When You’re Rubbed the Wrong Way

Please read Colossians 3:12-17 in your Bible.  I used the NIV for this post.

Successful conflict resolution (peace-making) is the work of all genuine disciples.

The ability to get along with others requires a great deal of effort.  Our natural tendency is to push for our own way, even at the expense of relationships, and that’s where unity dies.  Whether in good times or in bad, it takes intention and effort to get along.

How do we resolve conflicts and settle disagreements before unity is lost.  We learned Wednesday night that God’s word suggests casting lots to decide the winner (see PBS 18:18).

In other cultures, differences were sometimes settled by fatal duels.  As odd as this may sound, there was a time in history when two men attempted to settle their dispute by casting lots AND having a duel!

French novelist and playwright Alexandre Dumas, best known for his novel, The Three Musketeers, once had a heated quarrel with a rising young politician.  It was decided that the only way honor could be satisfied was by a duel.  However, the problem was that both men were excellent shots and they feared a duel might result in both of them being killed.  For this reason, they cast lots to determine which of them would be spared, the loser was to shoot himself.

Dumas lost the drawing.

Pistol in hand, he withdrew in silent dignity to another room, closing the door behind him.  The rest of the group waited in gloomy suspense for the shot that would end his brilliant career.  It rang out at last.

His friends ran to the door and flung it open.  They were shocked to see Dumas standing there unharmed, the smoking pistol in his hand.

“Gentlemen, a most regrettable thing has happened,” he announced.  “I missed.”

Fortunately, God has given us better ways to resolve our differences.  In Jesus Christ we have the ultimate means of getting along with one another, even with people who rub us the wrong way.  Let’s learn about Jesus’ way of peace as we look at Colossians 3:12-17.

  1. Take the high road (12-14).

God chose you to take the high road.  Paul’s teaching about God choosing His people (for example Romans 8:33; 16:13) is always for the purpose of emphasizing grace.  Verse twelve describes our God-given identity in three terms:

– CHOSEN = God chose us to faithfully represent Him in this world & be rewarded in heaven.

– HOLY = to be set apart from the usual, worldly uses to serve God in unusual, spiritual ways.

– DEARLY LOVED refers to the love God has for His children; unconditional love, full of grace.

Verses13-14 describe our God-directed activity

– BEAR WITH EACH OTHER is an important biblical command. See 1 Corinthians 13:5 = [Love] is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Proverbs 12:16 = Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.  Proverbs 19:11 = A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

– FORGIVE AS THE LORD FORGAVE YOU. Follow His example; forgive and forget.  See Psalm 103:8-12 = THE LORD IS COMPASSIONATE AND GRACIOUS, SLOW TO ANGER, ABOUNDING IN LOVE.  HE WILL NOT ALWAYS ACCUSE, NOR WILL HE HARBOR HIS ANGER FOREVER; HE DOES NOT TREAT US AS OUR SINS DESERVE OR REPAY US ACCORDING TO OUR INIQUITIES.  FOR AS HIGH AS THE HEAVENS ARE ABOVE THE EARTH, SO GREAT IS HIS LOVE FOR THOSE WHO FEAR HIM; AS FAR AS THE EAST IS FROM THE WEST, SO FAR HE HAS REMOVED OUR TRANSGRESSIONS FROM US.

– OVER ALL THESE VIRTUES PUT ON LOVE, WHICH BINDS THEM ALL TOGETHER IN PERFECT UNITY. LOVE “binds” all virtues together because it is the chief virtue.  It is what motivates us be virtuous.  PERFECT UNITY is the outcome.  It is the condition of the fellowship in which people love one another.  See 1 Corinthians 13:13 = AND NOW THESE THREE REMAIN: FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE.  BUT THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE.

Peace cannot be forged if your mind is on “getting even.” Taking the high road sometimes requires letting go of our “rights.”

