A community of Redemptive Relationships Notes for 17th September

We are doing this sermon a bit differently, so we are doing the notes a bit differently.

After pointing our that we are children of God in Matthew 17, Jesus then spends a whole chapter talking what it takes to be the kind of family we are called to be.

An outline of Matthew chapter 18

  • 1-5 Greatness is found in becoming like little children
  • 6-7 Anyone who causes someone to stumble is in trouble
  • 8-9 Accept responsibility for your own actions
  • 10-14 There is no person God doesn’t care about
  • 15-17 You are responsible for confronting someone who is making bad choices
  • 18-20 The church has the task of working out what is right and wrong.
  • 21-35 Forgive whenever anyone asks for it.

Jesus goes into great detail about how to be a different kind of family because it wasn’t normal then, and it’s not normal now.

The central message of the whole chapter is:

“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. [20] For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Matthew 18:19-20 NIV

Jesus’s hope for us was that we would be in intimate relationship with each other.

12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.

John 15:12-14NIV

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.

1 Peter 1:22NIV

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

1 Peter 4:8-9NIV

The church was always meant to be a family of deep connection and intimacy.

There are two groups of people who need the church to be that:

Single people

Married people.

Single people need the church to be a deeply connected family because they, like all people need intimacy and connection with people who are different to them. The lie of the enemy is that you can only have intimacy and connection through sex.

Married people need the church to be a deeply connected family because no marriage can produce all that the other person needs and no parents can give all that their kids need. The lie of the enemy is that the nuclear family (husband, wife and kids) is all the intimacy and connection you need.

We have been deeply shaped by our culture into a worldview that takes us away from this kind of relationship

Every follower of Jesus, in every culture, has to constantly ask the question, In what ways have I been assimilated into the host culture?

Where have I drifted from my identity and inheritance? The temptation for us in the West is less to atheism and more to a DIY faith that’s a mix of the Way of Jesus, consumerism, secular sex ethics, and radical individualism.

John Mark Comer. Live No Lies . Live No Lies (p. 228). SPCK. Kindle Edition.

As we begin this discussion we need to realise that one of the big challenges to the community is our own deep need for it and the idea that the community exists to meet our needs.

Every human idealized image that is brought into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be broken up so that genuine community can survive. Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works): Life Together and Prayer Book of the Bible v. 5 . National Book Network – A. Kindle Edition.

We are not used to the idea of church being a place where we love each other deeply and that means marriages suffer, families miss out on what they need, and single people are prevented from bringing the gifts they have to the center of our lives.

Jesus started his discussion about community about being like children, he finishes this section by again focussing on children:

Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

Matthew 19:13-15 NIV

The measure of the health of any community is how the weakest and smallest people are doing. The community exists for them, not for the members of the community. They are the key to the community being healthy.

The essential thing about chastity is not a renunciation of pleasure but an all-encompassing orientation of life toward a goal. Where there is no such orientation, chastity inevitably deteriorates into the ridiculous. Chaste living is the prerequisite for clear and superior thoughts.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Letters and Papers from Prison: DBW 8 (Kindle Locations 14151-14153). Augsburg Fortress. Kindle Edition.

In this section, Jesus is going to teach that a healthy community is based on chastity. This is such a foreign concept that even the dictionary definition labels it as Old Fashioned.

Chastity is the state of not having sex with anyone, or of only having sex with your husband or wife. [old-fashioned] Collins Dictionary

Chastity is an intentional choice to limit your own freedom to pursue your sex drive. As Bonhoeffer says, It is only possible if you have something in your life more important than you. This is an implication of Jesus’ central teaching about discipleship:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

Matthew 16:24-25 NIV

It is not normal.

The secular world’s dominant idea (read, working theory of reality) is that human beings are animals, simply aided by time and chance to evolve into the dominant species on our planet; monogamy is “not natural,” as we rarely see it in “other animals.” In fact, men evolved to spread their seed over as many women as possible for the survival of our species— evolutionary biology’s way of saying, “Boys will be boys.” In such an idea matrix, the prevailing consensus is “Sex is just play for grown-ups. What’s the big deal? It’s just an animal pleasure, no different from hunger or thirst. If you do pursue marriage, that’s fine; be true to yourself. But you should at least live with your partner for a while to make sure you’re a good fit. And if it doesn’t work out, the important thing is to be happy.” (After all, there’s no meaning to life; it’s just a glorious accident.) And of course marriage, sexual norms, and even gender itself are all social constructs, often created by elites to maintain power.

John Mark Comer. Live No Lies (pp. 31-32)

This worldview is a destroyer of community. It results in the epidemic of loneliness that is sweeping the world.

Our world is obsessed with Sex… but often Christians are too.

The purity culture rejects the worlds ideas about sex and replaces them with an idealisation of marriage as the answer to uncontrolled sexual urges.

This can lead to a culture of shame where, rather than being taught how to manage their sex drives in healthy ways, Christian kids are just told to wait and that marriage will fix all their problems. This leads to unhealthy marriages and Christian kids getting into all kinds of difficult situations.

We need a community that teaches us how to manage our sex drives in healthy ways.

Because being single is an experience we all have, let’s tackle Jesus’ teaching backward.

