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Relationships

1 Peter 4:10

 

“As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (NASB)

 In 1992, James Carville, Bill Clinton’s political strategist, posted a message in Clinton's campaign headquarters that said, "It's the economy, Stupid."  This was his straightforward, perhaps even abrasive way of keeping all the workers focused on the central theme of their campaign. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html

 Carville felt keeping the campaign focused on the economy was the key to a successful presidential bid for Clinton and he found a way to communicate the message that captured everyone’s attention.  In the same spirit, I wish to suggestion that the church needs to focus on a single word too—that word is “Relationships.”

 People have a deep need to enter into meaningful relationships with people who share their values.  The church is a community of people, who voluntarily enter into relationship with one another to accomplish kingdom goals.  It is a place where we minister and receive ministry. 

 Before I talk about how to develop healthy relationships within a faith community, I want to mention in passing that not all relationships are healthy.  For instance, sometimes we enter into toxic fellowship.  Proverbs 16-19 says,  “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: [17] A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, [18] An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, [19] A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”  Unfortunately, some people use their fellowship time with one another gossiping about others or criticizing leaders.  This type of fellowship is something God hates and is an abomination unto him.

 Another form of toxic fellowship is when a faith community sees service as something that should flow in only one direction.  In his book, The Radical Reformission Mark Driscoll writes, “People with this transaction mindset about God and church will even see ministry not as something they do with the spiritual gifts God has given them but rather as something that is done for them as a religious service by someone else. Consequently, churches pandering to this mindset are filled with consumers who take more than they give and with observers who watch more than they participate.” (The Radical Reformission, p171-172)

 I ran across a video parody the other day that illustrates this issue well.  I do need to warn you that you need a sense of humor to appreciate this clip.

 It is not healthy for a person to give and not receive, neither is it healthy for them to receive and not give.  When I say the word ministry, do you think of something that you do or something that is done for you?   I hope that your answer to that question is yes.  It isn’t either or, it is both and.  The church is a place where you can utilize your spiritual gifts to serve others and where others use their gifts to serve you.  If you don’t want to serve—we have a problem.  If you won’t allow others to serve you—we have a problem.  Both must take place. 

 So far, in this message I’ve used the word serve in a general way, in the way Peter used it in our text, but for the remainder of our time together, I want to be more specific and talk about ways you can enter into healthy relationships in this church.

 The King James Version uses the phrase “one another” 88 times in the New Testament.  Many of those occurrences are direct commands that instruct us how to enter into healthy relationships.   Forty-five of those commands are to “love one another.”  I’ve selected just over 20 of the 88 scriptures to read this morning.  Please treat them as a checklist.  Place a check beside those instructions that you are presently following.  Remember that because the commands say, “one another” that it suggests a reciprocal relationship.  In other words, John 15:12 says, "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” (NASB)  So the question is, are you loving one another and are you receiving love back in return?

 Romans 12:10 says “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;” (NASB) Are you devoted to one another and are you allowing others to be devoted to you?  Are you giving preference to one another and are you allowing others to give preference to you?

 Romans 14:19 (NASB) “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” Are you building up one another and are you allowing others to build you up?

 Romans 15:7 (NASB) “Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” Are you accepting one another and are others accepting you?

 Galatians 5:13 (NASB) “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Are you serving one another and are you allowing others to serve you?

 Ephesians 4:2 (NASB) “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,” Are you showing tolerance to one another and are others being tolerant of you?

 Ephesians 4:32 (NASB) “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Are you being kind to one another and are others being kind to you?

 Ephesians 5:21 (NASB) “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” Are you subject to one another and are others submitting to you?

 Colossians 3:13 (NASB) “bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”  Are you forgiving one another and are others forgiving you?

 1 Thessalonians 5:13 (NASB) “and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.” Are you living in peace with one another and are others living in peace with you?

 Hebrews 10:24 (NASB) “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,” Are you stimulating one another to good works and are you allowing others to stimulate you to good works?

 Hebrews 10:25 (NASB) “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”  Are you encouraging one another and are you allowing others to encourage you?

 James 5:9 (NASB) “Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.” Are you refraining from complaining to one another and are you stopping others when they try to complain to you?

 James 5:16 (NASB) “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”   Are you praying for one another and are you asking others to pray for you?

 1 Peter 4:9 (NASB) “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” Are you showing hospitality to one another and are you receiving the hospitality of others?

 I’m sure that none of us could check every one of these, perhaps we could check very few of them.  This just goes to show you that our church isn’t perfect and neither are we.  So what do we do now?  Do we just shrug it off and go on about our business as if we hadn’t just encountered God’s word?  No, I don’t think so.  Scan your list right now, and select two or three of these things that you can work on this week.  What actions can you take to develop your relationships?  Is there an attitude that you need to change?  Make every effort to strengthen your relationships, because when you do, you strengthen your church.

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