God has demonstrated the way he wants us to live.  God always acts in holiness and love in perfect balance.  He always does what is best for us.  The entire Bible is a record of the various ways God has demonstrated these attributes.  He calls us to follow His example because He knows then we will truly act in ways that are in our best interests.  When we choose self-interest instead, when we prefer our petty dramas to His high standards, then we’re walking the toxic road of sin.

  1. Actions are more important than feelings (12).

We act differently because we live in our NEW SELF.  In v. 10 Paul wrote about “putting on” our NEW SELF, as if this new life in Christ were a change of clothes.  He continues that image in v. 12.  However, unlike a change of clothes which we can easily see, this improvement of character may be a little more difficult to perceive.  Here’s how we know we’ve made the switch; we know it’s happened when the virtues listed in verse 12 become part of our character.  These virtues closely resemble the Fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23 and there we learn that these marks of godly character are a gift from God by means of the Holy Spirit.

– COMPASSION = is one word made by combining the Greek words for affection and sympathy.

– KINDNESS is a friendly willingness to help the needy.

– HUMILITY involves seeing yourself as God sees you, not falling into the extremes of narcissism or self-loathing.

– GENTLENESS is consideration for others that goes so deep one is willing to waive one’s “rights” to revenge.

– PATIENCE endures trials without exasperation.

It’s genuine because it comes from God.  It’s true that putting on a red hat does not make me a fireman.  Similarly, verse twelve is not about putting on these virtues in a hypocritical way, to make others think we are God’s children.  These are all virtues that come forth through action and we all know actions speak louder than mere words.

  1. Make Christ the center of every conversation (16).

Verse sixteen is not limited to worship though it sounds like it, with the mention of teaching, admonishing, & singing.  It’s really about consistency; if our conversations have a different moral character inside and outside church, what does that say about the genuineness of our faith?  It says, as James taught, that we all struggle with our tongues (see James 3:2).

In the very next chapter Paul wrote, LET YOUR CONVERSATION BE ALWAYS FULL OF GRACE, SEASONED WITH SALT, SO THAT YOU MAY KNOW HOW TO ANSWER EVERYONE. (Colossians 4:6).  This is what Paul meant by LET THE WORD OF CHRIST DWELL IN YOU RICHLY.  THE WORD OF CHRIST doesn’t only mean the Bible, but also the person of Jesus Christ.  The word RICHLY means “having ample room,” or “having great treasure.”  Jesus should dominate our thinking and as He does, He will be expressed more abundantly in what we say and do.

We should ask “WWJD?” and “WWJS?”  S = SAY.  If we would ask ourselves, “What would Jesus say in this instance?”  The act of stopping to think about it would help us avoid sins of the tongue.

  1. Passionately pursue personal peace (15+17).

We’re promised peace the passes UNDERSTANDING.  This is obviously not the kind of peace the world can give, the kind that is more than avoiding conflict or calming fears.

Instead, it is a settled state of mind, a feeling of contentment, and an attitude of patience that is BEYOND UNDERSTANDING because it is from God, not our circumstances.  This kind of PEACE is so profound that it cannot be lost because troubles or trials appear.

Peace is to RULE over us and our relationships.  The word RULE originally meant “to act as an umpire.”  This means every situation that pits Christians against one another must be resolved in a way that leads to PEACE.  There is nothing fake about this; this is the highest-possible-standard PEACE described in verse fifteen.

We are called to PEACE.  We are called to PEACE as much as we are called to salvation: PEACE is the foundation of our relationship with God and our relationships with one another.  If we truly follow Christ we will value this peace much more highly than we will the little things that tend to divide us.  We will prize this PEACE and guard it against self-interest and factions.

This kind of PEACE always produces a grateful response as it directs our attention to God: this response is described in two phrases in verse seventeen.

– WHATEVER YOU DO, WHETHER IN WORD OR DEED, DO IT ALL IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS. In these three different ways Paul expressed one thought; all that you do, do it as a disciple of Jesus should.  (This will logically exclude sinful activities.)  This includes all parts of our daily living but excludes all things that are not of Christ.

