1. We’ve all “drifted into discord” in relationships before. What are some signals in your life that you may be allowing discord to take a foothold? What do you notice about how your relationships are affected early on when you aren’t actively working towards harmony?
2. What is one thing about you that might make you difficult to love? Can you identify a time when someone loved you well in the place of that struggle? How did that impact you?
3. Often, our immediate reactions to an offense are defensive and protective in nature. It is in those moments when our behavior can reflect the parts of us that still need work. What are some ways you can practice taking a step back and allowing yourself a moment to pause before you respond to someone who says or does something that irritates you?
4. Who are you praying for this week? And how are you praying for them? Are you also asking God to show you your offenses so you may repent?
Good morning Hope City! It’s so good to be here today. I have been looking forward to this morning all week! I love when we get to be together. This week is Thanksgiving, and can you believe it in just 5 weeks it will be Christmas. Now, here’s what I know. Over the next 5 weeks, you’ll be getting together with a lot of people. Not every one of those gatherings are going to be the kind that you love to be at right? Sometimes it’s the gathering… like you may not be looking forward to your wife’s work Christmas party. Sometimes it is not the event that you mind, but rather it is the people that you know you are going to see at the event. We know that the Holiday season can be a stressful season for many of you, and that when we find ourselves in stress very often our relationships with those closest to you suffers. Sometimes the hardest people to love are the ones that we are supposed to love the most! For me that’s my dog. 😉 I know, I know… some of you want to throw a flag on the play. How could you not love a cute little puppy like that guy. Secretly I do… but sometimes I get fed up with him.
This fall, we are going to fight the feeling of being fed up with one another. Here’s the challenging part though. We can’t have the relationships that we want with behavior that remains the same. Something needs to change…
Last month I got a text from a good friend and they said, “We need to talk.” Instantly I was like OH BOY! I had a pit in my stomach… I felt like I was in high school again when your girlfriend would say, “We need to talk”. I knew that we need to talk is code for “There’s an issue.” So we set up a meeting for the following morning. I woke up that morning and felt the same feeling. My stomach churned… I didn’t really want to eat anything for breakfast because this is a good friend of mine. You know what I mean, you know that feeling? I didn’t know what He was going to say.
The hardest thing relationally for me, is to talk through where I’ve failed and how my actions have hurt others. I think that this is one of the hardest things for all of us. We spent an hour or so together talking through our relationship and one of the first things that I recognized was that the kind of relationship that I wanted to have with him was not going to be accomplished by continuing on with the same behavior that got us here. What Got us Here was not going to get us There.
We all have aspirations of having great life-giving relationships. The kind of relationships that leave you feeling full and encouraged. And yet, we know that we will interact with people that make it hard for us to accomplish that. And this tension becomes unbearable at times. It’s why it is so easy to get fed up with people. Who do you know that is hard to handle? Who in your life needs a little extra grace in order to deal with?
But before we start pointing the finger at everyone else, and start talking about just how hard it is for us to get along with them. We need to remember what Jesus has told us to do.
Do you remember what Jesus says is the greatest commandment in all of scripture? He says this in Matthew 22: 37-39
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[i] Matthew 22:37-39
Jesus doesn’t say, go around and tell everyone else how they should treat you or relate to you. He says, The greatest thing we can do is to Love God and Love others. It’s about OUR ACTIONS.
Why is it so hard to love people the way that you love yourself? It doesn’t seem hard to love yourself…. We take care of our needs. We meet most of our wants even. I mean, we eat everyday, unless you’re on Keto and then you only eat sometimes. 😉 Just kidding… but you should stick around for Pizza with the Pastor today. 😉 Seriously though, If the greatest thing that we can do while here on earth is to love our neighbor as yourself, why do we have such a hard time doing that?
