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The Silent War

Angela had fallen in love with me. What could I do?
Russell’s heart was broken. I had stolen his girl! He pursued Angela trying to win her back. He chased after his lost girl, but she kept running away, insisting she was mine.
Her girlfriends came around her to protect her from what they saw as Russel’s unwanted attention.
Russel’s friends joined in to help.
And my friends joined in to protect me from Angela’s unwanted attention.
There was a war on in the 3rd grade playground.
Here’s the really funny thing. Nobody told me. Angela didn’t tell me she was in love with me. Russell didn’t tell me I was now his worst enemy. My friends didn’t tell me they were protecting me.
It was a war waged in silence.
Now once they told me, I was a horrible person and broke Angela’s heart. I was all like “I’m eight! I don’t want to get married!”
But the story has a happy ending, she and Russell got married. There was a service and all in the sandbox under the monkey bars… I wish them well.
A Silent War.
It is cute when it happens on the school playground.
It is so heartbreaking when it happens in a church.

A Culture of Silence

We don’t gossip: that’s good. I almost never hear you talking trash about your brothers and sisters in Christ. That is a precious thing, a rare thing in churches, and something we must preserve.
We don’t often talk to one another. That’s not so good.
We are nice people, generally. Super nice. Everyone’s so nice that they don’t want to hurt, don’t want to offend, don’t want to cause trouble and don’t want to tremble the waters.
What is underneath the surface? A WHOLE lot of hurt and hurting!
Next Step is in a season of change. We have all felt the desire for change. We have been praying for it. And change is coming…
But we have some hard work to do, church. Before we are ready for the next next thing God is doing… we have some healing to do. And I am just starting to hear and understand how much hurt there is among us.
There are wounds that have sat and simmered for months, for years. There are roots of bitterness and anger, resentment and frustration and disappointment.
And for any and all the reasons, we have slipped into a Culture of Silence in a truly unhealthy way.
So here comes a whole bunch of Bible stuff that I bet you already know.
And then comes what we are going to do about it.

The Blamer

You have been wronged. You have been hurt. Purposefully or accidentally or for no reason you can fathom, he said that thing to do, did that thing to you, she said what to you???
You have been hurt… and that feeling of anger, of hurt, of righteous indignation, any and all of those… what do you do with that?
Mark 11:25 ESV
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
You forgive. You just forgive. This is a daily, an hourly part of your prayer life. Forgive and forgive again… until that unforgiveness simply isn’t there anymore. That may take five minutes or until resurrection.
How important is it? It is on this measure that your Father “may” forgive you.
But simply forgiving the person before God is NOT enough, if they have “sinned against you”.
I HIGHLY recommend you bring the forgiveness before the confrontation. That helps.
Matthew 18:15–17 ESV
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
This is not a formula to be followed in lockstep but a vision of what life should be like in the Kingdom of God.
This is the Ministry of Reconciliation. A process of healing.
Forgiveness is the process of releasing them from blame, not holding that poison against them, it is a work in your heart, in your soul, before God.
Is this permission (or even a command) to air all your petty grievances? No. But you know well the difference between “that was annoying” and “you hurt me.” You sinned against me. And now there is this unforgiveness I am wrestling in my prayers before God.
When that thing comes up again and again in your prayer life. When that hurt affects and shapes the way you engage with that person.
You have sinned against me, and I need to tell you so that we can heal… and maybe even so that you can stop doing that hurtful thing! You are giving your brotherhood, your relationship, a chance for healing and also them a chance for growth.
Bringing it to your brother, or sister? That is about reconciliation, restoring the relationship. Even in this process, there is the acknowledgment that it is not always possible… but seeking reconciliation is not optional.
Resentment or unforgiveness is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
There is no place in the church for secret anger, resentment, bitterness and hurt.
There is no place in the church for secret anger, resentment, bitterness and hurt.
“Bitterness and Love can’t live together in the same heart. Each day, we must decide which one gets to stay.” -Dave Willis

