7 Steps of a Unified Group

My aim in writing this post is to point you in the right direction on unity.  Most often the discussion on unity is centered on how a group of people are not unified and how they should be.  The problem with this kind of discussion is that it tends to lead the group to become even more fractured as those discussing the issue of unity become frustrated with the behaviors of others (all the while missing thier own missbehavior along the way).  Supporting the following seven steps is one underlying principle: We find unity in common purpose.  For the Christian and hence the church (youth group, etc.) unity is found in Glorifying God through Jesus Christ.

Puzzling

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!– assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

(Ephesians 4:15-32 ESV)

Step One: Speak the Truth (In Love)

In Ephesians 4:15 and again in verse 25 we are told to “Speak the Truth.”  Truth speaking should always come from a heart of  love and a desire to grow and see others grow in the likeness of Christ (Ephesians 4:15).  We are not to be deceptive.  We are not to lie, manipulate or pretend in front of others about what is going on in our lives.  Speaking the truth about our selves makes us vulnerable and accountable for the sake of the larger vision (seeing more of Jesus in our lives).  Speaking the truth to others shows genuine concern and accountability.

Step Two: Be Angry, but don’t sin

People are not perfect and the truth is that sometimes you will get angry with others.  Anger is a natural emotion.  However, many people use anger as an excuse to sin against others. They justify small and petty acts of retalliation like gossiping about someone, being mean or hostile to people, or defriending them.  However, these expressons of anger rarely solve the problem, they usually create more problems like bitterness, division, and hatred.  A better expression of anger is to address the issue that has stired the anger (in an non-sinful way).

We are  told to not to let anger go beyond a day (Ephesians 4:26).  Letting anger grow and fester becomes a foothold for the devil to create more issues in our life and keep us side tracked from the greater vision of Glorifying God.  If you find yourself handeling your anger in the wrong way you need to repent and ask God for healthier ways to evaluate and express your anger.  Don’t let anger cause you to lose focus.

Step Three: Be Generous…Work to Share with Others

Ephesians 4:28 reminds us that we are not to steal, but rather work hard so we will have something to share with everyone else.  Too often people come looking for what they can get, rather than what they can give.  In nature parasites are identified as creatures that take from thier host, but never offer anything in return.  If we all come to the group as parasites looking for what we can get, but never offering to others we have missed the point of growing in Christ likeness.  We are to work hard to so we have something to offer everyone else who is there.  You will find the more you serve and meet the needs of others, the more your needs are met.

Step Four: Watch what you Say

Paul says in Ephesians 4:29-30 that we should guard out mouths.  You do not glorify God by using your words to teardown, belittle, and destroy the efforts of others.  You grieve the Holy Spirit of God when your words are designed to tear down.  You may have a different preference than others on certain side issues, but you do not have  to verbally assault everyone who holds a different opinion than you.  When you talk about or too your group it should be to build it up, not to tear it down.  (By the way, this includes talking about all those people who are “in the way” of your group being unified).

Step Five: Put Away Bitterness

Bitterness is a disease that is rampant in our churches and congregations today.  Bitterness happens when you disagree with someone (rightly or wrongly) and you hold  a grudge.  The grudge grows and festers to effect the way you see that person.  What started out as a small dissagreement between two people is all the sudden blown up into a larger scale drama where the person you are holding a grudge against can’t do anything right (in your eyes).  Bitterness causes us to lose focus on Glorifying God and growing in Christlikeness and focus on small and petty disputes.

Step Six: Be Kind

The goal of a group is to work to gether to glorify God.  Kindness goes a long way in helping others to feel accepted, invited, and part of the project.  Kindness can disarm the wepons of the enemy.  Deal with others kindly (they way you would want to be treated).  When you deal withpeople who are not  on task with the goals or mission of the group treat them kindly.

Step Seven: Forgive

This is probably the hardest step to take.  If you have been wronged it can be difficult to forgive a person for what they have done.  I’ve written more on forgiveness here.

