We're venturing to the heart of Londonderry, Northern Ireland, a city marked by deep-seated and violent conflict. What if you could discover the tools to bridge the chasm between deeply divided groups? As we navigate the geographical split between the Catholics and Protestants, symbolized by a river bisecting the city, we're driven to reflect on our own relational divisions. The tumult of 2020, compounded by the pandemic, has only strained relationships further. It's time we took a step towards mending these rifts.
Join us as we strive to initiate and pacify conflicts with the grace and patience embodied by Jesus. We'll explore how to initiate those challenging conversations, while offering the other party ample time to process the discussion. In learning to be patient with ourselves and our evolution, we cultivate resilience. As we journey towards building bridges, we draw inspiration from the Peace Bridge in Londonderry. It stands not just as an architectural marvel, but as a testament to peace and unity amidst division. We'll glean insights into Jesus's role as a peacemaker, learn how to foster trust and relationships, even in the face of hurt and division. By the end of this series, we hope you will be equipped with the tools to reach out to someone you've been estranged from, and initiate peace.
I want to share a story this morning that I only recently read about. I don't know a whole lot about this. I might say some words wrong, because I've only ever read it and I didn't look it up and that's something I usually do but I was reading about a conflict in London Dairy or Dairy. Did I say that right? Does anyone know? Cool, okay, I said that right and we're going to go with that. But London Dairy is one of the largest cities in Northern Ireland and it's a city that has been deeply impacted by long-term and violent conflict. And this conflict basically between two groups of people here Over here you would have like it represented by my nice little chair here that we don't use anymore but the Protestant Unionists and they desired the province to remain part of the United Kingdom London Dairy, you get it. And these guys they wanted the Protestants, wanted them to stay connected with the United Kingdom. And then over here on the other side were the Roman Catholic Nationalists who wanted Northern Ireland to become part of the Republic of Ireland, and for 30 years these two sides fought it out. Catholics, protestants, do we join, do we leave? What do we do? And this came to a head. It came to a head on Bloody Sunday, which was perhaps the most infamous hour, as 27 peaceful Catholic protesters were shot in the streets of London Dairy by the British Army, leaving 13 dead. Now London Dairy is not just a divided city in terms of beliefs, with politics and social stuff. It's not just there, it's also geographically divided. It is literally. The city is literally cut in half by a river. I think I got a picture of that for you, and what's interesting about this is that this is an older picture, but what was interesting is that the Catholics predominantly lived on one side of the river and the Protestants predominantly lived on the other. So it wasn't just like this division that I think that we all kind of feel you're on this side, you're on that side. It was actually like geographic, a geographic reminder that we are not united, we are not together. You stay on your side of the river. It's kind of this reminder, this river, very obvious kind of reminder right in your face, a symbol of hate, resentment, bitterness, judgment, unforgiveness that cut a city and a nation in half Now, like London Dairy. I bet we all have rivers in our lives. When it comes to relationships there's a problem. It's resentment, it's unforgiveness, it's judgment with someone else, and the river we don't want to cross it. We like our side, we're here, we're comfortable. You stay on your side, I'll stay on my side and we'll just leave it like that. But that's what we've been challenging you throughout this entire series. We've been challenging ourselves to cross the divide and to do the work of relational restoration. The past couple of years might have been hard on your relationships, but I'm going to take a guess that the problems you have in your relationships did not start in 2020. Just guessing you I don't think you can blame the pandemic. I don't know if you can blame all of the things that we saw going on in our country and you say well, that's why now my spouse and I don't get along. But here's what I do think happened. I think it accelerated Whatever problems you had before 2020, I bet they're bigger now and I bet they got bigger faster. So maybe a problem that had been slowly growing for like five, six, seven, eight, ten years, all of a sudden, that problem like doubled in a span of just a couple of months. Why? Well, because we were all locked at home with each other and it was stressful. These relationship problems that we have. You can imagine that river that just divides us. It might be a parent in your life. They don't respect the choices that you make. A parent doesn't. They don't respect your boundaries. On the flip side of that, you're a parent and you have a child whose decisions are breaking your heart and you're wanting to do something for them. You just believe in them and you know they're better than that. Why are they doing that? And there's conflict, even though in this situation where maybe it's a child who's like I just want my parents to respect my decisions. A parent who says I'd love to respect your decision if it wasn't so stupid and so it's innocent. But there's conflict there. It could be a relationship with a spouse, significant other, a partner who has become emotionally unavailable to you. We've all had friends who have let us down. Some of us have had friends who let us down over and over and over again. Could be at work, coworker or boss, completely unaware of your contributions, your positive contributions. Just go in there and they just never notice just how hard you're working and these things all