We Will Tell the Truth, Be Patient, and Forgive One Another
Church Family #2
In an advertisement a while back, I saw a plaque with a number of wood pieces. The top piece had the words, “Our family will…” Below that piece were several more, each with one thing families should do.
When I saw the advertised plaque, it occurred to me we are a family. A church family. The idea came to me to use the wording on the plaque as the basis of a series of sermons, each Sunday for three weeks considering a few of the things families, including our church family, should do.
As mentioned last Sunday, while the characteristics and the Bible references come from the plaque, the comments about the characteristics and references are original. I am not saying what someone else has prepared.
Last Sunday, three characteristics were mentioned, each one beginning with the words. “Our church family will…” The word “will” is a challenge. These are things we are to do. Things we should do as a family. Let’s take the challenge and make sure we as a church family are doing these things. Our church family will love one another, our church family will pray for one another, our church family will serve one another.
Love, pray, and serve. That is what we are to do as a church family. Today, three more characteristics. Our church family will tell the truth to each other, our church family will be patient with each other, our church family will forgive one another.
Our church family will tell the truth to each other.
One place that is taught in the Bible is Ephesians 4:25. That verse is part of a passage that instructs those of us who are Christians to put away some very evil things. Specifically, bitterness, wrath and anger, clamor and slander, malice, and - verse 25 - falsehood.
I did a bit of reading up on falsehood. I was intrigued to find there might be more than one kind of falsehood.
There is of course the kind when we speak things that are not true. The goal must always be to not lie. The goal must be to avoid even misrepresentations of things. We are to be accurate in what we say.
But here is a thought. Falsehood, according to some definitions, also describes silence in the face of what is wrong. The definition includes this wording. It is falsehood when silence seems to give approval to a course of action that is wrong. It is falsehood if we withhold warnings or rebukes when either is needed.
I have an example of that second definition I will share in a moment, but in place of falsehood and the other evil things listed, we are to put on things that are good. Such as kindness, tenderheartedness, forgiveness (more on that later in this message), and speaking the truth.
Why are we to speak the truth. We are members one of another. We are one body. We are a church family. The only way for a family to be healthy is for each family member to speak the truth.
A negative example of that is recorded in the Book of Acts. In chapter 5 we are told of a couple named Ananias and Sapphira. They were members of the early Christian church who had property they sold for the good of all Christians in their group. The problem was they did not give all the money made from the sale. They kept some for themselves.
Actually, the keeping of some of the money was not the issue. The issue was that Ananias and Sapphira claimed to have given all the proceeds when in fact they had not, which means they lied.
The result? Peter confronted Ananias, whereupon Ananias fell down and died. I do not know if the shock of being found out caused the death, or if Ananias was so overcome with grief at having lied that he died, or if God took care of it directly, but Ananias died.
Three hours later, Ananias’ wife Sapphira, not knowing what had happened to her husband, came by. Peter asked her, “Did you sell your property for the amount you and Ananias claimed when you gave to the church?” “Yes,” she replied. Peter then confronted her, accusing her of tempting the Holy Spirit. That is how serious lieing is. Peter then predicted Sapphira’s death, whereupon she fell down and died.
What an amazing thing happened when two people lied. A necessary thing to teach the absolute importance of speaking the truth.
Now, what happens when the truth will hurt?
In normal, day-to-day cases, maybe you can keep your opinions to yourself, or you can word things appropriately. An example I heard a few years ago centered on a baby who was not the best looking newborn ever. The mother asked someone, “Isn’t he a cute baby?” That someone is reported to have said, “Yep, that’s a baby.” No lie was spoken. Nothing hurtful was said since the mother heard what she wanted to hear. It seems to me that is OK.
But, as mentioned a moment ago, there must be no silence or skirting the issue when sin is involved. Here is a personal example of that.
A number of years ago I had a meeting with someone who was having an affair. When I mentioned to that person that having an affair is a sin, the response I received was that I was just a goody two-shoes, forcing my morals onto that person.
I do not like to be called names, so I backed off. Later, when I got home, it occurred to me that person had successfully got me off course. That person had successfully changed the subject. It came to me my silence on the issue could very well have indicated to that person an acceptance of the sin.
I made another appointment with that person. In that conversation I stood firm on letting it be known having an affair is sin .I could not dictate what that person did with that information, but I had to let it be known that what was going on was wrong.
As far as I know, my conversation had no effect on that person’s behavior, but I did speak the truth, which was and is my responsibility. It is our responsibility as a church family.
Another place speaking the truth is taught is Colossians 3:9. Do not lie to one another because lieing is part of the old nature - the pre-Christian nature that, for those of us who have accepted Jesus as Savior, has been put off.
Our church family will tell the truth to each other. I think we do. I hope we do. I trust we will continue to tell the truth to each other.
Our church family will be patient with each other.
How to do that is explained very well in James 1:19. Let every man - every person - be quick to hear and slow to speak and slow to anger.
Interestingly, this comes right after James teaches us to speak the truth, so this might be a challenge that if the truth is spoken to us, we need to listen to what is said. We need to hear well enough to learn from whatever is presented to us, even if it hurts.
But this can also apply to differences between Christians, including in our church family. We do not and will not always agree on everything. At times there is disagreement, will we be careful to hear the opinions of others?
