Something happened between Paul the Apostle and Barnabas (another important leader in the early church).
In the midst of their missionary work they had a sharp disagreement and parted ways.
Here’s the backstory:
Barnabas and Paul had spent a year in Antioch, Syria…helping a new church there.
Barnabas, Paul, and a guy named John Mark went on a church planting journey from Antioch.
At one point John Mark left them and headed back to Jerusalem.
We don’t know why…but for Paul, it caused him to lose trust in John Mark.
Later when they were going on another missionary journey…Barnabas wanted to bring John Mark…Paul said “No way”…we are not taking him.
The result was Paul and Barnabus went their separate ways…which was good…twice as much was done…but was bad…because these great missionaries…couldn’t agree.
That seems pretty messed up…leaders of the first century church…they couldn’t get along.
You sometimes hear of how we need to be more like the “early church”…meaning the church during the time of the New Testament.
I think this is an idealized view of the First century church…and an unrealistic view of the 21st century church.
The fact is, we are very much like the early church.
We sometimes engage the Great Commission “Make disciple of all nations”
We sometimes live the Great Commandment “Love God and others.
We need to continually get back on track…because we get off track a lot.
Here’s the rest of the story for Paul, Mark and Barnabas
Mark and Paul, Barnabas eventually reconciled and John Mark became one of Paul’s trusted co-workers.
He later told Timothy… “Hey bring John Mark with you when you come visit me…he is a great help to me.” 2 Tim. 4:11
So what’s up with these great Christian leaders disagreeing?
They, like us…are the Children of God
Which means…we belong to him and so we have a different life trajectory and destiny.
And it means…we are still children…not perfect and in continual need of grace from God and one another…we need to keep getting back on track.
1 John 3:2-3 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
We are, already, the children of God with a sure hope.
We are, not yet, completely like him…we are in process.
John then goes on in his letter to talk at great length of the need to keep on loving and forgiving one another…just as God, in Christ, forgave us.
Today we finish out a month of looking at the four pillars of human resiliency…how to thrive as God’s people.
Physical, spiritual, mental…today…relational.
As Followers of Christ…our resiliency is built on and dependent upon the gospel.
This will be clear today as we look at the key to relational resiliency…forgiveness through Christ…from God extended to one another.
We are going to read from Paul’s letter to the Colossians:
*Before we do…look In advance at Verse 11…
Paul is giving some common cultural divisions that separated people of his time…very similar to the kinds of the things that separate people in our time.
*He lists “Barbarians” which was a word of contempt used by Greeks for anyone who did not speak their language.
*Then, Scythian, these were a people from little known northern Asia who were thought to be extreme barbarians…essentially savages.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Let’s walk through these together…we are heading for a landing in the last few verses…so let’s work our way there.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
In the preceding chapter Paul gave the implications of having “died with Christ”
-Meaning when we place our faith in him…what he did on the cross directly benefits and impacts us…we are now dead to the old life.
Now in this chapter he gives the implications of having risen with Christ.
Dead to the old life…Alive to the new one.
We see here that great tension between the “already and the not yet” of the Christian life.
We now, already live in “Christ” …we will, in the future, be like him in his glory…his beautiful character.
So… with this tension in mind… “You are already different…but you are not yet perfect” …
We can now take decisive action against the things that represent the old life…as well as moving eagerly into the things of the new life.
The old stuff is still hanging around…but we do not have to live in it anymore.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: he lists some of this stuff…
(sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.)
Look at the two lists:
- immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed (clearly yucky stuff)
- anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, lying (stuff that is much more “acceptable” or at least not seen as bad)
But both lists are equivalent…both lists represent the “stuff” of the old life
Both lists can impact us still if we walk back into the old life…and we can do that…we just don’t have to.
We can live now in the purposes of God as his new people.
We are free to live in relationships of love for God and one another.
Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
“Here” means…this place of new community…the family of God…the church.
It’s like a parent saying to a rebellious child… “We don’t do that here!”
Or to a hurting child “We take care of one another here.”
“Here” of course is not the room they are in, not their geographic location…it is their relational “location”…the family.
“Here” In this new family of God…all former divisions and distinctions have lost their power to separate people because we are all united in Christ.
This is not an exhaustive list of things that separate but a representative one:
These distinctions of race, ancestral religion, class, where very important at the time this was written…they divided people very strongly and these barriers were hard if not impossible to overcome.
There are many similar distinctions in our time:
-You can probably think of others
Some differences between us…remain and they are important, and normal.
-nationalities, gender, political positions…they do matter…we don’t have to all think or be the same.
But these differences do not have to divide us anymore.