contribute to that river of division between us and other people. If it's your first time with Madison Church or you're watching online. What we've been challenging ourselves to do the last few weeks is to think of a relationship that we want restored, and I've been praying that God would bring to mind someone in your life right now. Even I hope there's a name. If you're not a very Visual person, you're thinking of a name, acquaintance, someone who used to be a really good friend. But something happened. There's a divide, a river. You're over here and there, over there, and what we've Wanted you to do, my goal in the series, is to do the work of Relationship reconciliation, and we've been trying to give you all and myself, the tools to put the stuff into practice, and so we're coming to the end of it. This is the last week, and so now we get to see if my goal that it actually happens will happen, and my prayer is that Today, this week, next month, at some point, there's someone that you are reconnected with relationally that a month ago you weren't. If you remember, I'll catch everyone up to speed. In week one, we talked about how sin causes issues in our relationships, how there used to be a time when people could just live in harmony with each other. That wasn't an issue, and then, all of a sudden, sin comes into the equation and and there's things like selfishness and an envy and all Of that, and that probably didn't surprise you. Right, like you kind of you. You've heard that a trick. If you've ever been the church, you've heard that. Even if you haven't been the church, let's be honest you've heard that part like sin ruins everything. We need to get right with God, and so it was kind of like I've heard that before. That wasn't, you know, terribly controversial. In week two I talked about some of Jesus's parables. We talked about taking responsibility. Even if the responsibility in the conflict, even if I'm only like 1% responsible, let's let's really own that 1%. That probably wasn't a shock to anyone. I didn't teach any sort of heresy that week. Last week, sarah talked about forgiveness and I'm guessing you knew that forgiveness is a very substantial Substantial aspect of our faith. Was anyone surprised we talked about forget? Okay, no, you weren't. So why are we talking about all of these things the last few weeks? If it's not hard, it's not difficult, it's not new information. Like shouldn't we be doing that? And here's the thing Because what we're talking about is very central to the gospel that we believe in, this message of Jesus. It's central. And what's hard is not sitting here and here in the parables talking about forgiveness. That's not hard, that's easy, that's relatively easy. The hard part is doing the work and that's what we're gonna talk about today. Okay, we've talked about forgiveness, we've talked about taking responsibility, we've talked about sin and trying to get right and doing the right things. Where do we start now? And so today, as we wrap up the series, I want to be as practical and applicable as I Cancel. They're gonna be lots of lists on the screens today as I try to help you navigate through the relational conflict. And so a few things I want to talk about initiating, because that might be where you're stuck. I want forgiveness, I need to give someone forgiveness. How do I initiate that? A couple things I want you to know about initiating first. It's not easy, that's obvious. Right to state the obvious this first step when we're talking about initiating, it is not easy. Initiating is a challenge because it takes effort on your behalf. The responsibility rests on us. To make the phone call, to send the text message, to just send out a message, to reach out. We risk the unknown when it comes to reconciliation, that we are stepping out and doing, and for some of us those wounds might be deep. For some of us those wounds might hurt, and so sending the text, sending the message and the unknown of how that person is Going to respond is, honestly, it probably is emotionally and physically Affecting you. So this is not easy. I want to acknowledge that and, at the same time, while this is difficult, it's what God wants for us. It's not something he wants from us. It's something that he wants for us. God has this expectation that we will do this. Listen to this passage in Romans 12. Paul says bless those who persecute you, don't curse them. Pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don't be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people and don't think you know it all. Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable and do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. You see this, this is the hard part of what we've been talking about for months. This it's not you. You've probably have heard this verse before, but can you do it? Can you do what Paul has just told us to do? Can you bless someone who hurt you? Can you do that? Can you do something nice for them? Will you pray that God blesses them? That's worse to me. Like I'll send you flowers in a car, that's fine, but do I want to pray that God blesses them? What if they win the lottery? I don't want that for them, I want that for me. Okay, no see, I got to work on this. Okay, are you able to not retaliate, instead of Lowering yourself to the level of those you're in conflict with, are you able to rise up to the level of Christ's and Not payback evil with more evil? Will you do all that you can to live in harmony with everyone Paul didn't put an asterisk in there everyone, the Republican, the Democrat, the conservative, the liberal, the people who share your Christian faith but completely understand it differently. I mean, it's just so different than how you understand. Can you live in peace with them? And notice again, paul wasn't like if you can, you should try, I Do it. This is what love is. This is what love requires of us, this is what love requires of me and it's what love requires of you. And when we choose to initiate, we are following the example of Jesus, who initiated restoration