Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard

What Kills Relationships (And What Can Bring Them Back To Life Again)

Matthew 5:21-26

21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.
  23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.
  25 “When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 And if that happens, you surely won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny.

             Today we begin a new series called The Jesus Method For

Getting Along With Others.

            It comes from Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” found in the Gospel of Matthew chapters 5 through 7.

            For the next few weeks I want us to consider some of the things Jesus had to say about such topics as:

Anger and reconciliation Matthew 5:21-26

How to deal with abusive relationships Matthew 5:38-42

What Jesus meant for us to do when He said, “Love your enemies as you love your neighbors” Matthew 5:43-48,

Why we should forgive, for our sakes as well as others Matthew 6:12, 14, 15,

What to do with someone who has a critical spirit, even if the person is you Matthew 7:1-5

 

            Jesus spent a lot of time talking about getting along with other people. He knew relationships are a challenge. In fact, the whole story of God and humanity, is the story of God who wants a relationship with each of us, and how hard it is for us to be reconciled to God, so much so, that we needed the help of Jesus Christ, to make it possible.

            The Gospel is about getting along with others. First, getting along with God. Then, getting along with one another.

            So today we take a look at the first installment in the Jesus Method for getting along with others.

            This teaching is called,

            “What Kills Relationships (And What Can Bring Them To Life Again).”

 

            Some years ago there was a show on CNN called “Crossfire.” Did you ever watch it? For many years I watched it regularly.

            In a nutshell, Crossfire was designed to bring two opposing sides together and have them argue it out over a particular topic. Each show had 2 hosts with opposing views, and two guests with opposing views. For 30 minutes each night they ranted and raved about the merits of their particular position and the flaws with the position of the other side.

            In their advertising, Crossfire described their show as:

“left versus right,

black versus white,

paper versus plastic,

the Red Sox against the Yankees.”

            For a while I thought this was all good fun, until I began to get tired of the endless bickering that produced little result. Crossfire became a show that had a lot of heat but very little light. After a while I stopped watching it all together.

            And when I did, I missed the appearance of comedian Jon Stewart.

            Today Jon Stewart is the host of the highly acclaimed show on Comedy Central called “The Daily Show.” It is a “mock” news show, where the current events of the day are ridiculed and made fun of. In fact, young people are more likely to get their “news” from the Daily Show than from the traditional media.

            One night, Jon Stewart was on Crossfire. He had been critical of the show and they brought him on as the only guest.

            They thought he would do some comedy but he didn’t. In fact, his first words on the show were:

“Why do we have to fight?”

            Stewart spent the rest of the show calling into question just how much good is done in a spirit of criticism, name calling, and anger. He questioned if Crossfire was doing any good, or just weakening our country.

“Why do we have to fight?” Stewart asked.

            It was such a good question the hosts of the show could not come up with a satisfactory answer in response.

            Believe it or not, not long after Jon Stewart’s appearance on Crossfire, the show was cancelled.

            Even today you can find Stewart’s appearance still playing on YouTube.

 So why do we have to fight?

            I read somewhere that we live in an “argument culture.”  And because of it there has been a system-wide relational breakdown in our culture. It is as if we approach everything with a warlike mentality so we end up looking at the world – and people – in an adversarial frame of mind.

            Think of it this way: You are driving in your car down the road (any road, you pick it).

            Suddenly out of nowhere a cars pulls out in front of you, cuts you off, and then slams on the brakes.

            What do you do next?

            You lay on the horn. You begin to use words that you would not say in church…at a very loud level. You wave at the driver…you know the wave…the one where you don’t use all your fingers…

            Only a moment before you were peacefully driving down the road and now all of the sudden you are in attack mode…at a person you do not even know!

            That’s what it means to say we live in an “argument culture.”  

            So how’s that working out for us?

            Jesus talked about this “argument culture” in the Sermon on the Mount. He told us what it does to our relationships, and what we can do to fix it.

            If you are interested, look with me in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5.

            First of all, Jesus taught us that:    

1) Anger is murder on relationships (Matthew 5:21-22).

21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.

            Anger kills.

            Jesus taught us that anger kills others. Anger kills relationships.

            But that’s not all. Anger kills us. The destructive power of anger is so great it not only is murder on relationships with others, but it destroys the person who harbors it as well.