A the start of the chapter, which we will get to, Jesus makes clear what chastity means in marriage, and as a result of that the disciples have a strong reaction:

10 The disciples said to him, ‘If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.’ 11 Jesus replied, ‘Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others – and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.’

Matthew 19:10-12NIVUK

Jesus suggested that there are 3 approaches to the way of singleness:

  • Born that way: some people are born without fully functioning sexual organs
  • Made that way: Castration
  • Choose that way “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven”

In using the language of eunuch, Jesus is saying that Christian single people make a choice, for the sake of the Kingdom, to abstain from sex.

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,

Titus 2:11-12 NIV

Jesus understands, what Bonhoeffer understands, that focusing on sex is unhealthy. But by focussing on the external purpose of the Kingdom of God, chastity is possible.

32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

1 Corinthians 7:32-35NIV

Single people often have a particular role in the Christian church. They are the ones who can reach out to others and build bridges because they are freer to follow Jesus’ lead.

The Christian church has made a terrible mistake in attempting to build its structures around those who are married with children. People who are married with young children cannot really be the glue that holds a community together.

Through idolizing marriage, Single people often end up being on the outer.

The other challenge facing the church is unhealthy marriages. Jesus begins the chapter tackling that question.

Up till now the majority of Jesus’ ministry has been in Galilee. That phase is now over and he is on the way to Jerusalem.

He is probably in Perea, an area controlled by Herod Antipas who had married his brother’s wife.

1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. 3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’

Matthew 19:1-3NIVUK

The Pharisees come to test Jesus on one of the most hotly debated issues of the day.

One of the reasons they will be doing this is to get Jesus in trouble with Herod, just like his cousin did.

The main arguments of the day focussed on how two rabbinic schools interpreted Deuteronomy 24:1. Shammai understood it applied only to sexual immorality, while Hillel (the predominant view) extended it to “any reason whatever,” even trivial things like bad cooking or a prettier woman.

1 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house,

Deuteronomy 24:1NIVUK

In Jewish Hermeneutics, the further back you go in the Torah the more authority it possesses.

Rather than talk about Divorce, Jesus chooses instead to come back to the intention of marriage.

Add your private notes…

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’  and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?

Matthew 19:4-5NIV

In referencing Genesis 1:27 Jesus makes clear that male and female are both important, and one important subtext of what he is saying is that women shouldn’t be able to be written off.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image,in the image of God he created them;male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:26-27NIV

Men and Women together are created in the image of God. While there is a sense that all individuals are created in the image of God, there is also a sense that men and women together give a more holistic picture of who God is.

18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Genesis 2:18NIV

In referencing Genesis 2:24, Jesus paints the picture of the committed nature of marriage.

The Hebrew word for “united” means “hold fast, cling to, to be joined fast, to be stuck together.” It carries a much stronger picture than simply the English word “united.” It is not about romance but about commitment.

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24NIV

Inherent in a Christian marriage is the idea of both partners being willing to give up their rights for the sake of the other, which is a picture of how the church is meant to relate to Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Ephesians 5:22-33NIV

Jesus now provides his commentary on the two verses

So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Matthew 19:6NIV

From a Christian perspective, marriage is sealed by God and not just the Government.

14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. 15 Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. 

Malachi 2:14-15NIV

A civil marriage, recognised by Australian Law, is “voluntary union for life of two people to the exclusion of all others.” A civil marriage is recognised through commitments made in front of legal witnesses and a representative of the Government.

Not all civil marriages are Christian marriages, and not all Christian Marriages must be recognized by the government.

Religious leaders in Australia can act as representatives of the government so that both forms of marriage can happen at the same time, however, in France the two forms of marriage are separate.

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”  Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Matthew 19:7-9NIV

The word here for “sexual immorality” (porneia), is a general term for sexual immorality of any kind

Jesus makes it clear that Marriage is God’s plan but that there are some circumstances where it is right to recognise that the marriage is over. The Apostle Paul gives another scenario where divorce is permissable.

But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.

1 Corinthians 7:15NIV

Another reason a marriage can break down is when one partner (usually the male) fails to protect the other. Domestic Violence is never ok.

“The man who hates and divorces his wife, ” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.

Malachi 2:16 NIV

While divorce is not God’s plan, it does not mean that those who have left a marriage are any less important than anyone else in the church.

The first recorded evangelist Jesus chooses is a Samaritan woman who has had five husbands and is currently living with someone she is not married to. (John 4:18)

The church is meant to be a redemptive community where everyone is welcome

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, [20] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. [21] In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. [22] And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Ephesians 2:19-22 NIV

A redemptive community is built by everyone.

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

1 John 3:16-18

1800 RESPECT is a helpline for anyone experiencing Domestic Violence 1800 737 732

Pastor Matt and Pastor Dan are both available to talk about any issues raised for you by this message, as are the elders.

Small Group Questions:

1) Read and discuss the quotes from John Mark Comer

2) Have someone read Ephesians 5:22-33 and talk about what we can learn from marriage about Jesus and the church.

3) Talk about how our church responds to divorce and sexual immorality. Do you think we get the balance right? What could we do differently?

4)What would it mean to be the kind of church community where you don’t have to be married to experience intimacy?

5) Do you agree that the church may have over-emphasized the importance of the ‘nuclear family’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *