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Faithlife

Disputes Among Brothers

1 Corinthians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Notes & Transcripts
[TITLE SLIDE]
Might need to cut some of this into.
A bunch of guys from the church and a few other friends came over to our house about a year ago to help with some demolition. The house we bought was in really sad shape and needed some major work done.
So we took the opportunity to do some remodeling at the same time. There was a wall that spanned the full width of the house, front to back. I’d already been up in the rafters and had determined the wall was not a load bearing wall. That means that I can remove the wall without the roof caving in. So, I told the guys to take it out, but a few of them disagreed with me. They said, no way, if we take that wall the roof will fall in.
Now, I could have stuck to my guns and said to take it out. I could have settled the dispute that way. It was my house and my problem. But, I didn’t do that. I don’t usually do that. So, I called my buddy Kurt who is a building inspector and a really great carpenter. And he came over to take a look. He got up in the rafters and took a look and agreed with me. And then he coached the guys to pull the wall out.
I was fortunate to have a friend who was an expert that I could call for that situation. But, we don’t always go to the appropriate people when we have problems. Sometimes I’m working on computer code and it starts to make my head spin, so I’ll sit and try to talk to Jami about it. And it’s just not her thing. She can’t really help me settle the issue.
Well ,that’s a problem we find in the church and in living the Christian life. Sometimes we seek out unspiritual answers to spiritual problems. We appeal to an inferior authority, and needlessly. In our text today, we see that the church in the city of Corinth was going to the local courts to settle disputes between believers in the church.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. ()
(, ESV)
(, ESV)
[SLIDE , ESV]
And Paul almost seems confused by this. He writes, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” He says that people who identify with their immorality will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Notice, for Paul this is a Kingdom issue. No longer are they citizens of Corinth, but citizens of God’s Kingdom. If you know Jesus as Lord, then you belong to God’s Kingdom, not the Kingdom of the United States, not the Kingdom of California.
[TITLE SLIDE]
We throw the term ‘Lord’ around a lot in the church, so much that it starts to lose it’s meaning. The biblical word Lord means the lord of a state or a nation. It’s like a casual term for a governor or king. And that is what we mean when we say, ‘Lord Jesus.’ He’s not just master of the house; he’s King of God’s people who reigns over God’s Kingdom.
So, where’s your loyalty? Is your loyalty to the United States of America? Is it to another country? Or do you pledge allegiance to Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God who sits on the throne in heaven, ruling over His Kingdom here on earth?
Is your loyalty to the United States of Americ? Or do you pledge allegiance to the Jesus Christ?
Intro: Verse 9-11. We cannot go to the Kingdom of the World to solve Kingdom of God issues.
Notice, Paul puts the immoral people in the Kingdom of the world, and he puts the righteous people, those who obey Jesus as Lord, in the Kingdom of God.
But, lest we be arrogant, he reminds us that we were once the immoral people of the world. He writes,
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (, ESV)
I mean, what can you say?
(, ESV)
I’m an American and I do it this way! You know that’s not a reasonable excuse.
Paul says that we were washed. We are cleansed from our immorality. Our status as immoral people is gone.
He says we were sanctified. Sanctified means ‘set apart.’ When we decided to follow Jesus as King, we were set apart from the world and set into the Kingdom of God. Our citizenship in this world was revoked, because we have a new sovereign, Jesus.
Intro: Verse 9-11. We cannot go to the Kingdom of the World to solve Kingdom of God issues.
And we were justified. Justified means, ‘Just as is if I’d never sinned.’ Justification means that God has chosen not see our former citizenship in the Kingdom of the World as rebellion against God’s Kingdom. Justification means a clean slate. It’s political amnesty. All the things of the former life have been erased.
Jesus made that happen by the power of the Spirit of God.
OK, so what should we do when we have disputes as Christians?
Should we…
I want to be clear, these are disputes between two or more Christians, not disputes between Christians and people in the world.
So, the first thing to ask is, should we…