Remember that conversation I had with my friend. It became very obvious, very quickly that our relationship was set on auto pilot. Neither person had any negative reason for that. In fact, it was all because of good things that were happening. Life got busier for both of us, and yet I had crossed up some wires, I’d done some things that caused him to feel distant and left wondering if everything was okay. None of this was on purpose, or intentional.
Here’s what we know to be true… In relationships, WE DRIFT INTO DISCORD, BUT WE WORK OUR WAY INTO HARMONY. It’s easy to live in discord. It’s easy to keep a grudge. I didn’t say it’s good for you. But it is easy. It is natural. It’s hard to live in harmony. Discord is the gap that develops in a relationship when anger, hurt, and grief someone else caused you is left unattended. Harmony on the other hand is the joy of being in relational cooperation with others or relational compatibility.
So what happens when we develop a RELATIONAL RIFT with others? What should we do? How do we deal with discord? Paul gives us a clue in Rom 12.
Turn in your Bible to Romans 12:14, that’s page 775 in the Bible’s around you. We have been and will be in Romans 12 for this series. Paul gives us some incredible clues as to how-to live-in relationship with other people that won’t leave us feeling fed up with them or fed up with ourselves.
Look at Romans 12:14 with me…
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. [ii]
Right in the center of this tightly packed passage, Paul gives us an instruction. He says, Live in Harmony with one another. This should be a byproduct of what we learned last week… to Love Sincerely. When we love Sincerely, we’re going to live in harmony with one another. You mean I should be able to live in Harmony with my in-laws? Absolutely! Live in Harmony with my neighbor who never blasts loud music all night long? Absolutely. Live in Harmony with your co-worker who microwaves fish for lunch? NO. That’s a Relationship Foul right there!
Last weekend I mentioned to you that our cul-de-sac organized a neighborhood block party. We hosted this party because we wanted people to know that they are loved and cared for. We invited every single house in our neighborhood to join us in our cul-de-sac for a BBQ, everyone… Even the grumpy neighbors. J We had an inflatable slide, we had corn-hole games set out, ping pong, some chairs and a few tables…. I’ll tell you what, it was actually quite simple. We didn’t do that much. And the results were amazing. I saw conversations happening between neighbors that have lived next door to one another for years finding out one another’s names. I saw neighbors laughing and enjoying one another. It was beautiful. Do you know why? Because it was a glimpse of relational harmony.
Relational harmony doesn’t have to be hard, but it will always be intentional. Don’t forget, WE DRIFT INTO DISCORD, BUT WE WORK OUR WAY INTO HARMONY. We don’t have to wonder or work hard to come up with a plan… Paul’s already done the hard work for us on that. But if we want to see relational change take place, you and I will have to work the plan.
Look back at verse 14, for step 1 of Paul’s 3 step plan to defeat discord.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.[iii]
Listen, this does not come at a better time than now for us. This is a great reminder, why you ask? Because they’re coming… The SNOW BIRDS are back, and they’re a year older! There is nothing worse than following a car that has been signaling a turn for 2 miles. TURN ALREADY! Or you know what else… 4 seconds after the light turns green you can finally go through the light. Am I right? Talk about wanting to curse those who persecute you! That is not speaking the truth in love… 😉
Why do we do this? Why do we respond in anger when someone angers us? The hatred displayed in persecution usually evokes a similar response. This is what led Dr. Martin Luther King to say, “Darkness cannot drive out Darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Our typical response to those that hate us is to hate them right back!
Why do we hate the Patriots football team? Because we just do. Right? If we’re honest, it’s probably because they beat your team. But that doesn’t feel good. So it’s easier to hate them than admire them.