with us, which leads to the second truth about initiating initiating is not earned. It is not earned. It is tempting for us to wait, want to wait For the other person to initiate with us. Why haven't they sent me the text message, the phone call, the email? Whatever it might be, I'll just wait. It's easy to think that if they just held up their end of the deal our relationship we wouldn't even be here. They spoke those hurtful words before. I spoke my hurtful words as a tip, but that's the relevant right. They started it. They spoke those hurtful words. They broke the agreement. Our relationship is strained and it's they're doing. It's not my fault. And yet, if you're a follower of Jesus we don't presume that everyone is, but if you are a follower of Jesus, we cannot wait for another person to deserve it. We cannot. Jesus didn't wait for you to deserve it. He didn't wait for me to deserve it. He would still be waiting if he did. He initiated it and it wasn't because we earned. It got initiated the restoration of a relationship With us because of his great love for you and me. And can we love the people in our lives the way that Jesus loves us. That's the ask. That's the hard part. I love how Eugene Peterson paraphrases Paul's words again in Romans, this time chapter 5. Christ arrives at the right time, right on time, to make this happen. He didn't and doesn't wait for us to get ready. Paul's talking about grace and salvation and the life that Jesus lived, the death he had in the resurrection. He, jesus, presented himself for this Sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn't been so weak, we wouldn't have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person who was worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God Put his love on the line for us by offering his son and sacrificial death while we were of no use Whatever to him. This isn't exactly like a real good, like feel good about yourself passage here, but it highlights the love, the amazing love, grace and forgiveness of God. This is what God did for us while we were unworthy before we contributed, contributed before we did anything he initiated with us. The love of God displayed through Jesus is beyond our comprehension. We can't love anyone the way that God loves us. So I want to acknowledge that it's beyond our comprehension. But that isn't this past to not love Again. As followers of Jesus, we're told to pass on this love that Jesus gives us to everyone around us. Paul writes love each other with genuine affection and take delight, be happy, find joy in Honoring each other. It's not an option. Paul is telling these Christians in Rome and Christians in Madison and all over the world for thousands of years, that this is what it means to Follow in the footsteps of Jesus. We extend love to the unlovable. We move toward another person in the ways that we've talked about the last several weeks, offering forgiveness, taking responsibility Out of our sincere love, not just for them but for God, and because we love God, we listen and we put those things into practice. We honor other people above ourselves. So initiating it's not easy, it's not earned, but it is for everyone. Initiating is For everyone because the truth is we've all sat in both chairs at different times in our lives. There have been times in your life, I bet, where you've been wronged right. Somebody said something that was deeply hurtful, somebody did something to you that was terrible. You might have to see a therapist because of it. But you've been wronged and yet I'm guessing even even the most, even the best person in the room, I'm guessing there've been other times when you've done wrong and maybe it wasn't on accident, right, maybe you, maybe you really did purposely hurt someone. They said something or did something and they didn't mean to, but you certainly meant what you said and you certainly did meant what you did. And if you're like me and I know not a lot of you are, but I bet there have been conflicts in your life where At one point in the conflict, you're over here, I didn't do anything wrong. And then, at another point in the conflict, you're over here and you're like oh yeah, well, what about this? And you know you're sending those angry texts, you know you're sending those angry text messages. And then they send you an angry text message and you're back over here in this. See, you're like I can't believe they did it, I'm hurt again. This is what we do, right? We switch seats. I, not you, me. This is what I do. But as followers of Jesus, no matter which chair you sit in, if you're over here and you're like well, I've been wronged, or over here and you're said you know I've really messed up and and and I'm over here. No matter what it is, jesus has the same advice, the same command, the same ask of all of us. In Matthew 523, jesus says this is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. Talking about conflict, things that we've been talking about the past Several weeks. If you enter a place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, I'll band in the offering, leave immediately, go to the friend and make things right, do the work then and only then Come back and work things out with God. I Can kind of imagine. There's this scenario in which we're talking about forgiveness in this passage and and what to do when we have Conflict, and I can kind of imagine Jesus being like alright, I got a. You know he's running out of time. This is he's work. He's in the beatitudes, but he says I'm only gonna be on earth for so long. I really need these guys to get this, how, how we're gonna do conflict resolution. And he says okay, I got to come up with a good example. And Jesus says think about the most spiritual thing, most spiritual situation you can think of. You're at church. Okay, that seems like a good place to start. You know you're not at home, you're not in the car. He says you're at church, you're at this worship gathering, you're with other believers and you're not just there like checking things out. He says imagine you're