The Blamed

What about the other side of this? Abby blames me for pushing her down… but I didn’t do it! I am wholly innocent. I can’t help it if Abby is mad at me for something I didn’t even do.
She can sit in her anger as long as she wants: I didn’t do it.
Someone blames me for something? No problem, it isn’t hurting me. Except...
Matthew 5:23–24 ESV
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Here’s what I don’t like.
It doesn’t say “you remember you did something against your brother” does it?
It isn’t about the facts of the case.
your brother has something against you. Regardless, irrespective, irregardless even of what you think you did or didn’t do… your brother has something against you.
What are you supposed to do?
Drop everything and seek reconciliation. How important is it? More important than what you’re doing right now at church. Picture someone, they have made the trip to Jerusalem, they purchased the sacrifice, the goat, the goat is dead, they are bringing it to the altar, its time to BBQ that sucker.
The ridiculous impracticality of leaving the offering there and piecing out to go have a conversation with your brother that could surely wait until tomorrow.
But that’s how important this is!
You don’t get a pass if you didn’t do it. You are commanded to drop everything and seek reconciliation.

Is It Too Late Now to Say Sorry

I am the worst at this. I want my apologies to be 100% honest and so I apologize precisely for what I did to the extent that I acknowledge and understand what I did wrong.
You know what my wife says? “Your apologies suck!”
It doesn’t matter how much I understand and agree about what I did wrong. That helps, and it helps me to grow and do better next time if I understand what I did and I can learn from it...
But I am commanded to drop everything and seek reconciliation. Is it too late now to say sorry?

Whether the Blamed or the Blamer

1 Corinthians 11:27–29 ESV
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
Examine yourself. Judge yourself. As it will go on to say, failure to do so leads to sickness, weakness, even death. This is a life and death issue.
In what light are you to examine yourself?
Don’t eat or drink without “discerning the body...” I don’t think he is referring to the bread / the body of Christ. There he uses “body and blood” always in a pair. I think he is reaching back into his letter to his analogy of the people of God, united together, as the “body of Christ.” That’s his phrase.
This is about reconciliation. The Didache (late 1st century document describing early church practices) says this:
1 And on the Lord’s Day, after you have come together, break bread and offer the Eucharist, having first confessed your offences, so that your sacrifice may be pure. 2 But let no one who has a quarrel with his neighbor join you until he is reconciled, lest your sacrifice be defiled.
Glimm, F. X. (1947). The Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. In F. X. Glimm, J. M.-F. Marique, & G. G. Walsh (Trans.), The Apostolic Fathers (Vol. 1, p. 182). Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press.
Don’t even take communion if you haven’t done this work.
Don’t let anyone who hasn’t done this word of reconciliation take communion.
What is our next step, church?

Next Steps: The Ministry of Reconciliation

There is hurt about women in ministry.
There are hurts that happened years ago in leadership.
There are hurts from who the church was five years ago, ten years ago, twenty years ago.
I don’t have to tell you about why you are hurt… you know why. Here is your responsibility to God and to your brother, to your sister in Christ. Forgive and seek reconciliation.
I might have to tell you that someone is hurt by you. Not, if they are doing the first thing and telling you themselves, but I know I can hurt a dozen people by lunchtime and be totally oblivious that I did so. Someone’s got to TELL ME (and I am so thankful for brothers and sisters in Christ who have the wisdom to see the hurt even in others and the courage to tell me).
When you know and when you hear that someone has been hurt or is angry at you, what is your God-commanded responsibility? To seek reconciliation. Period. Full stop. Drop everything.
What does this look like?
This should look like DOZENS of conversations happening over at Starbucks (or may I suggest Allegro coffee up at 128th and Claude.
Or over a beer over here at Satire. Wherever and whenever the conversation needs to happen:
If you are holding on to anger, resentment, bitterness… you believe someone has done you wrong (sinned against you)… you have a responsibility before God to forgive them in here, and to speak to them in person.
If you suspect that someone has something against you… you have a responsibility before God to seek them out and be reconciled to them.
No one gets a pass.
Next Step Christian Church. Walk into reconciliation. You don’t need more words or more Scripture. What we need now is the conviction of the Holy Spirit and His power and encouragement in us to do it.
So let’s pray. And let’s worship. And may God heal His church.
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