3 things you should know before you judge your friends

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.  (Matthew 7:1-6 ESV)


1. You will be Judged by the Same Standard you use with others (7:2)

It is easier to apply a stricter set of rules and regulations to others that it is to ourselves sometimes.  We see others faults much more clearly than our own.  We can be pretty harsh critics and most of us can be pretty good at fault-finding.  Think about this though, we should be expected to be judged for our faults to the same degree that we judge others.  I don’t know about you, but this makes me back off the need to be a harsh critic sometimes.

2. Sometimes the sin you see the most in others is the same sin you struggle with (7:4).

Ever notice how both the speck and the log were in the eye.  It’s easy to call out people who have sin in the same areas that we struggle.  This past week I have heard so many people condemn a girl about getting pregnant outside of marriage (don’t get me wrong… sex outside of marriage is a sin).  Though she is repentant she will feel shame for a while, her sin has become obvious to the world and is no longer private.  However, some of the people who seemed to take a perverse pleasure in her dilemma had requested help earlier for their struggle with pornography.  It’s easy to see in others the sin we struggle with.

3. It is difficult to do the right thing with the right motives (7:5).

It might be the right thing to lovingly confront a brother about his sin.  ( I would want to be confronted about mine.) However it can be difficult to do it in a way that glorifies God and does not promote your own ego.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .

People try to be righteous (right before God) in three different ways.

  1. Some try to do as much good as they can hoping God will overlook the bad things they have done.
  2. Some point out the flaws of others around them and say that since they are not as bad as others they must be okay.
  3. Some come to God knowing that there is nothing that they can do on their own and so they humbly trust in what Jesus Christ has done for them to save them.

The first group points to their deeds, the second points to their lack of bad deeds, the third points to Jesus Christ as a their source of Righteousness. Which group do you think is actually right before God?


When Church People do Bad Things

from-flikerSo here is the deal.  Most Wednesdays I teach and part of our strategy of discipleship is reteaching.  Which means that we challenge our students to take what they learn on a Wednesday and introduce it into conversation or get two or three of their friends together for a small groups Bible study using the Revelation Application Guide as teaching guide (its something we are working on and not a finished product).  So what better way to readdress the issues we discuss than to put up a blog post on Thursdays that highlights what we have learned on Wednesdays?

When Church People do Bad Things

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.  But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” – Matthew 18:15-17

It’s Not about You

One of the best things that can ever happen is for a believer to truly understand that it is not about being offended or hurt, but about individual relationships with God and each other.  Many times we are too easily offended because we love ourselves too much.  Self-love is not what should motivate us to seek out a right relationship with our brother in Christ, it is God-love.

For this reason it is important that that offended party (or the one who witnessed the brother in sin) go to him.  You should not wait for an apology before you attempt to reconcile with a Christian brother.  This models the way that Christ has come to us (Romans 5:8).

You Should Go Alone

It is not about you when someone has sinned against you.  It is about their relationship with God.  You should approach them about their offense in private in a way that makes much of God and minimizes your pride.  You should not use the world of social media (Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, etc…) to defame the person who has offended you.  You should seek to reconcile things in the peaceful quiet of a one on one conversation.

The Goal is Restoration

The aim is to gently and persuasively pull your brother back into right relationship with Jesus Christ and others.    The gospel is preached and the drama of redemption is played out when we lovingly confront our brother’s sin for the purpose of restoration.  Real love does not allow sin to go unchecked but holds others accountable for the purpose of godliness.

I love my daughter and because I do I will prevent her from doing things that will cause her great harm and pain.  It is love to restrain and compel my three year old daughter that playing with knives is wrong.  It is hate to let her contently play with knives to the point that she causes serious harm to herself or others.  In the same way love compels us to reach out to our brother in sin and bring him back into the fold (Matthew 18:12-14).

. . . . . . .

Obviously there is a lot more to this passage that I have time for here.  We can pick up the debate about the later stages of this process later, but in the meantime check out some of the following passages that address this issue.

  • Matthew 7:1-7
  • Galatians 6:1-2
  • Romans 12:19