– GIVING THANKS TO GOD THE FATHER THROUGH HIM. When you think of this fantastic PEACE God gives, gratitude is the most appropriate response.  Plus, when we express our thankfulness, we direct the attention of others to God.

ENCOURAGEMENT AND ACTION:

  1. YOU ARE LOVED = Loving God leads to loving others
  2. THERE IS HOPE = Home and Church are the training sites for love and the world is the place where we practice love. With God, we can DO THIS!
  3. HOW TO GET STARTED = take the steps of “UNITE.”

U = “U” as in You (in texting language). Unless you seek peace, it will not happen.

N = Note your feelings & own them by talking about them with “I” statements.

I = Inform the other person about your desire for peace.

T = Talk about how to avoid this situation repeating itself in the future.

E = Enjoy a healthier relationship as you put your solutions to work.

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High Altitude Attitudes – The Beatitudes (3rd of 3)

(Read Matthew 5:1-12, NIV.)

REVIEW

  1. High Altitude Attitude Adjustment – Spiritual Poverty (3).
  2. High Altitude Attitude Adjustment – Mourning (4).
  3. High Altitude Attitude Adjustment – Meekness (5).
  4. High Altitude Attitude Adjustment – Righteous Ambition (6).
  5. High Altitude Attitude Adjustment – Mercy (7).
  6. High Altitude Attitude Adjustment – Purity (8).

NEW

  1. High Altitude Attitude Adjustment – Peace (9).

Our attitude is to struggle.  When is peace absent?  When we are in conflict – with God, others, and/or self.  What causes conflict?  When we struggle – for things, for understanding, for advantage.  Whether by our choice or others, struggles come and peace goes.

The Jesus beatitude is ­­peace. Peace comes with resolution of struggles, the solution of problems, the restoration of relationships.  This is the kind of rest that comes with God’s approval; the spirit, mind, and heart are at ease because all has been done that can be done has been done.

The adjustment is the hard work of resolution.  Generally speaking, we have one of three attitudes toward peace (this has been derived from Ken Sande’s book Peace Makers):

– A “Peace-breaker” desires to win the struggle at all costs.  There is NO PEACE with them.

– A “Peace-faker” = desires to end the struggle at all costs.  There is FALSE PEACE with them. This is the most common approach with lots of variations.

– A “Peace-maker” = desires to resolve the struggle in the most godly way and at the lowest cost to the relationships involved.  There is TRUE PEACE with them.

The reward is divine family identity.  The word here is SONS, as in “heirs.”  This is a more personal choice of words than “child,” which indicates a member of the family, but is less personal.  The reward is to be made a member of the family – to share in the family name and reputation – to have a personal stake in promises of God.

Part of being a SON in this sense is to share a family identity.  As Christians, our family identity is to be known as peace-makers. Paul explained this in 2 Corinthians 5:18 = ALL THIS IS FROM GOD, WHO RECONCILED US TO HIMSELF THROUGH CHRIST AND GAVE US THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION: THAT GOD WAS RECONCILING THE WORLD TO HIMSELF IN CHRIST, NOT COUNTING MEN’S SINS AGAINST THEM.  AND HE HAS COMMITTED TO US THE MESSAGE OF RECONCILIATION.

Jesus’ promise is repeated in James 3:18 = PEACEMAKERS WHO SOW IN PEACE RAISE A HARVEST OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.

  1. High Altitude Attitude Adjustment – Overcoming Persecution (10).

Our attitude is to escape trials.  It is human nature to want to avoid hurt, sorrow, or suffering.  (That is good if it keeps us from doing stupid things, but bad if it keeps us from doing the right thing.) Also, this can never be the focus of our lives.  Having faith means that we will have to trust God and occasionally take risks and suffer persecution.