We can love and respect and have relationship with each other…because Christ unites us.
*Side note here:
-Paul is not teaching that it doesn’t matter, then, what a person chooses to become or to believe
-He is clearly teaching the opposite of that here, for instance…he is telling us ways to behave and things to believe.
“It is not okay to be immoral, or greedy, or to live in ongoing anger”
-So not all choices are okay
“Christ is the way to God, there are not many different ways.”
-Not all beliefs are true
There is unity…but it’s unity in Christ…it’s not in everyone doing and thinking whatever they want…and being okay with that.
“Christ is all, and is in all”
- First, Christ is “All” …meaning he is of ultimate importance and priority.
-This past week I was thinking and reading about different theories on the physical universe.
-We cannot conceive of an actual infinite…galaxies and space that has no end
-We also cannot conceive of an “edge of the universe”
-Some say it is infinite like a balloon…but I can only envision a balloon in a room…not a balloon being everything.
-Some postulate a multi-verse…which only raises more questions than answers.
To my point…I thought about this as much as I could…as I did…I went from “cosmic” to personal…as I prepared to get up from my chair and move into the world of people around me.
“God…you spoke all of this into existence…it is mind blowing…and my pride looks ridiculous to me right now.”
“Not loving others, judging, being petty…is embarrassing to me right now.”
Christ is all…and there are personal implications if we consider that fact…humbling, perspective focusing…implications.
And Christ is in all.
This means that wherever we look we are to see Christ.
Elsewhere Paul wrote “We no longer regard anyone from a worldly point of view, though we once regarded Christ in this way.”
When people are mistreated…Christ is.
When people are ignored…Christ is
When people are judged…Christ is
People are loved…Christ is
Jesus said “What you did for the least of these, you did for me.”
When the risen Christ confronted Saul (later Paul) for terrorizing the church, he asked “Saul, why are you persecuting ME?”
So finally, here is where we land today as we prepare to worship and celebrate Christ through communion…we have this great “Therefore”
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
These verses are like breaking out of the fog into the clear sunlight.
As God’s Holy people…holy (means set apart for purpose) and dearly loved (you know what that means).
Stop there…what follows are not new laws to follow and new rules to fail at.
What follows is the way of life that his purpose-filled and dearly loved kids are now blessed to be able pursue and enjoy.
Let’s unpack these words because we are to wear them like clothes…they are to “cover” our lives and be what people see and experience from us.
Again…let me “foot stomp” this…this is not law…rules to obey…this is opportunity…a new life to live…new clothes to wear.
I had a class in seminary where the professor was frustrated with students who would ask “Will this be on the test?”
He believed that what he was teaching would be tested by life…not merely a paper test that would long be forgotten…we were there, he believed…to learn to live life to honor God…not to get grades.
It doesn’t matter if you could pass a test next week and define these words…it matters that Christ lives in you…He wants you to experience the reality that these words describe.
Open the gift box…see what Jesus has purchased for us to wear…
Compassion: Two words in the Greek: compassion and heart
-Together they mean deep sensitivity to the needs and sorrows of others.
-Not taking up offense for others, but seeing their hurts and letting them impact you.
Kindness: This means exactly what you think it means.
-If we are not growing in Kindness…(plain old kindness)
We are not growing in Christlikeness.
If you could raise the dead and heal the sick, plant churches, know the Bible by heart…but you are unkind…you are not like Christ.
Humility: Is the attitude of Christ in regards to ourselves.
-This is demonstrated in the readiness to let go of our own rights and defer to others.
-The great description of this is found in Phil. 2:5-11
Gentleness is our humility expressed to others…we are to approach people as being of immense value to God and therefore to us as well.
-This is not a personality trait
-This is not vocal decibel level
-This is not passivity
Gentleness is the lack of rudeness or anger…it is valuing others by approaching them as being of great value.
It’s humility expressed in relationships.
It is to not jump to conclusions.
To give people the benefit of the doubt.
It is controlled strength…
We are to approach others with their needs and concerns in mind…not just ours.
What about mine?
Think about it…this is written as a description of healthy community.
What happens if we each set out to treat one another this way?
We all thrive…relational resiliency…is about relationships…life with one another.
Patience: Patience is different than gentleness in that it is a response…to the flaws and faults of others.
When others don’t think of my needs…they think of own…then I am to be patient.
Patience is a Christ-like response to others in their imperfections.
It doesn’t allow resentment and anger to take over in our hearts and lives…when others are imperfect and they do and say what imperfect people do and say.
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Bear with each other means to “make allowance for each other’s faults” …patience in practice.
Not just tolerating others but actually continuing to pursue relationship with them.
