Part Eleven Part Twelve
In a church, all parties must reconcile based upon the truth. Mediation might be necessary. It is required in a church because unity is required in a church. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:25:
That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.God requires no schism in the body. We know that schisms are caused by violations of scripture, so those are what need to be resolved. We also know that issues of liberty are not to cause schisms (Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 6-10), even if they still might.
Both scriptural issues and non-scriptural ones must be dealt with for reconciliation to occur. I know that the non-scriptural issues are sometimes the bigger for people than scriptural ones. They are also very often more difficult. However, they also must be recognized to be non-scriptural issues, even though they are harder.
At my age and for the number of years as pastor of a church, I have seen many convinced of a wrong that did not exist. Someone was offended, but no scripture was violated. Very often it is an offense of conventional wisdom or a societal norm. A true mediator would inform of the non-biblical nature of the offense, and the one offended might at that juncture desire a different mediator. The Apostle Paul was judged and condemned many a time on ginned up charges. Someone with hurt feelings still could expect punishment exacted for perceived violations.
When it comes to determine whether an offense has occurred, what the offense is, and how it will be reconciled, the severed parties must come to an understanding of whether it is a scriptural offense. Even if it is a non-scriptural offense, the two parties will need to agree on how to proceed forward with unity. Some of the biggest breaches in marriage are non-scriptural. The wrong reaction to one of these sometimes is the violation. It doesn't mean that the non-scriptural scruple isn't an obstacle.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul said that love "seeketh not her own." If something bothers someone else that is non-scriptural, love can give it up, as long as giving it up isn't a transgression of a biblical teaching. There isn't a verse that prohibits chewing gum. Nothing in the Bible says that someone can't chew gum with his mouth open, snapping it and popping it. Things like this -- and I mean, like this -- can really bother a party. The major problem isn't the so-called "gum snapping" here, but the unwillingness to give it up, when it isn't required to "snap gum" either (and again, I'm using it as an example).
If a non-scriptural issue can't be resolved, the inability to resolve often is the trouble. Someone might be sinning and causing disunity. Someone is not endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit. For a resolution, terms will likely need to be set and someone else might need to come in and mediate the situation. Unity is based on what scripture says. If it doesn't say anything, unity itself must be bigger than something scripture doesn't say, because the Bible does require unity. Very often dissension is caused by something a mere preference.
Outside of a church, the terms of reconciliation are still scriptural. Two parties must align upon scripture. Actual reconciliation will not defy scripture. Reconciliation will fail if one side or both will not acquiesce to God's Word. If one side will and the other will not, the latter is the one causing the division. If one side won't even have the Bible opened as a means of judgment, that side is not interested in reconciliation.
Scripture shows that often two sides can't get along because one of them doesn't want to give up its sin. It doesn't want to be judged by a mediator, because that might mean giving up sin. That's a side that wants acceptance and approval, but not a relationship as God defines it. The relationship of God is walking in the light as he is in the light.
As we work our way through the Bible about relationship, it is the story of transgressing the Word of God. The pursuit of reconciliation confronts the offense. Instruction might be necessary. The offending party may not want to repent. That is the cause of the division. Maybe the one offended might not want to forgive the offender. That can happen too, but either way, someone sinned or someone thinks someone has sinned against him.
An attempt at reconciliation that might include mediation if necessary is not the failing of a relationship. The unwillingness to reconcile and to receive mediation is the failing. If someone wants a relationship, he will want the biblical means of obtaining it or preserving it. If someone doesn't want to be judged at all, he is not going to achieve reconciliation. I would call that party stubborn, rebellious, or proud or something like those. Those aren't biblical, Christian qualities.
Relationship could be said to be the theme of the Bible. It could be argued. It could easily be demonstrated that certain books of the Bible are primarily about relationship. One of those I would contend is an important New Testament epistle, Ephesians. Chunks of other books, sometime large portions, are about relationship. I think Ephesians is all about relationship. I believe the main concern of Paul in the book is the relationship in the church at Ephesus, but that is dependent upon the relationship with God. It's about both God and the Ephesians but the point is unity between church members.