Let the world settle disputes? — weirdness simplify and condense

Peter Coleman, director of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Columbia University, says this:
Kids fight over many of the same things adults do…They fight over ownership of stuff, over envy and jealousy, over status and pecking order…over disappointed expectations in their relationship, over perceived incidents of unfairness or injustice, and because they are tired or bored and just feel like fighting. (Peter Coleman, Columbia University)
It’s easy to see how little kids fight this way, but honestly, most disputes that bigger kids, teens, and adults have fall into these same categories. We fight over stuff, because it’s mine, or because we want it or we like it. We may fight for something we don’t even care about because of jealousy or because we feel empowered by winning. Sometimes we fight because, well, it’s just not fair. And sometimes, we have disputes because deep down inside we’re just cranky 2-year olds who are bored and tired.
[BLANK]
This is interesting to me, because when adults have conflicts, we want to settle it by making things fair and right. We want to hear both sides of the story and we want to figure out whose at fault.
But—have you ever noticed this?—we tend to deal with kids differently. At least most parents do. When we deal with kids we don’t care so much who is right or wrong. We care that they fight in the first place. When our kids fight, we don’t usually hold a trial to find out who was wronged. We look for the best path to peace.
Another way to say that is to say that we become more concerned with the source of the conflict, than the conflict itself.
The key is finding out the true source of the conflict. Is the argument really about Legos, or about how one sibling feels like he has no private space to play? Is it really about the sweater the friend borrowed and hasn't returned yet, or about jealousy over a newer friend taking her time?
Is the argument really about Legos, or is it jealousy, that one sibling feels she always gets less than the other kid? Is it really about the sweater the friend borrowed and hasn't returned yet, or is it about the other girls new boyfriend? Is it really that someone backed into your car in the church parking lot, or is there a deeper problem in your heart?
See, one of the problems with allowing the world to settle disputes is that, the world primarily judges actions. We have judges and juries to determine when we are right and wrong and to reward us accordingly. But, if you think about it, that’s pretty superficial. It’s primitive. The world just wants to determine fault, prescribe restitution and move on.
the world and society works like the adults. In the world we have judges and juries to determine when we are right and wrong and to reward us accordingly. But, if you think about it, that’s pretty superficial. It’s primitive. The world just wants to determine fault, prescribe restitution and move on.
In our text, we see Paul very concerned about that kind of view. He writes,
When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! (, ESV)
(, ESV)
Paul doesn’t want a Christian to take a Christian brother or sister to court, to sue them or to settle some kind of dispute.
[BLANK]
Why? Is it that he thinks the courts are incapable of making logical and fair judgment?
I don’t think so. His reason is that it’s backwards. Paul believes that the world is not capable of settling disputes as well as God’s people. In the end the church will judge the world, so why would the church willingly let the world judge us?
But, I think it’s more than that. When the courts raise the gavel it is to pronounce judgement. It is to rule through the power and authority of the law.
And many parents work this way as well. Maybe you aren’t the parent who wants to form and shape the hearts of your kids, rather, you rule over your kids like the world rules. But, if you are concerned about the hearts of your children, then you try to get to the source of the conflict. You try to understand the heart of your children.
And I think that perspective reflects the heart of God far more. The world wants to form behaviors, but God wants to form hearts. So, this is where I’m at with this.
Should we settle disputes the way the world does? Should we judge behaviors and circumstances and rule by what we think is fair?
Should we settle disputes the way the world does? Should we judge behaviors and circumstances and rule by what we think is fair?
[BLANK]
The answer is no.
Consider what happens. You just went to court because your landlord won’t fix the water heater in your apartment. And you know it’s within your rights to have your water heater fixed. But, the evidence is presented and the judge sides with your landlord.
What does that do to your heart? And what does that do for your landlord’s heart?
Or, kids, maybe you got in a fight with a brother or sister because they borrowed and broke your phone charger. And you go to Mom and you say, she needs to get me a new one! So, Mom considers the evidence and makes a judgment. She gives the other kid extra chores to earn money to replace your charger.
You got what you wanted.
But, what does that do to your heart? What does that do to your siblings heart?
The one who wins the dispute is filled with pride while the other one is filled with shame, bitterness, or at best, remorse. And if I’m honest, none of that’s ultimately good for anyone.
So, maybe we need to look deeper. If the world just judges behaviors, maybe we need someone to dig deeper, to get into the spiritual aspect of things. Maybe we need a wise, sage-like Christian to judge.
Maybe we need to…

Seek wise counsel to settle disputes?

