In the audio podcast of this service, the Scripture reading begins at 21 minutes 10 seconds and the Sermon begins at 23 minutes 05 seconds.

Sermon: Another Way to Live Together
Romans 12:9-21

Pastor Todd BuurstraWe know up here that Jesus came, among other things, to give us a better way to live together in the human family, but left to ourselves the human family fractures.

We know that the Holy Spirit inspired book of Romans is all about—what 3 new members?… Sin, Salvation, and Service, and that one way we serve this God who loves us so much is to live in new community. We know, in the words of Barack Obama’s acceptance speech on Thursday night’s 45th anniversary of Dr. King’s march on Washington that God has a dream! for us to live together as black and white, husband and wife, Arab and American because v. 9 says… We know all of this… up here…

But, left to our own devices, we naturally live apart. Larry Forni told me the story of the condo they bought on LBI a decade ago. It had started out as one house, but the retired couple divorced. So they converted their house into a his and hers condo. He walked through this door with his girlfriends to his place; and she walked through that door to her place. Never the two shall meet; never the two apart. Their best community.
You know how that is: who comes down aisle 7 that you don’t slip over to aisle 8?
How does God help us live together? By affecting more than just our heads.

First, the Spirit enlightens our eyes see others as family. We can see “our own” as family but what about “them?” Or whom do we call our “enemy?” Scripture says love one another

[literally] with Philadelphia–brotherly love, or as family. Notice there is no exception for terrorists or race or sexual orientation, or even Democrats.

Let’s think about how our eyes affected the War on Terror that didn’t work. You know “shock and awe,” “Mission Accomplished!” “Baathists beware!” We saw a large swath of the Iraqi Powers that Were as enemies. It wasn’t until General Petraeus rubbed the dust out of his eyes and began to see past-Sadaamites as potential friends that we started making progress. It wasn’t until the troops got out of the Green Zone and into bases among the people. Not until they started treating the neighbors as family by giving the kids candy, and potential allies money, that they turned in their scheming cousin. It wasn’t until Petraeus pressured al Malaki to disassemble the Shiite militias, and see Sunnis as fellow humans that we made progress. It was all about seeing with Jesus’ eyes.

So what if we let God give us a longer view? What if we tried to drop bread before we drop bombs? What if we always tried to build schools before we tore down statues? Might we even get the Pakistani chieftains to turn in Osama—if they knew that their bread was buttered on our side? I believe God is telling us a lot is in the eye of the beholder; do we see the other as family or even human? That’s how Jesus sees.

Secondly, Jesus changes our heart to pursue community enthusiastically. Do not lag in zeal. The accomplishment of true community is something so wonderful that we can chase after it. Many a pastor says amongst ourselves, Oh shoot! Tonight’s consistory. Now I’m sure many lay folks feel the same. And I’ll admit that I don’t always look forward to consistory, partly because I never sleep well afterwards. But I will tell you that my favorite part of consistory is when we discuss a tough issue from many sides—the visionary, the monetary, the relational—and we have 6 different opinions on the issue, yet, through a dogged and prayerful process we are able to find a way to move ahead—that’s true community! And that’s exhilarating! This just happened Monday night again, but I still didn’t sleep well afterwards.

And in our marriages, families, and the family of nations we ought to pursue harmonious existence with the same enthusiasm as Lani pursued the triathlon. Maybe humming Amazing Grace to get us through… but when you pass the finish line of reconciliation I find my heart thumping with joy. And then I’m tired. Do not lag…

For decades communist East Germany had denied the Holocaust ever existed. They swept it under the rug. And then they enthusiastically pursued unity with West Germany. In that time just before they were one country East Germany went ahead to convert over to a parliament. Their very first and most famous act read…

Wow! God was at work there. That’s something to run after with all your heart!
How does God help us live together? Let Jesus focus your eyes on seeing everyone as human family; let Jesus excite your heart to pursue good family relations; and lastly, when your part of the human family fights turn fairness over to God. In even the best relationships hurt happens. At that time these words are crucial…

Philip Yancey writes, “If you want a fair religion, I would suggest that you become a Hindu” because of reincarnation. He goes on to say that Hindu scholars teach if you have lead a bad life it could take up to 6.8 million reincarnations to work out!

I know some couples like that: I’m NOT going to cook breakfast for you even if you’re in a hurry because you didn’t help me unload the groceries last night. I didn’t help you unload the groceries because I was cutting the lawn! But you enjoy riding the mower and you know I hate unloading groceries. Do you think I like unloading groceries? EXACTLY! How different homes would be if we turn tit-for-tat justice over to God!

How can God help us live better together? Let Jesus filter down from our head to our eyes, to our heart, and to our hands—all through us—to improve our relationships. Take a moment of silent prayer as to what relationship Jesus wants you to apply this now.

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