Rev. Trevor Johnston
Sermon Series: Bridging the Great Divides
Week 3: Bridging the Relationship Divide
In week 1, we spoke of the spiritual divide and how God bridged the divide between Himself and us through Jesus’ death on the cross.
In week 2, we spoke about the racial divide and that we should all seek to be aware of our unconscious and conscious bias so that we can live more into the fact that, in Christ, we are all one.
This week we’re talking about relationship divides – any divide between “you” and “someone else”. These divides are ultimately caused by sin.
Trevor quoted a book by Vic Copan called Changing Your Mind: “Sin is everything that damages the (peace) God intended for all human relationships: whether with God, with others, or with the world. Anything that damages or breaks those relationships is sin.”
- Read Matthew 5:9: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
What do you notice in this verse? What thoughts come to your mind as you read it?
- Describe a peacemaker. What qualities do peacemakers have?
- What are some behaviors and attitudes, which are incompatible with being a peacemaker?
- Why does Jesus say that when we’re being peacemakers, we are living especially in line with what it means to be a child of God?
- Sometimes it’s not appropriate to bridge a relationship divide. Name some situations where it’s not appropriate to reunite a relationship with another person.
- Sometimes it’s not possible to bridge a relationship divide. Ultimately, it takes two to make peace. Have you ever been in a situation where you tried to reach out and make peace with a person, but the other person refused to pursue reconciliation with you? Tell about how that felt. What can you do in that situation?
- Genesis 37-47 describes the life of Joseph, which is a great example of bridging relational divides. Glance through these chapters, and briefly describe what happened in Joseph’s life.
Painful Truths of Peacemaking from Joseph’s life:
- You must face the pain first .
- Everyone in Joseph’s family was impacted by the relationship divide and felt pain as a result. Bridging that divide was painful for all of them. Trevor wrote in his journal: “There are people in my life that I need to be reconciled with; but I am avoiding it, because I’m afraid of the pain.” Can you relate to what Trevor wrote? Why is peacemaking often painful?
- Believe God is at work.
- God was working in this situation, even when Joseph couldn’t see it. God used Joseph’s circumstances to do some good. And God was also working in the hearts of his brothers behind the scenes. How would it change your behavior toward a person you are currently divided from, if you believed that God is at work in that situation? What might you do differently, if you truly believed that God is at work?
- You can’t be both a bridge-builder and a bridge-burner.
- Read Genesis 45:1-11: Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. 3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. 4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. 9 Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. 10 You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me– you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. 11 I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’
What do you notice about how Joseph spoke to his brothers? What was his attitude and demeanor?
11. Trevor shared a quote from Rick Warren: “…You must destroy your arsenal of relational nuclear weapons, including condemning, belittling, comparing, labeling, insulting, condescending, and being sarcastic.” What did Rick Warren mean by this?
- Trust is earned, not given.
12. Joseph set up a test to see whether his brothers had changed since the day they sold him into slavery. In this test, Joseph’s brother Judah earned Joseph’s trust back by sticking up for Benjamin and offering his own life as a slave in place of Benjamin’s.
If you’ve done something to hurt the other person, it’s important to realize that you may have to earn their trust back over time by your behavior, in order for the relationship to be fully restored. What are some things that help earn trust back?
13. Even though reconciliation may require a rebuilding of trust first, forgiveness is something that Christ followers should give as a free gift, even when someone hasn’t earned it. What’s the difference between “forgiveness” and “reconciliation”?
14. Read Matthew 5:23-24: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
Jesus indicates here that the most spiritual thing a Christian can do isn’t to just sing songs at church or give an offering. It’s more important to God that you seek reconciliation with anyone you are currently divided from. Take some time this week to pray about this and ask God to guide you about what to do next.