The Mom is sighing and grieving again–Rob spoke this morning at church. Every time it’s his turn to preach, she feels a little sad. Because it makes her say: “…And why are we searching for a pastor??”
Anyway, she made lots of notes, on both sides of the bulletin–so read this when you have lots of time!
This title (The Rule of Christ) comes from what certain traditions call this portion of scripture, Matthew 18:15-20 (or something like that–it’s hard to remember all the details!) It’s the one where Jesus talks about what to do when your “brother sins against you”. “Against you” is not in the original versions, so one could use the instruction just for when a brother “sins”, period. And the “brother”, OR “sister” idea, infers that this is someone who is in the Body of Christ, a believer.
The meeting is to be a private one to begin with, and if it doesn’t work, you bring 2 or 3 others with you who are mediators, NOT intimidators. If that doesn’t work, you take it to the church body, and eventually you are to “excommunicate”: which does NOT mean what it sounds like, and what lots have done–you do NOT kick them out of the church; rather, you recognize that they have estranged themselves from the spiritual Church. (Of course, you may have to forbid them to be leaders in certain ministries and activities of the church…. btw, we’re using a lot of our own terminology here, don’t blame it on Rob!) Jesus says to treat them like tax collectors, etc., but remember that the New Testament way of doing that, is to love them–to try to love them back into the Kingdom. In fact, pointing out their sin to them and making them suffer the consequences, is the most loving thing to do–rather than letting them continue on the wrong path.
There are four results of carrying out this COMMAND of Jesus: the person repents, doesn’t repent, you find out there was a misunderstanding, or that the situation is more complicated than you thought–you are both partly to blame. The last two are implied in the text, rather than stated. (Rob had someone act out each of those results with him, and it was very funny! Especially when he acted himself telling off the other guy–something we’d find it very hard to imagine ever coming from Rob!)
It seemed like an amazing revelation that conflict can actually be a HEALTHY thing when “used” properly… but of course, it’s quite true! But it doesn’t happen very often: no one wants to speak truthfully about sin, preferring to play it down, almost forgetting that it even exits. (This reminds us of how everyone makes excuses for someone who is trying to confess and needs forgiveness–rather than just accepting the confession and offering forgiveness.) There are too many churches–resulting from conflict, and the church breaks up, etc. No one wants to admit fault, or do the hard work of suffering the awkward, uncomfortableness of going to someone about their sin.
Rob had some good descriptions (and pictures), of four different types of situations, when The Rule of Christ is not followed:
1. The Grumbler: a person who keeps complaining, and it begins to suck the life out (the picture was skulls). Instead of complaining, the person should go to the person they’re complaining about, and talk about it.
2. The Blow-up: (nuclear bomb!) a person who “overlooks” the sin, again and again, perhaps even puffing themselves up by thinking they’re being forgiving–and then suddenly it all comes out in a blast! Not very fair to the person doing the wrong, who had no idea all this time…
3. The American Idol Syndrome: This is when people continually flatter someone, not wanting to hurt their feelings. (A contestant who sings terribly, invariably says “my momma always says I’m a wonderful singer!”) We should not be so unwilling to speak the truth in love. Remember the proverb: “wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses”.
4. The Death-Spiral: When we don’t speak the truth and allow someone to take responsibility, it can build into a pattern that becomes harder and harder to break out of–a vicious cycle. Like parents who do the homework for their kids, etc., or continuously make excuses for them.
The Mom notes that the verses coming right after these ones (included in the reading), talk about praying–where 2 or 3 are gathered, etc. Fittingly, we were reminded in the announcements about a prayer time that we have at our church on Sunday evenings. (It’s only an hour long, but so hard to get people out to it!) And next week is a prayer meeting of churches in the area, to pray for: unity.
Whew! The Mom even felt like making notes from the prayer! (“Truth and love cannot be separated…”) Rob said it wasn’t his flashiest sermon, but, I dunno… acting, pictures… it was good stuff, anyway!