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Sabbath School Lessons on Reformation and Revival
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Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 12: Reformation: Healing Broken Relationships *
Introduction: Sometimes unity is hard work! Many years ago, I was at
a meeting where our local church leadership was meeting the new
conference president and our new pastor. As Lay Pastor, I was the
leader of the local church. The new conference president asked each
of the local elders their thoughts about the church. A newly elected
elder said things were fine, except their was something wrong with my
theology and the church leadership had a problem with racism. My
immediate thought was that unity would be best preserved if I walked
over and strangled him! The two of us had never had a personal
discussion about theology. He had just transferred to our church, and
although he was of a minority race, within a year we had elected him
an elder - unlikely actions for a group of racists! This unexpected
and unwarranted attack on my reputation and the church leadership
created hard feelings in my heart. What should we do when things like
that happen? Let's dive into our Bibles and see what we can learn!
- Conflict Resolution
- Read Matthew 18:15. Let's go back to the story in my
introduction. Racism is a sin. If this new elder thought
that the other leaders and I had shown prejudice towards
him because of his race, what was his responsibility?
(According to this text, to go to me. Or, he could have
brought it up at an elders' meeting.)
- What is the reason for going personally to the other
person with your concern? (So often we simply have
different perceptions. Sometimes we do not know the
whole story. This text says that sharing your
concerns allows you to win over your fellow church
- Read Matthew 18:16. What does this suggest is the nature
of the underlying problem? (This suggests that after the
initial meeting, you have a different opinion about the
- What is the advantage of bringing a few others? (If
other members of my church said, "Bruce, we see a
problem," I would have taken them seriously. On the
other hand, if this new elder looked for others who
shared his opinion, I doubt he could have found any.)
- What was the disadvantage to me (the target of the
complaint) of bringing it up for the first time
before the new conference president and the new
pastor? (How do you defend against such an attack?
"I'm not a racist and we agree on theology?" What I
said instead was, "I've not heard these complaints
before, and I think they may arise from a difference
- Read Matthew 18:17. What is the final step in
reconciliation? (Having the church decide the matter.)
- Let's look at this from the new elder's perspective.
Why does the church get to decide? Would such a vote
be fair? (Read Matthew 18:18. This tells us that the
church bears the authority of God. If these charges
were true, God would take care of them. If the
charges were false, then God would take care of that,
- Read Matthew 18:19-20. Is Jesus off on another topic? (No.
The idea of talking with others and praying with others
about a problem is very important. I never did understand
how this new elder's theology differed from mine. To my
knowledge, no one else ever accused the church leadership
of being racist. Perhaps forty percent of our church came
from minority races, and racial harmony was an important
part of our reflection of God's love.)
- Read Matthew 18:21. This event happened many years ago,
but the fact that I still remember it shows that it hurt
and that I might have a problem with forgiveness. Do you
think that Jesus has changed subjects? (No. Jesus is still
talking about how Christians get along.)
- This young elder never asked me for forgiveness. Does
that matter? (Notice that Peter asks about
forgiveness for those who sin against you, not for
those who request forgiveness.)
- Read Matthew 18:22. Should we keep a little book and mark
off how many times we forgive someone? I would have a hard
time keeping count to 77.
- Are Jesus and Peter in agreement that there is a
limit on the number of times we should forgive, they
just differ on the right number?
- Read Matthew 18:23-25. Is this related to the prior
discussion? Does forgiveness apply even to money?
- Read Matthew 18:26-27. Notice the difference between the
request for mercy and the king's response. What does that
suggest? (The king gave him more than he requested. It was
not just mercy, it was forgiveness.)
- Notice that the debtor did not ask for forgiveness,
yet he still received it. Why?
- Read Matthew 18:28. Is this a reasonable reaction? The
debtor had come very close to having his whole family sold
into slavery because bums like this had not been paying
what they owed him!
- Read Matthew 18:29-33. What is the proper answer to the
king's question? (Yes, he should have had mercy.)
- Let's stop a minute and think about everything we
have discussed so far. I am embarrassed by a young
elder who questions my theology and calls me a racist
in front of a new church official I do not know. What
should I remember? (That Jesus was called names and
was taunted because of my sin. If Jesus can forgive
me, how can I fail to forgive such a minor offense?)
- What additional light does this cast on the
discussion between Jesus and Peter about the
number of times we should forgive? (Jesus is
not talking about specific numbers. What
person reading this lesson has been asked to
forgive more than Jesus forgave us?)
- Read Matthew 18:34-35. Wow! Did the unforgiving debtor end
up on a worse position? (He was going to be sold into
slavery. Now he is sent to jail and torture.)
- Does this mean that our loving heavenly Father will
torture us if we do not forgive? (Read 1 John 4:19-21. This text is just one of many which say that the
essence of being a Christian is showing love towards
others. If we do not reflect love we have not
accepted Jesus' love and we are lost.)
- Does this "send him to the torturers" teach us that
this King had one forgiveness in him, and not seventy
times seven, or even seven? (Something we need to
know about parables is that not every part is
intended to teach a lesson. The point of the parable
is that we should show forgiveness to others because
of God's great forgiveness to us. The point is not
that God has us tortured when we sin twice.)
- Discerning Love
- Read Revelation 3:19. What we have studied so far might
lead us to think that our obligation of love causes us to
simply forgive. What does this text bring to the
discussion? (Sometimes love rebukes and disciplines. We
must forgive, but love is not just a silly "that's okay"
when serious problems are not properly addressed.)
- Read Philemon 1:1. Let me give you a little background.
Philemon is a slave owner who was converted to
Christianity by Paul. Philemon owned a slave named
Onesimus who ran away and lived with Paul to help Paul.
- Read Philemon 1:8-11. What is Paul's request to Philemon?
(To forgive Onesimus for running away.)
- Why should Philemon forgive Onesimus? ("I appeal to
you on the basis of love.")
- Read Philemon 1:12-16. What does Paul want? (For Philemon
to send Onesimus back to help Paul.)
- Aren't some major issues lurking here? Shouldn't
Philemon forgive Onesimus because of love? Isn't
slavery against the law of love? What if you just
said, "Everyone should love each other: so love ends
slavery, love forgives Onesimus, and love leaves
Onesimus helping Paul when Paul is in prison?"
(Philemon had a property interest in Onesimus. Love
is not theft. The matter is complicated and Paul's
approach teaches us that we must be discerning in the
way we apply forgiveness and reconciliation.)
- Friend, how about you? Are you a quart low on love? Is
your failure to grasp God's incredible love causing you to
fail to forgive others? Why not ask God to forgive you for
your lack of love, give you more love, and open your heart
to those who have sinned against you?
- Next week: The Promised Revival: God's Mission Completed.
* Copr. 2013, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.