doing something super spiritual in this otherwise spiritual place. And Jesus says I don't know like giving. And you're like, oh my gosh, can it get any more spiritual than that? You're at church, you're giving. It's like this is like the spiritual pinnacle, right, right at the top. And Jesus says but if you remember in this moment that there's an issue that you have, there's a divide, a river, you remember there's somebody sitting in a chair, stop what you're doing, leave that spiritual place, don't do that other spiritual thing. Go make it right. And what Jesus does? If it's not obvious, jesus says conflict resolution, initiating, doing the work, making things right, is just as spiritual as going to church, as practicing generosity, as prayers, reading the Bible, whatever it might be. Jesus elevates it to this point in a way that he says don't miss this, get this right. Okay, so we know it's not easy, we know it's for everyone, it's not earned. We've got to do the work. How do you practically start the conversation? Well, I've got some advice, guiding principles for initiating. First, be patient. Okay, so be patient. We're saying we're trying to close the gap here, so we move the chair a little bit closer. We need to be patient and of the four principles I'm talking about, this is the most important one Give people time to respond. Give people time to listen and to consider what's being said. We don't do this. We don't do this. I think a lot of us. We think we change faster than we do Like. When something's brought up to us, we think that we okay, we'll take care of it. And even if we're really self-aware, I think we still give ourselves too much generosity in terms of how quickly we change. I remember taking this personality test a few years ago. It was to help me become a better leader and this test had me send a survey to 60 different people, like family, friends, leaders who I report to, people who report to me, and I sent it out to all of them and they were taking a survey on me. They were grading me how good is Stephen to this, how bad is Stephen at that? And you get the results back and it gives you just the averages of everything. Thankfully, there were some good things on there, so it wasn't all bad. But then you get to the end of the list of all of these different criteria that they graded me on, and there was one of them that was really bad. Do you guys want to know what it is? Some of you have probably already picked up on it. I don't have a really good filter. It doesn't work. It doesn't work at all. It's never worked. It's biological, I swear. And when I get stressed or when I get angry, when I get emotional, when I get scared, what little filter I have is gone. It is absolutely gone. My mouth is a liability, and that's what everyone recognized. They said he has no tack. They were nice about it. They didn't say I didn't have a filter. They said he has no tack at all. Okay, perfect. And so we said we're going to work on that. And we're going to work on that. And here's what my coach, who I paid thousands of dollars over the course of two years, helped me get better at this. He said you are going to work tremendously hard the next year or two. I hope you will. I hope you'll work hard on this. You took the Stratops, so I assume you want to get better and at the end of two years you're going to feel like you did a ton of work and that you were night and day different. So I don't want you to be disappointed when, in two years and we retake the test, that they say you only got a little better in the last two years. I said well why he says because how you see yourself making changes is not the way that everyone else is going to see you making changes and you're going to feel like you made substantial changes and they're going to be like oh, you're still not great man, you're still not great. And so, yes, it's still true, I needed patience and we need patience when we're initiating with people. We need to also be differentiated. Being self-differentiated means that we take responsibility for knowing ourselves. What are our goals, what are our values, what are our thoughts, what are our feelings? What do we hope comes from this? When we become self-differentiated, we can be confident and humble. We don't have to fight, we don't have to become defensive. We're sure of who we are and we can have a productive conversation. We need to be connected. This is all about making sure you can remain empathetic. Empathy is really important because you can be self-differentiated and you can be patient and I have found you can still be a jerk. We need to have empathy, we need to be connected, we need to remember that the person we're working out, this isn't something to just check off, a spiritual checklist. This is about relationships and restoring those relationships. And then, finally, we need to be specific. Be specific about what happened to you and how that made you feel, and then explicitly ask for or grant forgiveness and again going back to patient. It may not happen today. It may not happen after one text message. It may take several text messages, several meetings of getting together. There may be another period in time in which you two don't talk or see each other, but then you eventually keep coming back. But this is how we get started. Now, a crucial note we're not saying that every relationship you've ever had needs to be restored. If you got out of an abusive relationship, don't go back. I want you to hear me. I'm trying to be as explicit as I can. We are not telling you there's anything spiritual about that. Don't go back. And if you are in an abusive relationship and you need help, please reach out to me. We have resources that could help. We're not advocating a return to toxic situations either. If you got out of a toxic situation, it's probably best you leave it behind you. It sounds like that person needs to do work on their self before you can. But when we start thinking about restoration we've ruled out toxic relationships, we've ruled out abusive ones. We need to assess trustworthiness. Trust