We talked last week about how contentment is nurtured and revealed in less than favorable life circumstances.
Love is demonstrated in less than favorable personal displays.
-When I need to forgive and have reason for grievance is when I am displaying the grace of the Lord to others.
We are to Forgive as the Lord forgave us
This needs little explanation but I will simple ask “How (when) did the Lord forgive you?”
While you were a sinner, while you were (are) still a mess.
This is how we are to forgive one another…like the Lord forgave us… “While we were still sinners.”
*This doesn’t mean you must allow people to misuse you.
-It does not imply that wolves should be invited into your hearts and homes.
Wolves (people with purely wicked intent) are to be treated as dangerous and they are unable to engage in relationship with.
But wolves are in not in the context here… the context here is “regular old messed up sheep”
People you live in and around…while not wolves they are not perfect…they (we) are full of faults.
We are already Christ’s kids…we are not yet fully like Christ.
So, we are to give grace and receive grace…and in doing this…we are helping each other understand and live more fully in the grace of God.
The love of Christ binds these virtues (gospel powered realities) all together into a coherent and beautiful life.
Again…don’t take this and make a checklist… “Did that, check”. “Failed to do that…no check.”
You can memorize this passage and that would be great…but practically what we are to do with this is to continually turn our hearts and minds to the gospel…with gratitude.
Jesus died for me; Jesus rose from the dead…he is giving me new life now.
I died to sin with him, I rose to live a new life in him.
This kind of life…lived out among others…will manifest all these qualities and more.
The fruit tree will bear fruit by virtue of having roots in soil and drinking in sun and rain….it does not concentrate on trying to be fruitful.
Likewise, as we walk in grateful relationship with Jesus…keeping the gospel in full view…this fruit will grow in our lives.
When our relationships with one another are not healthy…we don’t just need to study lists like this…we also need to return to love for God and gratitude for the gospel.
These lists are essential for seeing what the fruit ought to look like (that’s why they are in the Bible)…and alert us when it’s not there.
But keepings lists are not a way of actually being transformed…to memorize a list will not change you in itself.
To meditate (think deeply about) these things…is one key step.
But THE key step is to keep turning in our hearts in submission to Jesus…then to come full circle…keep turning towards one another in forgiveness.
Remember grace…Give Grace
So think about the clothes of the old life and the clothes of the new…but focus on the fact that this life is found in Christ.
Christ died, Christ rose…I died with Christ, I am risen with Christ…I no longer live but Christ lives in me.
For the rest of our time together we are going to focus on the gospel’s implications for relationships by celebrating communion together.
I’m going to set up communion now so that once we get going, we don’t have to interrupt with a lot of explanation.
I’m going to read from 1 Cor. 11:23-26
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
What we do together this morning…is a “reenactment” of the last meal of Jesus with his disciples.
In other words, we don’t just think or talk about what Jesus and his followers did…we use real juice and bread…to remember…to reenact.
Why? Because what happened then…has changed us now…and will impact us forever.
What we call “The Last Supper” was a meal where Jesus celebrated Passover with his friends…the last meal with them, before he went to the cross.
Passover was that great OT event where God rescued his people from slavery and the saving symbol of the event was the blood of a lamb over the doorway.
Jesus, Paul wrote earlier in this same letter, is our Passover Lamb.
His death restored relationship with God and made the way for new relationships with one another.
We celebrate together, we wait on another in line…all this demonstrates that communion is a celebration of community…the New Community of God.
*We are warned in Scripture to be careful to not mindlessly take communion.
- If we have not committed our lives to Christ…we should not partake
-It is about relationship with God through Christ
- If we are in living in broken relationships with others (and have not committed to forgive and seek restoration as we are able) …we should not partake
-It is about relationship with one another
*Two things to reflect on as you prepare your heart:
- If you have trusted Christ then you are “holy and dearly loved.”
-Set apart for his purposes and loved as you are
- If you have trusted Christ…you can and you will forgive others as you have been forgiven.
Why do we keep having communion, why don’t we keep on getting baptized?
Baptism marks the once-for-all time reality of being born again.
-We go under the water and come up…a symbol of having died with Christ and resurrected to new life in him…that happens once…and is symbolized once in baptism.
Communion is ongoing…Until the Lord Returns…because we need to continually have relationship with God and with one another restored.
It is an ongoing celebration of getting back on track…remembering what God has done…rejoicing in his continued grace and giving his grace to one another in continued pursuit of whole and healthy relationships.
*Today we will dip bread into juice…much like the disciples and Jesus would have done as they dipped bread into the bowl of wine.
*Gluten free is available up front and in the back.