lonely human being
• it’s up to me to set limits and boundaries, and if I do that up front, there’s no need to apologize when our time is up
◦ I’ve found that anyone can surprise you and everyone’s story is interesting–if you’re willing to listen
Richard Lukas, “There is nothing glib here. Paul well knew the almost unbridgeable gulfs that exist between human beings. . . . But Paul is convinced of the power of Christ, not to bring people together while remaining just what they were before, but to change them so that a genuine meeting of mind and heart is achieved.” “In short, this kind of Christian unity is the result of genuine spiritual revolutions in individual lives, where the old nature with all its prejudices and hatreds is put off, and the new nature is put on.”

The second way to resolve tension is by forgiving each other

Paul prefaces this with, if anyone has a complaint against another
– do I need to say that this does not apply to serious violations?
• the majority of Paul’s first letter to Corinthians,
◦ was his response to complaints from church members
• what he addresses here are the normal irritations and gripes we have with someone
– I appreciate the honesty reflected in this statement
• there is no pretending that we are a fellowship of angels
◦ anyone could have good reason to complain about someone else
• Paul says, that’s as far as it needs to go
◦ forgiveness is a way to make the problem go away
◦ forgiveness is a release – a letting go
◦ the quicker we forgive, the sooner we enjoy peace and freedom
◦ hang onto an issue and it becomes a seed that grows into an obsession

Forgiveness is more complicated than bearing with one another
– it involves a personal interaction – an offense or trespass
• I use trespass intentionally, because Jesus taught us to pray
forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Then he added, For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses (Mt. 6:12, 14-15)
◦ I know Christians who squirm at this
◦ the refuse to believe God’s forgiveness is conditional
• however, there is one condition–and only one
◦ it is not if you prove you’re really, really sorry then you will be forgiven
◦ or walk for a mile on your knees in gravel,
◦ or punish yourself mentally with toxic shame and guilt; never forgiving yourself
– God made our forgiveness conditional,
• so we would have all the reason and motivation we need to forgive

Sometimes forgiveness is impossible
– we cannot even make ourselves want to forgive
• or make ourselves willing to let God make us want to forgive
– but at every point, God is ready to help us
• we have to ask – and he is faithful to work on our hearts,
◦ to walk us step-by-step to perfect forgiveness
• perhaps that’s why Paul uses the model of Jesus’ forgiveness
◦ he knows how difficult it can be to forgive those who crucify us

Conclusion: These virtues are not given us to do on our own

It’s not like we have to use whatever will power we have
– the virtues are not like learning good manners or rules of etiquette
• if that, they would be no more than a supplement to Law
– we have to be aware of, and open to the supernatural energy behind them,
for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Php. 2:13)
God will help us discern whether we need to bear with, or to forgive, or to set boundaries
But overall, our destiny is to build bridges, not barriers

Don’t break the chain!

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