If it is a theological issue, we must stand firm. In the personal example I shared a moment ago, it was not important that the person had a bad marriage or the one with whom the affair was happening was a lot nicer. I could have listened all day and it would not have changed the fact the person was engaging in sin.
But in cases of opinion, we need to listen to those who disagree with us. The key is for all sides to be gentle, but hearing is what is taught. Hearing is to be done, not just speaking to the extent of not allowing others to have their say.
Have you heard the explanation that God gave us two ears and one mouth, so maybe we ought to listen twice as much as we talk when there are disagreements?
Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. That is how we can be patient with each other. And let’s think about an explanation in I Corinthians 12, beginning with verse 12.
This passage begins with the reminder that a congregation is one body, united by and with Christ and the Holy Spirit. We need to remember that.
The passage continues with the teaching that each body, including this church family, has many members, each with a responsibility that is to be done for complete health. Each person needs to be willing to do what God has given him or her the ability and the call to do. Each person needs to be willing to let all the other members do their parts.
As it is worded in I Corinthians 12, if the foot should say, because I am not a hand, I am not important enough to belong to the body, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? Likewise, the eye cannot in arrogance say to the hand, I have no need of you. Nor can the head say the feet, I have no need of you.
All parts of the body are important. All need to be used. All need to be allowed to be used. Including, as is stated later in the chapter, referring to a church body, those who are preachers or teachers or helpers or administrators.
Verse 26 of I Corinthians 12 has an interesting teaching. If one member suffers, all suffer together. If one member is honored, all rejoice together. The only way either of those things can happen is for each of us to be patient with one another, which we as a church family are to be. Something I hope we are. Something we need to continue to be.
There is a way to promote that.
Our church family will forgive one another.
For this, Colossians 3:13, which is part of a passage that again lists things we are to get rid of in our lives and things we are to include in our lives.
Earlier we listed bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, malice, and falsehood as things to put off. Added to those things in Colossians 3 are fornication, impurity, unhealthy passion, evil desire, covetousness, and foul talk, again because those things are part of the old nature, which, for those of us who are Christians, is no longer to dictate how we behave.
Concerning good things to have in our lives, we earlier listed kindness, tenderheartedness, forgiveness, and speaking the truth. The list in Colossians 3 is compassion and kindness, lowliness and meekness, patience and forbearance, and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other.
A reason for forgiving is stated. As the Lord has forgiven you - each of us who have accepted Jesus has been forgiven - so you also must forgive.
We know, do we not, that forgiving can be a difficult, even in day-to-day situations? But forgiveness is what the Bible teaches, not only by Paul in Colossians, but also by Peter in I Peter 3:9. Listen to what Peter wrote. In verse 8 he instructs church families to have unity of Spirit, sympathy, love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. In verse 9 is this. Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling.
It can seem so easy and natural to take revenge when we are wronged, but we are to avoid revenge. We are instead to bless - to wish well - which begins with forgiving those who hurt us.
Guess who else taught that we are to forgive one another. Jesus. Remember the part of the Lord’s Prayer that covers that? “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread - and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
The prayer continues with, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom and the power and glory forever,” but for this part of this message, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
There is a warning in those words. The teaching is that if I do not forgive others their trespasses against me, I cannot claim the privilege of being forgiven by God. That is a very serious warning.
But of course the opposite is true as well. If I do forgive others, God will forgive me. What an excellent reason for us to forgive one another.
* * * * *
We as a church family will tell the truth to each other. We as a church family will be patient with each other. We as a church family will forgive one another.
With those last two characteristics in mind (I shared a personal experience with the characteristic of speaking the truth), I invited those at a recent Wednesday evening Bible study to write down times when they were recipients of patience here in this church family and/or a time they needed to be forgiven and received that gift from someone. Here is some of what was shared.
Concerning patience, one person said I should appreciate the patience of the Bible study group with them putting up with me in requesting input. To the group, thank you for being patient with me.
Someone else wrote about the difficulty of being patient. To be patient is very difficult. We want to do things immediately, but sometimes we have to take our time in accomplishing things. Patience allows time to think through a decision.
That person added that social media does not allow us to think through responses. How true that can be.
Concerning forgiving, one person wrote that one time a professor allowed a chance to complete a test that one had not put much time on. The professor did that because he knew that one needed forgiveness.
Another person wrote about appreciating being forgiven. That one wrote that sometimes we make wrong decisions that wrongly impact a person, only to have that person forgive you.
The closing last week was two verses of We Are God’s People. To match the theme, we changed it to We Are God’s Family. That song fits today, too, so it will be repeated, though one of the verses will be different.
As you can guess, the same song will be used again next week, when we consider some more characteristics a church family is to have. For today, as we sing, let’s rejoice that we do have the goals of telling the truth, being patient, and forgiving one another in our church family. Let’s be dedicated to continuing those characteristics in our church family.
We are God’s family, the Bride of Christ our Lord,
For we have known it, the love of God out-poured;
Now let us learn how to return
The gift of love once given:
O let us share each joy and care,
And live with a zeal that pleases Heaven.
We are the family of which the Lord is Head,
Called to obey Him, now risen from the dead;
He wills us be a family,
Diverse yet truly one:
O let us give our gifts to God,
And so shall His work on earth be done.
Lord, we do and we will tell the truth to each other. We are and we will be patient with each other. We do and we will forgive one another. Lord, thank You for helping those characteristics to already be evident. Help us to keep all that going, for our good and for Your glory. Amen.