The Jesus beatitude is perseverance­.  God allows trials in our lives in order to strengthen our faith by making it more pure.  1 Peter 1:6-7 provides us an explanation of this dynamic of faith:= IN THIS YOU GREATLY REJOICE, THOUGH NOW FOR A LITTLE WHILE HOU MAY HAVE HAD TO SUFFER GRIEF IN ALL KINDS OF TRIALS.  THESE HAVE COME SO THAT YOUR FAITH – OF GREATER WORTH THAN GOLD, WHICH PERISHES EVEN THOUGH REFINED BY FIRE – MAY BE PROVED GENUINE AND MAY RESULT IN PRAISE, GLORY AND HONOR WHEN JESUS CHRIST IS REVEALED.  Just as conflict avoidance is not to be mistaken for peace, so must the avoidance of suffering not be mistaken for overcoming.

The adjustment is the experience of overcoming.  The experience of suffering is the only way to really build our spiritual strength and commitment to the will of God, expressed here in the word RIGHTEOUSNESS, which we defined last week in developing v. 6: we are to HUNGER AND THIRST for RIGHTEOUSNESS, so it is worth it to us to suffer for this reason.  The overcomer is the person who seeks God’s will in spite of what they want or what others want.

The reward is the kingdom of heaven.  Whatever happens in this life, no matter what form persecution takes or the result it brings, the more important thing is realizing this promise of being part of the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.  As we have often seen with these promises, it is something we experience in this life and in the life to come.  Our citizenship in God’s kingdom affects how we live now and how where we’re headed after we die.

  1. High Altitude Attitude Adjustment–Overcoming Insults (11-12).

Our attitude is sinful speech.  It’s easy to divide, to stress differences, to be guilty of prejudice.  This is why it happens so often.  Whether this comes from the sinful nature or our human nature, it is an offense against God.  Sinful speech is the most common kind of sin, the most difficult to guard against, and very destructive of relationships.  This fact is vividly taught in James 3:6: THE TONGUE ALSO IS A FIRE, A WORLD OF EVIL AMONG THE PARTS OF THE BODY.  IT CORRUPTS THE WHOLE PERSON, SETS THE WHOLE COURSE OF HIS LIFE ON FIRE, AND IS ITSELF SET ON FIRE BY HELL.

The Jesus beatitude is ­to smile.  In instances where our faith makes us the target of sins of the tongue, Jesus urges us to smile; well, it literally reads, REJOICE AND BE GLAD.  (The adjustment described below is the reason for rejoicing.) This may sound over-simplistic or even frivolous, but there is no better way to disarm someone looking for a fight than to smile at them.  Hugh Martin wrote, “There are Christians who go about asking for trouble and get disliked not because of their Christianity but for their lack of it.” (The Beatitudes, Harper & Brothers, 1953, p. 79.)

The adjustment is seeing the big picture.  In the moment, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and lose our perspective.  We can be fooled into forgetting there’s more at work and more at stake in the situation.  Jesus’ advice in these situations is two-fold:

– Remember your reward is in heaven.  Don’t get hung up on the earthly bits.

– Remember your legacy of faith; IN THE SAME WAY THEY PERSECUTED THE PROPHETS WHO WERE BEFORE YOU.

As we observed with verse 9, faith makes us part of a family.  As part of a family, we have a family history.  Part of that history is the prophets; people who spoke for God and were persecuted for the messages they brought – sometimes horribly.  Of course, believers have been persecuted throughout all times and in all places; more than just the PROPHETS have suffered for their faith.  But they were ready examples.

The reward is great in heaven.  The objective of life is not the worldly stuff we accumulate, even intangible things like a “legacy.”  The objective of this life is the things of eternal significance that we do.  Those are the things that earn us a GREAT REWARD in HEAVEN!  (We don’t earn a place in heaven; that’s God’s grace.  But we do earn rewards in heaven.)