Something Like Answers to Good Questions

The church where I pastor has been in a series of sermons on the “One Another’s” of the New Testament.  We came to wrap the series and it seemed reasonable to offer a panel style Q&A “sermon.”  We’ve done it before and it was well received. 

The idea would be to sink into some of the “One Another’s” a bit further with some meaningful query that may represent the curiosities of the greater church body. 

The panel would be four pastors; our lead pastor, youth pastor, associate pastor, and myself. 

The moderator would be a really smart retired teacher. 

Below is something like answers that I offered up in response to the well thought out questions.  (They are part and parcel of longer answers offered by my colleagues in ministry that can be heard by clicking here.)

Love One Another – What do you consider foundational for this body to truly enact the “One Another’s?”

Mark 12, Jesus reminds the scribe what is first and most important:  Love God wholly.  And second:  Love your neighbor radically.  Radically?  Sure.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  That’s radical.  Love others the way you love yourself.  Think that through.  Make a list.  How do you love yourself…or do you love yourself?  Maybe we miss this foundational piece of being able to enact the “One Another’s” because we don’t really love who God made us to be.  Maybe?

So there is that, but also, we need to immerse ourselves more fully into the story of God.  It may be that if we catch the long view of His-story revealed in Scripture, we will catch a broader vision of His-love for us.  How does he love us, really?  Think that through.  Again, make a list of the ways God loves you.  Redemption’s story is riddled with Love’s demonstration of love to us.

How does God love us?  How do we love ourselves?  Now we’re ready to love our neighbor…which forms the footing for all the “One Another’s.”

Welcome One Another – What does it mean to welcome one another, why is this important, and what stands in the way?

We’re selfish.  Now more than ever the number of people and volume of events and measure of media, all vying for our attention…it is crippling.  You feel it.  I know you do.  Time is a gift.  Dying people remind us over and again we have only this much.  Like money and space, we want it for ourselves.  Then we squander it away on wild living, self-first living, like a prodigal.  Or we save it; time that is, packing it away in vacant corners we’ve cut or empty relationships we’ve put off.  All of this sucks us into our own little myopic kingdoms with huge iron gates that get more and more difficult to open the longer we keep them closed.  And there we live in unwelcoming isolation. 

At this point it occurs to me, every gift has a giver.  Time, as a gift, has a Giver too.  Gifts come with intention and hope.  Think about the last gift you gave.  You had high hopes for how it may be received and enjoyed.  Welcoming one another is never convenient or easy.  There is never a great time to open the heavy iron gate of our lives and let folks in.  But what if that is the Giver’s intention?  To steward rather than squander.  To give it away rather than hoard it up.

Submit to One Another – Why is the idea of submitting to one another often a thorny topic, and how should we properly perceive the idea of submission?

Submission is the helpless cry of a school boy encircled by peers in the corner of the playground.  Submission is a tired wrestler pinned flat on a sweaty mat.  Submission is a reluctant prisoner bowing his head to a captor.  Submission is a feeble black man in the back of the bus.  Submission is a defeated politician leaving through the back door of the capitol building.  Submission is a bruised woman weeping on her kitchen floor. 

These come to mind when we imagine submission.  These make submission a thorny topic.  But what if we redeemed the term?  What if we caught a biblical vision for submission?  What if we understood submission as a love term; a term of endearment if you will? 

I think, packed in the hot button of submission, are statements like…  “I trust you.”  “I honor you.”  “I respect you.”  “I believe your manner of love and authority and leadership toward me are what is best for me.  “I believe you know me well enough to know what is best for me.”  Changes the face of submission, doesn’t it?

Give to One Another – How is a church body called to give to one another, and how can we foster a healthy environment of radical generosity?

At the end of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6; the part printed in the footnotes, the implied declaration is simple:  Thine, not mine.  (I title a study on the Lord’s Prayer as such.  Scroll down if you’re curious.)

Everything is God’s.  Nothing is mine.  I’m mantled with the responsibility of steward over all this that I’ve accumulated.  At root, at base, can I really afford to NOT be generous?  This home and money and time and mower and sugar and DVD…  These books and marbles and chairs and M&M’s…  And the list goes on and on, right?  Your list is different than mine.  It’s this whole life I live; it isn’t mine.  I didn’t earn it.  It and everything in it has been given to me…to give away.  What really will I take with me when I disappear behind the curtain of eternity?