            The Bible says in 1 John 3:15:

            “Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart” (NLT).

            Jesus said, “Calling people names like ‘idiot’ is just murder on our relationships.

            But what’s wrong with calling someone an “idiot?”

            It’s just a word, right?

            Remember when you were a child and you said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me?”

            You know now how wrong that was, don’t you?

            It sounded good, but it was not true.

            Words have power to do great good and great harm.

            The Bible says, “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences” (Proverbs 18:21, NLT).

            The word translated “idiot” is a Greek work from which we get the word “moron.” To call someone an “idiot” means we view that person as a “numbskull,” “nit-wit,” or like they did in the Peanuts cartoons, a “blockhead.”

            These angry words have negative consequences. They can kill relationships.

            What Jesus is saying here goes even deeper than just words. Insulting people when we are angry at them—calling them “idiots”, “boneheads”, “airheads” and such is an attitude of the heart.

            The words have consequences themselves, but the attitude behind the words have consequences of their own.

            When we call someone an “idiot”, or a “fool” in some other translations, we are saying that person is a nobody—they are worthless, a zero, a nothing.

            When we insult, ridicule, and run down other people, we are forgetting that this “nobody”, this “foolish idiot” is made in the image of God. If we call a person made in God’s image “a foolish idiot, and a worthless nobody,” aren’t we saying the same thing about the God in whose image the person is made?

            When we strike out and insult someone in anger, we would do well to remember who it really is that we are talking about.

            Jesus teaches us the problem with anger is twofold:

1) It destroys our relationship with others (including God), and

2) It brings consequences on us. There is a price to pay for our anger.

            Anger is murder on relationships!

            The word “curse” in the New Living Translation is a literal sense of the teaching Jesus offers.

            It means to cast judgment on another person spiritually. To put it tactfully, it is to tell someone where you thing they should go.

            Interestingly, Jesus says, “If you tell someone where to go, you may find you end up going there yourself.”

            Secondly, Jesus taught:

2) Improve your relationship—Improve your worship (Matthew 5:23-24).

23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.
            Unresolved conflict affects your relationship with God.

            Unresolved conflict is a priority.

            When we improve our relationships with others, it improves our relationship with God.

            Messed up relationships with other people leads us to have a messed up relationship with God.

            For years I had an office with these large windows that overlooked the church parking lot. On Sunday mornings I would sit and look out the window in the last few moments before going into the sanctuary for worship.

            As a result, I got to see most of the people arriving.

            I could tell the folks who had argued on the way to church. They got out of the car with strained looks on their faces. They didn’t walk beside each other on the way into the church. One charged off ahead of the other.

            I would often think to myself as I watched folks arrive, “It’s going to be tough in church today. We’re not going to do much worshiping today!”

            Of course when I got to the sanctuary the folks all greeted me with a huge smile and when I asked, “How are you?” they replied, “Just fine.”

            I didn’t believe it.

            It is difficult to have a wrong relationship with another person and a right relationship with God.

            Jesus said, “Relationships with others affect relationship with God. Go and get reconciled with that person, so you can come and really connect with God.”

            Finally, Jesus taught us to:

3) Settle differences now before things get worse (Matthew 5:25-26).

25 “When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 And if that happens, you surely won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny.

            There is a price to be paid for broken relationships.

            The price may be more than you think. It may cost you much more than you ever want to lose.

            Broken relationships can put us in bondage for the rest of our lives with guilt, baggage, and pain.

            Jesus says “settle your differences quickly.”

            Don’t waste time.

            Things could get worse than they already are, and the price will go up.

            Broken relationships are costly!

            Did you see the news coverage of the President, the Police Office, and the Professor” this week?

            Right there before our eyes was an example of Jesus’ teaching to “settle differences quickly” before things get worse!

            They were demonstrating how powerful words can be, and how important it is for people at odds with one another to be reconciled with each other. The cost is too great to do nothing and let things go.

            Who do you need to reconcile with?

            Are you willing to settle your differences quickly with them, before things get even worse?

            Do you realize how your strained relationships with others affects every aspect of your life…including your relationship with God?

            What are you going to do about it?

            When are you going to do it?

            What about today?

            What about now?

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