Introduction: Welcome back to the Brookwood church building!
Our church has been functioning throughout this separation, but today, we’re together!
- In smaller numbers—and wearing masks (incognito)—but here—and with others online.
- I thought I would lead us to reflect on what God had taught us during our time of quarantine, but with the senseless, tragic, death of George Floyd, and the resulting protests, some of which descended into violence and vandalism, I must, instead, address how to restore harmony in our community and our country by beginning in our church.
- I think we agree that fair, equal, justice must be secured for George Floyd and his family, but also for anyone and everyone, without exception. (Justice must be blind.)
- For this message, I have a request as I begin: Please listen and judge my words by my intent and what you know of me from more than 27 years as pastor, not by whether I use the same words or express the same feelings you would to describe this tragic loss of life.
- I will not attempt to persuade you to accept my perception of the facts, or to convince you of the correct solution or even the appropriate response, for that would rely on my ability to reason with you; rather, I will turn us to God’s solution for division and ask the Holy Spirit to apply these words to each of us individually and all of us collectively.
- Theme verse: Romans 12:16 (NLT)—Live in harmony with each other….
- God wants us to get along, but better than that, to live in harmony, unity, in intimate relationship with each other in the church, despite the many differences that exist.
- All of us are different, unique, having different experiences and therefore, different perception and divergent perspectives of the same situation or set of facts.
- We differ regarding race, ethnicity, educational attainments, financial accomplishments.
- We grew up in different places, with different parents, during different time periods.
- All of these things cause us to view virtually everything differently according to our different set of assumptions or truths by which we understand what we see and hear!
- The result is that we can interpret the same situations in divergent, even contrary, ways—and wonder why others don’t agree with us, sometimes causing us to question motives.
- : Our varied past experiences with police officers cause us to see facts differently.
- These differences don’t have to cause division, but they can—and certainly will—if we do not follow God’s directives, which are explained, empowered and applied by His Spirit to each of us individually, which brings us back into harmony.
- Our increasing diversity in our church is one the things I think God is most pleased with (and I certainly am) because it looks more like heaven, but also because it is not easy, it requires self-examination, self-awareness, sensitivity, self-denial, change and growth.
Heal divisions by… (Romans 12:9-21)
#1 - Expressing love. (Romans 12:9-10; C/R: John 13:35; 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22; 1 John 3:14; 4:19-21)
- Romans 12:9a (NLT)—Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. …
- : Do I love other people who are different from me? What about others who disagree with me? Am I wary, even skeptical, of people with different backgrounds and opinions?
- If so, I haven’t learned to see people as God sees them, to love them as He does.
- Romans 12:9b (NLT)—9b …Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.
- We are confused about this: many of us think if we love someone, we must accept and approve of everything they do, but that is not right.
- Loving someone means being willing to sacrifice for their best—and their best is becoming who GOD wants them to be, so we do reject what is wrong in their lives according to God’s Word, while embracing what is good in their lives, if they allow us.
- Romans 12:10a (NLT)—Love each other with genuine affection,…
- Loving people must be a sincere attitude of the heart, not mere surface behavior—and people can discern which you are displaying.
- Romans 12:10b (NLT)—…and take delight in honoring each other.
- Honor means to respect, to esteem; at Brookwood, we use to term dignify, which in our church family, means to recognize, and value, the image of God within every man and woman, which makes it easy to recognize and appreciate the gifts God has given to them.
- : If loving and valuing others is difficult for you, it likely comes from your own insecurity or fear of rejection; ask God to tell you how He loves you so you can express love to others.
Heal divisions by…
#2 - Extending assistance. (Romans 12:11-13; C/R: Mark 12:30-31; Galatians 6:10;
1 Timothy 6:17-18; 1 John 3:17-19)
- Romans 12:11 (NLT)—Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.
- In our instance, this means serving the Lord by serving others through practical ministry.
- During our recess, we have been engaged in providing meals, delivering groceries and medicines, sending card, offering prayers, counseling and financial assistance, engaging in virtual classes and providing support groups, performed work projects, making masks!
- Romans 12:12 (NLT)—Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.
- We can have confident hope that things can change, that mistrust between different races and diverse groups can, with God’s help, be ended, replaced with love and trust.
- We must be patient in troubling times like we are now experiencing, but also patient with each other, acknowledging that different past experiences yield different present circumstances which create different perspective and different responses to situations.
- All of us must pray, because what we need most is to know God’s perspective, to be indoctrinated by His truth, not that of our favorite celebrity, media personality, television news channel, political party or social organization. (Turn off TV and SM for a while.)
- We must ask God by His Spirit to expose our prejudices and conform our personal perceptions and perspectives into His truth.
- We can begin forming relationships by showing concern, demonstrating compassion, which can be expressed by recognizing and attempting to assist people in need.
- Romans 12:13 (NLT)—When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. [Aid to someone outside your family or group.]
- Assistance is not a relationship, but it can create an opportunity for one to be formed when you use the practical help as a chance to learn someone’s life story. (dignity)
Heal divisions by…
#3 - Exhibiting humility. (Romans 12:14-15; C/R: Romans 15:5; Philippians 2:1-4; Colossians 3:12; James 2:1-4,9)
- Romans 12:14 (NLT)—Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.
- Can you see past the ugly, unfair, outer actions of someone who mistreats you to see a soul in need of God—and will you pray for them, even asking God to bless their lives?
- Praying for the blessing of God on someone who has hurt you is a good way to avoid the resentment and bitterness that will damage your soul and cause discouragement.
- Romans 12:15 (NLT)—Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.
- Enter the experiences and emotions of others by not only sympathizing (feeling compassion or sorrow) with them, but also empathizing with them (putting yourself in their place), asking God to enable you to feel the emotions of another person.
- Try to understand why people protest, why some become violent, why police overreact.
- Romans 12:16 (NLT)—Live in harmony with each other [which requires listening and understanding because we are all different]. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
- Pride is divisive because it is self-protective and unteachable so it inhibits understanding.
- Humility promotes harmony because it allows us to admit what we don’t know, to apologize for mistakes, to ask for insight, to seek understanding.
- For our church to grow in harmony, we must resist becoming offended or defensive toward each other; instead, we must be willing to talk honestly, openly, vulnerable.
- : Melvin gently instructed me about word, “Afro-American.”
Heal divisions by…
#4 - Eliminating revenge. (Romans 12:17-21; C/R: Matthew 5:44-48; 1 Thessalonians 5:15;
Hebrews 10:30; 1 Peter 3:8-9)
- Romans 12:17–18 (NLT)—17 Never pay back evil with more evil. [It only compounds the evil.] Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. [Hate can never conquer hate; only love can.]
- Romans 12:19a (NLT)—Dear friends, never take revenge. …
- Don’t ever resort to revenge because it won’t solve the underlying offense, it might make it worse and it often results in injury to innocent people.
- Romans 12:19b-20 (NLT)—Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” [Deuteronomy 32:35] says the Lord. 20 Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” [Proverbs 25:21-22]
- Revenge is always wrong according to the Scripture because only God is just.
- Only He knows the situation accurately—the what and the why of every action, so only He punishes in the appropriate amount in the appropriate way.
- When we take revenge, we will likely express anger, fear, anxiety, rage that is already within us, that is not attributable to the situation or person we are holding responsible.
- When you answer mistreatment with mercy and kindness, it may cause the person who wronged you to feel shame and apologize, whereas, if you counter-attack, that person will just intensify his attacks.
- Romans 12:21 (NLT)—Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
- This includes another person’s evil actions or your own evil response.
- The good you do may change a person’s heart and lead them to Christ! Harmony results!