Paul reminds us to bless others, even those who persecute you, or offend you. Those who hurt you in every possible way. You are to bless them. Step one of the plan to defeat discord says PLAN TO BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHERS. When Paul says that we are to bless others, many of you can hear your old Grandmother saying, Bless you child, or someone sneezes in the room and we all turn and say, “God Bless You”. We’ve watered down the idea of what it means to bless others. Blessing has the idea of intentional acts of kindness for others. It’s considering others needs ahead of your own and taking steps to meet them. This idea is rooted in the teachings of Jesus. Look what Jesus said in Matthew 5
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you[iv]
So how do you PLAN TO BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHERS? Love our enemies and pray for them. Praying for someone you hate often times changes you more than it changes the other person. Prayer causes your heart to soften towards the other person. To be more considerate of them and to let go of the anger and hatred that you once held onto. So, every time that you are tempted to curse a person, pray for them. If you were to replace cursing with prayer can you imagine what could happen relationally when you follow step one of the plan?
Step two Paul says,
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. [v]
The quickest way to draw a Relationship Foul and drift into discord is when you aren’t empathetic. This seems so simple, and yet it’s often an overlooked relational step… You walk in a room and you see someone crying, what do you do? You don’t walk up and say sarcastically, “PSH, What’s Wrong With You?” No… you walk in and you sit down, you address the situation. You change the tone of your voice, the speed of your words, and you focus your eyes. You stop looking everywhere else. What you are trying to communicate is, “YOU MATTER TO ME RIGHT NOW. WHATEVER PAIN YOU ARE IN, IT MATTERS TO ME TOO!”
Step two of defeating discord says, PLAN TO ESTABLISH COMMON GROUND. When you engage in your relationships, the goal should be to find the common ground and start there. You can’t walk into a funeral like JoJo the clown and expect not to get glared at if not escorted out. You’re insensitive.
The same thing is true too during times of rejoicing! You can’t walk into a hospital room after a couple welcomes their newborn baby into the world and say… “Eh…. Looks like a pretty average baby to me.” No. You make over the child. You say he or she looks beautiful. They are perfect in every way. And no matter what, you always talk like this… (High Pitch Baby Talk) Oh Hey little baby! Today we leave to go see my nieces and nephews, and I’ll be doing this all week. It’s okay, they’re 12, and 14. It’s normal. It’s a thing we do. I don’t know why.
You’d think it would be easier to celebrate with people who are rejoicing than it is to sympathize with those who are grieving. It’s not. We are needed in sorrow. But we are peripheral in joy. We are like the balloons at the celebration. We only add to the joy, we don’t create more of it. But in sorrow, we are able to help shoulder some of it, and carry the load that someone has weighed down on them. And yet, we are to be in both moments with one another.
Let’s get incredibly real though, if you are here today and you are struggling with having children. For whatever reason you haven’t had a child yet, I want you to know that my heart hurts with you. Every time one of your friends announces they are pregnant, or you go to the hospital to welcome a new baby, I know that hurts. There are times when we will need to celebrate something in other’s lives that hasn’t happened in ours yet. It’s okay for you to feel both the pain of your desire as well as genuinely celebrate the joy of their accomplishment.
Let me peel back the curtain into my heart. One of my good friends, Tom Kang, also one of our overseers here at Hope City, recently re-launched a church, New Story Church in LA. On opening day, they had over 1,000 people in attendance. Did that hurt my heart a bit? Yeah…. But am I genuinely excited for Him and what God is doing through His church in LA? You better believe it. New Story Church has a problem. They are trying to figure out how to spend all the money they have. Here at Hope City, we don’t quite have that problem. We are a newborn church that relies on every tithe and offering. And yet, God is working through both churches. New Story is not better than Hope City. Do I celebrate with Tom? YES! Do I cheer him on? YES! Do I want more for him? YES!
The quickest way to draw a relational foul is by comparing yourself to everyone else. This is why we will
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. [vi]
The last thing Paul says, or step three comes from the second half of verse 16,
Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. [vii]
In order to not be fed up with others and not have them be fed up with you, you have to avoid pride… Pride will destroy harmony. In fact, Pride is disharmonious. I played the trumpet for 16 years and got quite good at it. I played in many different bands, and you could quickly tell who had an attitude problem because they were the ones that needed to be heard louder than the rest. Pride says, LOOK AT ME! MAKE SURE YOU”RE PAYING ATTENTION TO ME! Pride Pushes People away. Because Pride has no room for other People to Prosper!
