[Thought questions for Reformation: Healing Broken Relationships September 18, 2013]
1. After the crash. Imagine that you’re a professional cake decorator and are just now putting the finishing touches on a cream-colored four-layer cake with an intricate pattern and pretty red roses made of icing when there’s a loud crash and wooden boards begin falling from the ceiling–one of them smashing across your lovely cake. It’s gone. Or is there a way to assemble the crumbs and the icing and put the cake together again? Wouldn’t it be lovely if all of our crashes could be smoothed over? Forgotten? How does God deal with the broken pieces after we make a foolish choice or speak words that should never have been said? What is God willing to do for us after the crash?
2. Fractures at church. When we first enter the story, Paul was older and more experienced than John Mark was. Can we blame him for dismissing John Mark and letting him go with Barnabas (Acts 15:39)? After all, wasn’t the Christian church in its infancy, just beginning to get its legs under it and move around the known world? Don’t we need to be careful about giving young men and women too much responsibility? Have you seen learned of bad consequences when the pastoral intern elopes with the pastor’s daughter? Or when a teen-ager helps himself to the car keys of the head elder’s Mercedes so he can pick up an elderly woman who needs a ride to church–and ends up in a crash? Children! Are our judgments of the erring ones in these examples similar to the judgment of God? How does God judge people who flat out make dumb mistakes? Could that include you?
3. Onesimus. We don’t have slavery any more, at least in “civilized” countries. So how can we apply the story of the runaway slave to our lives today? What did Paul believe was Onesimus’ greatest need? Philemon’s? How did Philemon respond to the situation? Imagine the conversation that took place when Philemon and his slave Onesimus were reunited.
4. Selfish. What’s wrong with being selfish? Is selfishness really the most destructive and deadly of all sins? Isn’t it a sign of self-preservation or self-esteem to put yourself first? If floods sweep away your house, should you stay in the house with your trapped and unconscious spouse or wiggle your way out of the situation? Which is selfish? Have you ever known a youngster who wouldn’t compete with anybody? Or one who had to be the first, the best, the loudest? Which of the two sets a better example? What is the biggest danger—thinking you’re the best? or thinking of yourself as worthless? Or does it depend? If so, on what?
5. Friction. Start making a secret list of all the things about the church or family you belong to that irritate and annoy you. What about the comments of Sister A in Sabbath school class? The wrong notes Brother B plays when he does “special music” with an old clarinet? The lights in the hallway that burn out before anyone notices? The clatter of Sister So-and-So’s shoes and cane when she stumbles down the aisles at church? Have you ever had a brother or sister put a finger on your shoulder and begin lecturing you on some point? Or do you stay away from church because it’s just too much to endure? Too hot, too cold, too drafty, too loud, not loud enough, too much whispering, too much chatter? And that pastor…Well, what do you think of him? What do these types of friction do to a church of Christian believers?
6. How about this? Do you believe this statement from the lesson guide? “We cannot receive the blessings of forgiveness until we confess our sins.” Should we set up a special room where people could come to church and confess their sins before they join us in prayer and worship to ask for forgiveness?
7. Go where first? Some people seem to have the power to remove the pastor or other members from positions of responsibility without breathing a word to the affected members or giving them a chance to reform. Is this acceptable? Have you ever known about wrongdoing by a church member and immediately carried the news to the pastor or the church board and never dreamed of talking to the offending member first? Have you ever introduced to a new pastor the “people to watch out for” in the church? How does Jesus tell us we should deal with discord in His church? (Matthew 18:15).