Christian Love (Part 4): Reconciliation and Distance

(Matthew 18:15-17, Acts 15:37-40 Pas. Baines, Jr. 3/2018)

Introduction: The greatest measure of being disciples of Christ is our loving people. There are some people who are difficult to love. But this series will give us some principles to practice in this area. This discussion centers around how “We should work on reconciliation and distance.”

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Key Points:

1. Dealing with being offended. Notice in Matthew 18:15-17 there is a concern with reconciliation (i.e. re-establishing friendly relationships, restoring trust and enjoyment). It is not strange for someone to be rubbed the wrong way, when we have so many different personality types in a church family.

However, too many don’t go to the one who offended them in a spirit of love and with an aim to solve the problem and save the relationship. Too many talk to others before they talk to the one who offended them.

Too many go to the one who offended them with the wrong spirit (i.e., a spirit of attack and chastisement). Too many are really more upset by their interpretation than the actual intention of the other party.

Let’s work on talking to the one who offended us with a loving spirit and an aim to solve the problem and save the relationship.

2. Being the offender. Notice in Matthew 5:23-25 the one who caused offense is to initiate a conversation that leads to reconciliation. Between this text and Matthew 18:15-17, there should not be long term grudges and hard feelings among God’s people.

We should be quick to apologize about causing offense whether it was our intent or not. For example, you accidentally stepping on someone’s toe should trigger your immediate apology and pledge to stop stepping on their toe. 

Don’t talk about how you did not intend to do it or how their toe was in the wrong place. Love God enough to apologize for offending.

Even if the offended person doesn’t accept the apology and try to move forward, do your part and trust God to bless your obedience. Let’s work on apologizing and committing to moving forward.

3. The church’s duty. Notice in Matthew 18:15-17 the implication is that there would be church discipline applied to those who unapologetically cause offense to others.

Compare the spirit of passages like I Chronicles 16:22; II Kings 2:23-24; and II Thessalonians 3:14-15 with the disrespect and sinful behavior that we see in our churches today.

This is an indictment against not only the offender but against the maturity of our churches. And it puts us uncomfortably close to being like those mentioned in Matthew 15:8. Let’s support godly church discipline.

4. There are times to depart in peace. Notice in Acts 15:37-40 that Paul and Barnabas parted in peace, instead of continuing in sharp disagreement. Sometimes this is the best and most loving move.

The issue is not who is right or wrong. The issue is can we serve together peacefully. Or would we be better off serving separately. Let’s work on seeking God’s wisdom about when to separate for peace’s sake.

5. There are times to leave sinful people alone. Notice in Exodus 33:3-5 and I Corinthians 5:9-13 that God put some distance between Himself and His stiff necked sinful people. Paul urged the church to expel the sinful man.

There are times when the most loving thing to do is to put some distance between yourself and those who have such negative, toxic, and sinful spirits and behavior. And passages like II Corinthians 7:15 and John 6:67 urges us to avoid chasing after people who want to leave.

As long as God is with you, you will be alright, no matter who leaves. Let’s seek God’s wisdom about when to separate because of sin. James 1:5 teaches that we can ask God for wisdom.


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