This is why Step 3 says, WE PLAN TO STAY HUMBLE. We plan to have a realistic understanding of ourselves. Not making ourselves out to be something better than we really are, nor is it diminishing the skills and talents that you do have. Every Relational Foul gets thrown when someone enters in acting conceited and arrogant. In that moment, what you are really doing is using your skill or talents, to make someone else feel bad about their skill or talents.
A person who is humble is willing to associate with anyone, not just those that are going to improve their image, or serve them in some way. A person who plans to stay humble knows that a relationship is about what you are able to give, not just what you get. If you want people to be FED UP with you, act arrogantly. If you want to live in harmony with others, plan on staying humble.
Work the plan. As you think through this Holiday season… I know that there are moments you are going to be stressed about. There are parties you are going to wish you could avoid. If there was something you could do to defeat the discord in your relationships, or something that would help you fight the fed up feeling. Would you be willing to give it a try?
Remember that meeting I had with my friend several weeks ago? Let me tell you how it ended. I had to apologize. I had to apologize because I had allowed our relationship to drift. I had to own the things that I had been doing that caused us to be where we were. We then made a plan to protect our relationship from going back to where it was. Why? Because we knew that We cannot have the relationships that we want with behavior that remains the same. Something needed to change.
Sometimes the thing that needs to change most in the relationships around you is YOU. Maybe you have drawn a few too many Relationship Fouls… And the best thing that you could do for your relationships is to change. The Bible calls this kind of change REPENTANCE. It literally means a change of mind and heart. These relationship fouls, these offenses need to be dealt with.
Maybe you have been less than loving towards your enemies. You aren’t thinking about them, in any other way than wondering how they will experience pain and failure… That’s not loving, that’s not blessing them. And you need to repent from that.
Maybe you have been white knuckle holding onto a grudge with everything that you have, unwilling to let go. This is arrogance and pride at work. If you’re going to see any change, you may need to repent from this. To change your mind about those whom you want to hold responsible.
Maybe you have been unwilling to celebrate with people who are celebrating… It may be hard, but it is not impossible. Would you repent from this attitude–change your heart, change your mind.
You’ll never resolve what you’re unwilling to repent. It will bury itself in deeper and deeper, and you and I will start to rot from the inside out. This is what sin does to us. Sin gets a hold of our inside and secretly starts to decay your soul.
The good news is that Jesus died on the cross for your sin. He didn’t die so to make you perfect… but He died to free you from the hold that sin has on your life. The Christian life is about progress, not perfection. Jesus died so that you and I would have life, and life to the fullest scripture says. In the moments before Jesus would be arrested, beaten and ultimately hung on a cross Jesus shared a meal with his closest friends, his disciples. And during that meal, Jesus got down on his hands and knees and put a towel around his waist and washed everyone’s feet. He was considerate, He established common ground, and he radiated humility…. This would have been considered one of the most pivotal moments of the night if it wasn’t for what He would do next. He took a loaf of bread and he broke it and passed it around the table and said, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” And He took the cup and did the same saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” He said anytime that you eat or drink do this in remembrance of me. And today we call this COMMUNION…
This action symbolized exactly what He would do on the cross for your sin, the things that you do that go against God’s plan for your life… He would die for you so that your relationship with God and others could be restored.
This morning as we come to the communion tables, I want to invite you to spend a few moments in quiet reflection, asking yourself… what do I need to repent from? What do I need to turn from? Where do I need a change of mind?
And then I’m going to invite you to join me at the front here to receive communion as a reminder of how much Jesus loves you, and how much you have been forgiven.
 The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Mt 22:37–39). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Ro 12:14–16). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Ro 12:14). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Mt 5:43–44). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Ro 12:15). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Ro 12:15). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Ro 12:16). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.