August 21, 2016
First Presbyterian Church – Coeur d’Alene
Message Series: Letters from Home
Message: Part 7
Scripture Text: 1 Peter 3:8
1. Sign up to receive letter from home next Sunday. Pick yours up after worship if you singed up last week
a. Getting a personal, handwritten letter from someone close to you in the mailbox is thrilling.
What if it’s from someone you’re on the outs with?
And this is the first time you’ve heard from them: a letter addressed to you from them.
b. Conflict is an inescapable part of human relationships.
If you don’t experience it, it’s either because your relationships are shallow, you’re so good at dealing with conflict you hardly notice it anymore, or you’re cut off from everybody in which case you wouldn’t be here.
But while conflict is inescapable, it makes us feel really “oogie”: with intense emotions,
anxiety, temptation to defend ourselves, lash out or give in.
c. When relational conflict occurs in a church it’s especially hard, because there’s a feeling we should be above it. We feel embarrassed and ashamed such a thing would happen with Godly people, as a result respond even more dysfuntionally.
2. Yes. We in the church should be able to deal
with conflict better. But not by believing it shouldn’t exist at all. Read the New Testament and conflict is all over the place.
a. Each “Letter from Home” passage in this series comes from one of the major divisions of the Bible.
This one comes from the third division of the New Testament called the “General” Epistles. Your handout has more details about this
But these books are addressed to early Christian churches all of them are dealing with conflict.
b. Look at 1 Peter 3:8-9.
This isn’t random advice,
but a direct response to the church splintering apart as it’s under intense pressure from the outside society which fears it.
The people are stressed out and turning on each other; not just at church but in their workplaces and marriages.
c. The writer appeals to them for unity.
3. But having unity is much easier said than done. What is the church’s unity supposed to be based on? The answer: God Himself.
a. CS Lewis, in the Mere Christianity chapter “The Three-Personal God” used the geometric concept of dimensions in space to describe relationships.
If you just have a relationship with yourself it’s one-dimensional – a straight line.
Develop a relationship with others and now you’re in 2 dimensions – creating shapes: circles, triangles, hearts
But a relationship with God is 3D, creating bodies with depth and new combinations and directions.
1. This is more mysterious (this is where I got lost in Geometry!)
b. Christians believe God is a three-fold diversity of shape and function: A Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Yet these distinct shapes combine in an unbreakable unity which is bound together by one thing: LOVE.
And the LOVE God shares within God’s self can’t be experienced intellectually or emotionally, only through faith.
4. You can see this in how Peter’s plea translates from the Greek.
a. Part of the word ‘tender’ is splaxnon which means bowels. ‘Brotherly’ is word philadelphos and delphus is word for womb. Both the words unity and humble incorporate word phren signifying gut muscle. Get word “diaphragm” from it.
The message? Overcoming conflict
isn’t something you can do with your head or heart. It’s got to come from what you believe in your gut about love in relationships.
b. Throughout the New Testament the Church is described with a 3D term: The “Body” of Christ.
Our unity flows from what we believe about God, which opens up way more connections and directions than we have experienced with human relationships alone.
Which means we have new rules when it comes to conflict.
c. This church has had to seek God’s direction in the midst of disagreement. Six years ago, some of deep political and cultural divisions we see so much of every day found their way into this church. Strong opinions began to become lines in the sand and threatened our unity.
A group of members representing all perspectives came together and created a “Covenant for Civility;” with scriptural commitments to be “quick to listen, slow to speak,” to honor each other as “created in the image of God,” and to be “humble and gentle, bearing with one another in love” when there are disagreements.
In short, to make sure this is a safe place for people to experience God’s LOVE1st.
It was included in materials the search committee provided me, and after reading it I knew this was a church I wanted to be a part of.
5. My prayer is that when you experience conflict; when this church experiences God:
a. We will go 3D – let God’s essential unity, bound in love, become the foundation of our unity.
b. We will go with our gut – even when our mind disagrees and our heart dislikes we will have “unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
c. We will go low – “not repaying evil for evil” but bless and bless and bless.
d. Go toward each other, crossing the lines in the sand to Be the One Body of Christ.