A starting point, then, may be a shift from “my life” language to “this life I live” language.  Maybe changing the possessor in the way we talk can change the possessor in the way we give.

Forgive One Another – What can you share about the characteristics, difficulties, and results of forgiveness?

Characteristics:  The characteristics of forgiveness are those of Jesus.  Isn’t He the example in all these “One Another’s” really?  Make a list…again with the list.  Courage, sacrifice, humility, mercy, grace, shalom, or wholeness.  The list is long than that.  We could list the fruit of the Spirit here too.  None-the-less, when these are born deeply within us, forgiveness is born of us. 

Difficulties:  We are not naturally these things!  We are not normally looking like Jesus.  There is too much humanness in us still.  Realizing we’ve been forgiven, and in turn realizing we can forgive; these are a supernatural act.  All true forgiveness is infused with divine unction.  The whole scandalous plat of forgiveness is too counter-cultural to not be divine. 

Results:  Freedom.  I know of no other than that.  Forgiveness equals freedom.  Without forgiveness there is utter bondage.  There isn’t the time and space to eloquently articulate the reaches of that statement.  Try forgiving that one person you swore you’d never forgive and you’ll save me the time.  I might say this however, plucking this reality out of our religious culture:  A free country = A forgiving people.  With that in mind, I wonder how free we really are?

Serve One Another – How is serving one another in love an expression of our freedom in Christ?  How do you see the command to serve one another expressed at Sunrise and how might we expand what we are doing?

Couple things here… 

Thing one:  If we understand our freedom rightly, we understand we are free to be enslaved to Jesus Christ; His righteousness, justice, peace, etc.  He bought us.  We are His; everything is His, not mine.  Serving one another in love, then, is an expression of our freedom in that.  Serving becomes an expression of our obedience, duty, joy, honor; all in Christ Jesus himself. 

Thing two:  We live in a really isolated culture.  I alluded to that earlier.  It’s no secret.  We poke fun at it with memes on Facebook or videos on YouTube of people walking around bumping into things because they are staring at their phones.  We laugh, but it is anything but funny.  We laugh because it is our own sad reality.  It’s the reality we live with.  It’s the reality people right on your shoulder live with daily.  And it’s burdensome to live in a culture that takes nary a measure to invite people out of it; their isolation that is.  We at least have this space at church to come and escape our isolation for a few hours each week.  So many don’t even have this; a community of faith. 

That said, I think one of the ways we at Sunrise can serve one another is extending the invitation for folks to step out of their isolation.  To really think about our neighbor and, without necessarily knowing all the ins and outs of what they are going through (or needing to know them for that matter…skipping the gossiping lifestyle) attend to them.  Pay attention to others.  Notice people who aren’t noticing anyone else.

Bear One Another’s Burdens – What do you think is the ultimate intent of bearing one another’s burdens?  What are the perils found in burden bearing?

To get people to the cross of Calvary.  Crosses are heavy.  Jesus’ cross was heavy.  Hey Simon of Cyrene, can you come over here and bear up this cross so we can get our savior to Calvary to die for our sin

We bear crosses, every one of us.  And comparisons are never helpful here…or anywhere for that matter.  Boy that guys cross is sure lighter than mine, or heavier.  They have no idea.  That’s spiritual posturing.  We’re just trying to position ourselves for either pity or fame. 

Just the understanding that we all bear life’s burdens; the ughs and uffs of the weighty cross, it ought to compel us to step into the lives of our neighbors and bear up their crosses as well.  If someone is buried by the weight of this sinful world, we must get under there and bear it up with them so they can breathe a bit.  They can’t see clearly when they’re being crushed by the weight of a trial, trivial or otherwise.  They can’t get to Calvary if they’re flattened by the burdens of life.  Burdens blind us to the long-view; face down in the dust.  When we bear one another’s burdens, we give people a chance to lift up their eyes, catch some breath, and press on to the cross where there is relief in the presence of the Savior. 


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