Let’s look at what Paul says about that,
Let’s look at what Paul says,
So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? (, ESV)
(, ESV)
Notice first, Paul makes this an issue of the mission of the church. It’s bad enough to have disputes, but when we drag them out in public that invalidates our witness. Paul says that disputes are better dealt with in the church or else we demonstrate that we are no different than anyone else. Christ hasn't really changed us.
Paul says that disputes between Christians need to stay in the church or else we demonstrate that we are no different than anyone else.
Remember, I’m not talking about settling disputes with non-Christians. I’m talking about disputes between Christians. Paul says that disputes between Christians need to stay in the church or else we demonstrate that we are no different than anyone else.
Why’s that a problem?
[GOLDEN CIRCLE]
Well, you have to consider the point of our faith. In our Oikos training this past week, we talked about Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle. Maybe you’ve heard of it before. The principle is this. We usually work through this circle from the outside in. We know what we want to accomplish and have thought through it to the point that we know how to do it. But, we rarely have considered why we want to do it.
This past week, Jami and the kids were putting together a gift-box to mail to one of our good friends for her birthday. And Annelise tells me, Dad, we should bake cookies to put in the box.
And I looked at her and said, ‘Yeah, and then we can have cookies tonight after dinner.’
And she goes, ‘Exactly!’
You see, she had a what, which was to give cookies to our friend for her birthday. And she knew the how. We were going to have to bake them. But, I’m somewhat gifted at discerning the why—the heart—of things, so I knew immediately why she wanted to bake the cookies. And I was totally onboard.
Here’s the reality. When we start with the what, we rarely consider the why. But, there is always a why. And our why is usually a selfish motivation. It’s usually a flesh-based, self-pleasing motive.
You know, I wanted cookies too. And baking and eating cookies is pretty innocent. But, if we aren’t used to considering the why and we just focus on the what and the how, we are doomed to make decisions, important life choices, and judgments that reflect the weakness of our broken and unfaithful hearts.
[BLANK]
So, sure. When we have a dispute with other Christians, we can seek out wise counsel in the church to help settle the dispute. But, that counselor needs to be looking deeper than the situation. If you consider yourself wise, you must be looking to the heart, to the why of a situation, not just to the what. You aren’t trying to make things fair and right; you’re trying to foster peace and goodness among God’s people.
If you’re a parent, that’s your goal with your kids. To foster peace among your children. To form gracious and merciful hearts with a desire for the goodness of God. The goal isn’t fair. If you’re a big brother or a big sister, that’s your job with your little brothers and sisters, to foster the peace and goodness of Jesus.
[PAUSE]
So, who should we go to in the church if we have a dispute?
Paul says that the Christian is being ‘conformed to the image of Jesus’ in . That means we are becoming less like the world and more like Jesus. We are becoming less self-centered and more others-centered.
So, how can I claim to be a Christian, that is, someone who is being made to be like Jesus, and then live according to the same selfishness and arrogance as the rest of the world?
You see, it’s not enough to believe that Jesus ‘counts you righteous on judgment day’ if you aren’t allowing the Spirit of God to empower you to live righteous, now. Jesus empowers us by His Spirit to live righteous now so that others will desire the righteousness of Christ. He makes our hearts like his hearts.
And I said this was an issue of the mission of the church, because, If we don’t have Christ’s righteousness, now, then what do we have to offer the world?
The answer is nothing, except maybe blind hope. And they don’t want blind hope. Most people already have blind hope and it’s not working for them. So, Paul says, if we are going to have a dispute, we need to find someone in the church to settle the dispute.
a. Go to a Christian?
Paul is saying that if you need someone to judge a situation between brothers and sisters, then you need someone in the church to judge.
But who?
b. Go to a peer?
Let’s consider some options.
Can any Christian judge?
Apparently not. Paul says,
Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers. (, ESV)
(, ESV)
Being a Christian isn’t necessarily enough to make you wise to judge a dispute. So, Paul says you need to find someone wise enough. Not just anyone will do.
[BLANK]
You may think going to one of your peers in the church is good enough, but you need someone who is wise enough and unbiased enough to deal with the situation. My suggestion is that you go to one of the older members of the congregation, preferably someone who is not related to you and who you are confident will tell you the truth, and let them judge your situation.
c. Go to a mentor?
This is important for the kids in the room. This is why disagreements turn into fights.
‘No, it’s mine,’ ‘No, it’s mine,’ ‘No it’s mine!’ Doesn’t settle disputes, right?
You might need to find an older kid or a teen or a young adult who remembers what it’s like to be a kid and allow them to judge the dispute.
But, I want you to notice the problem with judging disputes in the church.
So, the problem is this. If we judge our disputes in the church, maybe it doesn’t affect the mission of the church, but Does it really form the hearts of the people to have hearts like Jesus? Aren’t we still doing the same thing as the world? Someone still wins the dispute and is prideful because of it. And someone else loses and becomes bitter and angry.
Judging disputes in the church is better than judging them in the world, but falls miserably short of accomplishing God’s purposes, if God’s purpose is not just to change our behaviors, but to change our hearts. Judging disputes in the church, still, only changes behaviors.
So, Paul says the best way, the most Christlike way to handle a dispute is actually to…

