#2016ChallengeAccepted – Relational Health by John Burke


At Gateway Church in Austin, we began a series called #2016ChallengeAccepted

You can work through the Next Steps for this message with your family or in a life group.

John Burke shared a message at North Campus that can be viewed at www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast. I shared at Gateway South Campus.

Here are notes from the message we shared:

In Matthew 18, Jesus gives us a roadmap for Relational Health.

The Context

Matthew is written primarily to show the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. In fact, Matthew quotes more passages from the Hebrew Scriptures (what we call the Old Testament) than any of the other Gospels, the four eye-witness accounts of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

It’s fascinating because the four Gospels tell many of the same stories but to different audiences and in their own unique way. There are four main types which I could make a case for as represented by the Gospel writers:

  • Matthew – Sensing Judger (Beaver) – very traditional, making sure we see the prophecies fulfilled in Jesus
  • Mark – Sensing Perceiver (Otter) – more experiential, faster paced, used “and immediately” dozens of time
  • Luke – Intuitive Thinker (Lion) – “the most thorough account,” a bit of arrogance in there and a look at the power structures in society
  • John – Intuitive Feeler (Golden Retriever) – more stories, the 7 signs of Jesus, more empathetic showing Jesus’ interaction with people and even writing to help us believe

Matthew is showing us that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law given by Moses. The Law of the Old Testament showed the people of Israel (and all of us) that we need a Messiah, someone to rescue us. We could never possibly live out all the commandments. The Law shows us how far short we are of deserving to be in the presence of a perfect and holy God. Moses is responsible for the first five books of the Law which are called the Torah. At the end of the 5th book, Moses has his own Sermon on the Mount where he shared his desire that his people would listen to the new prophet God would one day send. Matthew is saying: Jesus is the One!

To show us that Jesus is the fulfillment of the 5 books of the Torah, he writes out 5 of Jesus’ sermons that correspond to the 5 books.

  1. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 corresponds to Genesis. The Kingdom of Heaven is now on earth through Jesus!
  2. Exodus corresponds to Matthew 10, a sermon where Jesus sent His disciples out much like the people of Israel were sent out of Egpyt.
  3. Leviticus is about a peculiar people, the many laws that made the people of Israel so unique from the rest of the world and corresponds with Matthew 13, the parables of the Kingdom.
  4. Matthew 18 shows how we are relate to each other in this new Kingdom which corresponds with Numbers, the season of wandering in the wilderness.
  5. The last book of the Torah (Deuteronomy) is about the Promised Land corresponds with the fifth sermon found in Matthew 24 which is about the end of days.

So in that context, let’s look at Matthew 18 – this new way we are to relate to each other.

“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.” – Matthew 18:15

If someone sins against you, hurts you, offends you—here’s what you do—and from the context, Jesus is assuming it’s eventually going to happen. It’s not “If ever” but more like “if and when” here’s what to do.

Go Direct in Private.

Go direct, alone.

You can have Healthy Conflict, or you can have Unhealthy Conflict. No Conflict is NOT an option if you’re going to have truly have healthy relationships.

Unfortunately, some of us learned unhealthy ways of dealing with conflict. We’ve been taught to avoid conflict, to run from conflict, or shoot first so you won’t get shot. As a result, we just kill every relationship at the first sign of conflict.

When someone wrongs you, sins against you, hurts you, offends you—don’t go to a 3rd Party to make sure you’re not over-reacting or post about it on Facebook or text or email them. Communication is 80-90% non-verbal.

Jesus said the healthy way is to simply point out their transgression with the goal of winning them back as friends. Give the benefit of the doubt and simply say what happened and how you felt. Reconciliation, relational peace is the goal.

If you’re talking about another person and it’s not a compliment, ask yourself:

“Have I had the courage to talk TO this person
before talking ABOUT this person?”

Involve Others.

Sometimes, going directly does not work well. Either the person is hard-hearted, or sometimes you may be blind to your side of it.

If direct and in private does not restore the friendship, then Jesus says:

But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector. – Matthew 18:16-17

The goal here is to bring an outside witness, or perspective, preferably someone both parties love and respect. Someone who can help both parties see who has the speck and who has the log and bring reconciliation.

If it’s in the church between Christ-followers and it still does not work then bring it to the pastoral staff in the area you’re connected. If that doesn’t do it, it go to our board of Overseers.

Jesus says, if after all that the person who is in the wrong is still hard-hearted, then treat them like they don’t follow Christ – because they aren’t. That doesn’t mean treat them badly. Instead, it means don’t expect them to do what God says, and you may have to protect yourself from them.

Here’s the amazing thing: if you learn to do this regularly, right away, at the first sign of conflict—you go direct, in love, with the intent of restored relationship, you’ll find a new life flowing through your spiritual veins because you’re relationally healthy.

What people serious about change have found is that we have to keep clean slates relationally. When we do, many of our addictions and bad habits start to disappear because so much of those things are trying to feel better when relationship with God or others is amiss.

Seek Peace.

Healthy relationships are a really BIG deal to God. In another passage, Jesus says:

“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. – Matthew 5:23-24

God cares less about your money as he does about you making amends relationally. Go make amends first. We cannot claim we’re worshipping God when our brother or sister has something against.

Our relationship with God and with people are interconnected.

Scripture says:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18

That other person might not be willing to reconcile. They may reject your attempts at making amends and reconciliation may not be possible. What they do is not your responsibility. As far as it depends on you, do all you can to live at peace. When you do, God will honor that.


Relational Health requires forgiveness. Unforgiveness is unhealthy.

“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.  But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment…‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full…The king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.”  – Matthew 18:23-35

At first this sounds like Jesus is being kind of harsh with us, but He’s merely telling us how life works and how unforgiveness leads us into torture. Unforgiveness doesn’t torture the person who wronged us.

Unforgiveness tortures us.

When God has forgiven us, we are compelled to forgive others.

When we refuse to forgive others, we are in fact aligning with evil. We are binding ourselves to the evil to continue to be tortured by it for as long as we hang onto unforgiveness.

We don’t forgive for their sake, we forgive to be free because God forgives us.

In the first century, a Roman form of torture was to tie a person to a dead person: face to face, shoulders and legs chained together. As that dead person decomposed, the person tied to him would slowly rot with him. That’s a horrible picture! When you can’t seem to forgive—you’re chaining yourself face to face with rotting death.

Some people hurt us repeatedly. We need to forgive and forgive again. Others have hurt us deeply enough, that just a reminder of what happened brings back the pain. We need to forgive and then forgive again.

Consider the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” 

God forgave us, so that all can be forgiven. He doesn’t want you chained to the rot of the evil forces that did that and want to keep you tortured by unforgiveness. Don’t worry: God is also just, so Justice will be done.

“As long as we hang onto bitterness against anyone,
it affects others close to us who had nothing to do with the pain.”
– Neil Anderson

In all of our relationships, seek peace.

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