Ephesians and Relationship
Relationship is the chief concern of Ephesians. This fits with what we Jesus informs of Christianity in His upper room discourse and then prayer to His Father (John 14-17). Anybody who really cares about relationship will consider it within these contexts. The problem with each other starts with a problem with God, the alleviation of which is the source for right relationship with each other. In other words, the problem between men starts with a problem with God, the solution of the latter is the basis for the solution of the former.
The epistle reads as though the purpose of the teaching on relationship with God is toward the right relationship with each other in the church. Right relationship is modeled in the church and an example of what God intended between He and men and between men with men.
Paul highlights the conflict in relationship between Jews and Gentiles beginning in Ephesians 2:11. The conflict between men and men mirrors the conflict between men and God, which Paul describes as being dead to God because of at least six different reasons, all ameliorated by the power of Christ's resurrection: sin and trespasses, worldliness, Satan, disobedience, lust, and wrath. This is all very objective, concrete basis for a barrier in relationship between God and man. The same causes the rift between men and men -- real, true reasons, not just impressions or feelings.
Before Paul moves to the disunion between people, he establishes the foundational cause of that division seen in what keeps people away from God. These are the real reasons, not the phony ones that people will use that are extricated by psychobabble or someone's own interests. When I evaluate my relationship with other people, the base reasons in Ephesians 2:1-3 represent the same ones that separate me from people. The first one is sin or trespasses, so actual sinning (v. 1). The second is walking after "the course of this world" (v. 2), and I want to park there for a moment.
I can't coexist with worldly people, people who are so immersed in worldly things, even if not in and of themselves sinful. People that are constantly in tune with all things popular in the world, the hashtags, the media, orchestrated by what comes next in Ephesians 2, "the prince of the power of the air" or "the spirit that now worketh" (v. 2). Satan keeps his people distracted with things that don't go the way of obedience to God, or in other words toward "disobedience," also in v. 2, "the children of disobedience." Disobedience is not sin or trespass, but not doing what God wants them to do. They don't talk about God, the Bible, salvation, the gospel, spiritual things, and if they do, they are very veiled in the way they do it so as not to disassociate with the world.
There are fads, activities, and philosophies in the world, the ways of the world, that keep people in association with the world. Those ways run incongruent to someone who is in the light, is heavenly, and alive to God. I want to use purposefully what will be considered to be a less plain example. There are much clearer ones than this, that I'll also mention those. A boy or man wears his baseball cap backwards all the time. It's not something I even bring up to people, but I just saw someone mock fathers who say something about this to their sons.
There's nothing wrong with wearing a baseball cap backwards. The catcher does that so he can wear the catcher's mask. But the cap was designed for the bill of the cap in front. I also find an affront the stiff-billed hip-hop cap. Not me, but quora displays knowledge when it asserts, "Most people who wear their caps backwards are trying to look cool." The father who simplifies things by saying the backwards cap is rebellion is just saying that it runs counter to design or it signals someone functioning against natural law. Now it looks like someone attempting to compensate because of some lack, perhaps lack in confidence, that he should be getting through Jesus Christ. Fathers could, instead of dealing with this symptom, look to help with the underlying cause -- why is he so eager to fit with the course of this world system?
The course of this world is most seen in entertainment, music, and recreation, those who fill their lives up with lust and pleasure, lust which is mentioned in v. 3, "Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind." Booze, rock music, dancing, partying, and regular talk about smutty television mark this person. This breaks my relationship with this person, but it also is what is severing his relationship with God. The former again proceeds from the latter.
Godliness, interest in heavenly things, a resurrected type behavior, what Paul calls, seeking those things which are above (Colossians 3:1) are the regular way of a true believer, providing some basis of genuine relationship. Having to attempt to figure out the latest fad or approve of temporal things to show acceptance or toleration is not a biblical relationship, so it isn't relationship. It is a capitulation to anything or everything. We can't serve God and mammon. A choice must be made, and those "relationships" must be left aside.
More to Come