Forgive and overlook the offense.

The best way is not to dispute at all. Paul says,
To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! (, ESV)
(, ESV)
I realize that most of you are not suing each other before public courts. But, notice Paul says that to have a dispute in the first place is already a defeat. It doesn’t matter who comes out as the chosen ‘winner,’ when there is a dispute among Christians, everyone loses.
So, Paul says, Why fight? Wouldn’t it be better to be wronged?
Why fight? Wouldn’t it be better to be wronged? Wouldn’t in be better to be defrauded?

Forgive and overlook the offense. (pr. 18.19 and 19.11)

And that’s kind of weird. I mean, Why would it be better to be wronged than to have a dispute and prove that you are right?
I think it’s because of what it does to you heart.
Solomon wrote this. Solomon was the third king of the nation of Israel and the wisest man who ever lived according to the Bible. He said,
A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city,
and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
(, ESV)
Right or wrong, look what happens when you go against your brother or sister in Christ. He or she becomes unyielding. You’ve seen how siblings fight. They never want to let go. Fighting among each other enslaves us. It makes us like prisoners in a dungeon, behind castle bars.
Fighting among each other enslaves us. It makes us like prisoners in a dungeon, behind castle bars.
We say we’re Christians and we live in freedom, but when we have disputes, they enslave us so that we can’t carry out our purpose to seek and save the lost in this world. When you are enslaved your spiritual life suffers. You don’t sense the nearness of Christ. You don’t have joy in quiet times of prayer and contemplation on the truths of scripture. When you’re enslaved, God seems distant.
Paul says, Why go there? Stay free men and women. Live in the peace and joy of Christ, not in the bitterness and anger of the world.
Solomon also said this,
Good sense makes one slow to anger,
and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
(, ESV)
Look at the irony here. We quarrel, fight, offend, we have disputes, because we think we are right. We glory in ourselves. But, Solomon says that if we overlook the offense, then God actually glories in us.
We fight to glorify ourselves and it results in destruction, but when we overlook the offences of others God glories in us.
We fight to glorify ourselves and it results in destruction, but when we overlook offences, God glories in us.
[YETI CARTOON]
[YETI CARTOON]
a. ILL: People get offended too easy! [YETI CARTOON]
It’s our nature to get offended. Whenever someone says or does something that violates something we value, we get offended. We’re so good at this, we get offended without even thinking about it. Heaven forbid we have to explain our offence. Half the time we can’t even get the right words out.
But, Paul says that we need to grow a thicker skin. I want to give you a category of things that you shouldn’t get offended by.
[OFFENDED SLIDE 1]
Our preferences. When someone does something you don’t like, that is not a point of offence.
When your friend invites you over for coffee, but you like tea. Maybe it happens over and over. So what? That’s a preference, not something to get offended by.
Preferences. When someone does something you don’t like, that is not a point of offence.
[OFFENDED SLIDE 2]
Values of others. When someone values something you don’t.
Unclear biblical beliefs.
I don’t want to say too much about this. I’m just going to give you a short list of things that are not super clear in the Bible that we should not be offended by when others disagree. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then that’s fine. You aren’t having this problem.
When Jesus will return.
If the millenium comes before Jesus returns or after—or if it even happens at all.
Whether a person was baptised as a baby or when they professed Jesus as Lord.
Whether or not man’s choice plays a role in the salvation of an individual.
The presence of spiritual gifts in the church.
We’re not going to argue about those things and bring division among us.
[OFFENDED SLIDE 3]
Values of others. When someone values something you don’t.
One of my values is honesty. And before you say ‘amen’ to that, let’s talk about honesty for a moment. When I say I value honesty, I’m saying I value precision and accuracy of speech.
Every one of us is a master of communication. You may think communication means you can get up and give a talk in front of people like I’m doing right now. But, that’s just one form of communication. You are all masters of another form of communication I call subscript.