has become to me it's just this whole summer, as I've been just reading and thinking and praying and growing myself. I just keep coming back to this idea of how important trust is and everything we've talked about from this series to past series. It really boils down to whether or not we can trust each other. How do we know if we can trust each other? Dr Henry Cloud some of you might know his name. He's a renowned clinical psychologist, the author of over 45 books, and the reason you probably if you do know his name the reason you probably know his name is because he's written every book on boundaries out there on Amazon right now. Just type in boundaries on Amazon and his name's going to come up. There's going to be about 13 books. It's all about boundaries. But he had a new book come out this year and I've been reading it. I love it a lot, and it's about trust and the science behind trust. You know that biologically you're wired to discern whether or not you can trust someone, that there are little chemicals going off and around you, and so you might think that I've just got a bad feeling about that person. Have you ever said that to yourself? That's like millions of years or however. You fall on this issue, but it's like God divinely put these little things in you. You're like, well, I can't put a name on it, but your brain is like no, we know, we know so. But he says let's talk about this, let's figure out what's going on in our brains and how can we begin to trust someone. And he has these filters. I'm just going to read them from my iPad here, because I copy and pasted it from the book. He says one of the filters is understanding. How deeply does this person grasp our needs, desires and well-being within this relationship? Is this person attentive enough to truly comprehend me and offer me meaningful support? So when we're talking about reconciliation, we're talking about relationships, and you're asking can I trust this person? The first filter to run through is do they understand me. Do they get me? The second one is motive. Are their actions driven by genuine concern for my welfare or are they self-interested? Will they champion me in my absence? Will they have my best interest in mine? Or is there another motive? So we can assess, we use the filter what's their motive? We can assess their ability. Do they possess the necessary skills for what I'm asking? You might have different friends for different situations. There might be a friend that's really good to talk to about your relationship, romantic problems, okay, and they're a really good friend. And then there are not good friends. I don't know if you have people in your life and they're just like I'll leave them. Screw that relationship, okay, that's not okay. So they don't possess the ability in this situation to be speaking into. You should not trust them with your marriage kind of what's going on in the advice you're seeking, okay. So we can have multiple different friends and how we're judging them in terms of can we trust them? Their character do they have a good character? Are they equipped to handle the challenges and uncertainty when things go bad? Does this person have the character to stay by me when things are good? Will they remain with me? And this one so important track record? Have they shown a reliability and competence in similar situations? I think this one is really, really important and I want to sidebar here this is the only time I'm sidebarring this whole talk here okay, but if you're at Madison Church, we exist to connect people with God and each other and you're like that's great and I guess, and it's like so, does that mean you're walking out of here today with a new best friend? No, not at all. I wish it was, but no, could you come here for a year and still not have a best friend? Yeah, that's possible. Yeah, that's possible. Could you be here for five years? Yeah, yeah, that's possible. This is where track record, I think, really comes into play. Okay, if we want good friends in our faith community and I'm not saying you gotta only be friends with people at Madison Church or only friends with people or followers at Jesus, that's not what I'm saying but if we do want that, if we want followers of Jesus as friends and we want people in this community to be our friend, we have to have a track record, we have to prove it. Trust takes time. It doesn't happen in one day, it doesn't happen in one week and it won't even happen in a year. A track record is developed over the over and over and over again. There's a bad situation, I respond really well one time. That's not a track record, that's an anomaly. It's only happened one time and it might take another year or two for something bad to happen again, and then I show up again, and also I'm developing this pattern of trust with you, and so my encouragement for you all develop a good track record, show up for people, reach out, do the work of initiation and you're gonna see the fruit of that will be good friendships. Now, as we wrap up this series, in today's discussion, I wanna share with you how the conflict in London Dairy is going around. A decade ago, a significant development unfolded the construction of a bridge. I think I got a picture of that one too, on June 25th 2011,. The peace bridge was open. Isn't that cool, the peace bridge? I mean not just cool, like it's a cool bridge, but the city that was divided has now been bridged, this thing that represented this geographic difference, and you stay on your side and I'll stay on my side. A bridge was built and they called it the peace bridge, and in our personal lives, we can build bridges too, and the best part is is that you don't have to build bridges alone. Because of Jesus, his life, death and resurrection, because of the cross, we can bridge any relationship, no matter how deep and wide that river and those hurts might be. And when we walk across this bridge not alone, but with Jesus, with our faith we can become confident in our ability to initiate peace with other people, no matter how they will respond.