Subscript is the things you are saying without saying it. You’re telling a story and you withhold certain details—you don’t even realize you’re doing it—in order to make the story flow a certain way. Your parents ask how long you’ve been playing video games and you answer, ‘Oh, not that long.’ You aren’t precise. You don’t say, ‘One hour,’ because that might be longer than your parents like.
We lack precision when we speak because it benefits us.
But, I’ve had to come to grips with the reality that this is the way communication works in our society. We are all masters of precision and ambiguity when it comes to speech, because that allows us to communicate nuances of truth without being entirely dishonest.
And I’ve found that calling out my wife, my kids, my friends, my other family, the members of our church, etc. etc. etc. when they speak in the way that our entire culture speaks is less than helpful. There’s no intent to be dishonest and they aren’t even doing it on purpose. So, I’ve had to learn to overlook that because it really only offends my personal values.
And there are other things we get offended by, but I think this covers the major categories.
[BLANK]
Solomon says we should overlook offences. And Paul agrees. It’s better to be offended. It’s better to take the side of mercy. It’s better to forgive others than to fight for reparation.
[PAUSE]
I’ll close with this.
I’m a walking paradox sometimes. God’s trained me in this area to a great degree, but I’ll share with you a struggle I used to have, and still do to sometime.
I used to be a legalist when it comes to mercy. Some of you see why I call that a paradox. Here’s what I mean. I tend to refuse mercy to people who refuse mercy. When a Christian loses patience with another Christian, when a Christian bathed in the mercy of God demands justice for trivial offenses, it makes me crazy.
I used to be a legalist when it comes to mercy. I’ll explain that. I used to refuse mercy to people who refuse mercy. When a Christian loses patience with another Christian, when a Christian bathed in the mercy of God demands justice for trivial offenses, something just snaps in me. It makes me crazy.
Jesus told this story. I’ll use contemporary figures to make it real for you.
A man owed a billion dollars to his king. I assume they were penalties for broken laws. Well, the King decided that it was time to collect on his debt so the man was summoned to the King’s throne room. When asked for the money to be returned, the man had to confess that he no longer had any money and he could not pay it. Truly, he could never pay it!
The King was a just king, but also a reasonable and merciful king, so he said to the man, your debt is forgiven. Knowing that the man would never be able to come up with a billion dollars, he gave the man a pardon and let him go.
On his way home from the king’s palace the man stopped in on a friend who he had lent $20 to the week before. The man told him that he didn’t have the money and he would need more time to repay the debt. But, the man became angry and began to choke his friend with his bare hands, demanding that he return his money.
I’m confounded by this story, because, although it’s not a true story, it speaks so much truth.
a. ILL: People get offended too easy! [YETI CARTOON]
b. Is there a difference between overlooking and underlooking?
Who is this King who is so rich he can forgive a billion dollar debt? Who is this King who could forgive a billion dollar debt for every one of his citizens and still remain the richest and most powerful king?
c. Why? It’s a Kingdom issue (v. 9)
And who is this man who is so far in debt? How did he get to the point that he owed a billion dollars to his king?
i. Washed—past sins forgiven
You see, the man is you and I. And the King is the Lord, Jesus.
ii. Sanctified—set aside, placed in God’s Kingdom
It’s not until you realize how great and powerful this God is that you recognize how much you owe for violating the standards of His Kingdom. Truly, you could never pay back the debt you’ve incurred.
iii. Justified—Your standing in God’s Kingdom is just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned.
And it’s not until you realize what a great debt you have that you realize how great the mercy of the Lord really is. God has forgiven us so much we cannot even fathom.
So, why should we forgive the offenses others?
CONCLUSION
Because Jesus has forgiven us immeasurably more.
It’s not fair! They don’t deserve it! You don’t know what she said! You don’t know what he did! I’ve never been so offended in my life!
Your offence pales in comparison to the offences you’ve commited against God and yet, God has given you mercy upon mercy. If you believe that, then it is to your glory to overlook the offences of others.
Let’s pray.
[PRAY]
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