James Merritt - Can't We All Just Get Along
One of America's historically most popular president is, Theodore Roosevelt. And Theodore Roosevelt said something. And when I read it years ago, I said, you know what? He's right. Here's what he said. He said, "The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people". Absolutely right. It's difficult to argue with. Let me give you an example. Your spiritual life is determined by how well you get along with God. Your vocational life is determined by how well you get along with your employees, with your boss, with your coworkers. Your social life is determined by how well you get along with your friends and your neighbors and your family. Your marital life is determined by how well you get along with your spouse and on and on and on it goes.
And if you think about it, what life is all about every day, is making relationships work. 'Cause if relationships don't work, life not very nice. And it doesn't take long to realize it. Even as a child, relationships are hard work. How many of you, you're being honest, how many of you, if you're honest, there's at least one relationship for you, it's just hard work? You better raise your hand because I'll tell you what, somebody thinks you're a hard work whether you think they are or not. It's just hard work. Well, I've got news for you. As life progresses, it doesn't get easier. Think about right now. Tomorrow, how much counseling, how much therapy will be going on all over the world because of relational conflict and confrontation.
There's an old point, I heard back when I was a boy. I don't know if you've heard it or not, but it is so true and it goes like this, "To live there above with those we love, won't that be heaven's glory? But to live here below with those we know, that's another story". And I'm telling you that is true. And I'll tell you, there's nothing as beautiful as a harmonious relationship. Nothing. But there is nothing as burdensome as a hurtful relationship. Let me give you an example. Saw it the other day, about three or four weeks ago, some of the staff, we went out to lunch. And of the habits I have, and I like to encourage you to adopt this. Every time I go to lunch or I'm at a dinner or I'm at a restaurant, I always ask the waiter or the waitress, this question. Hey, we're gonna pray for our food. How can we pray for you?
I was at lunch yesterday in a restaurant with two of my grandkids. And I'm teaching them how to do this. And so, I asked this waitress, I said, Her name was, I'll just say, Jennifer. I said Jennifer, we're about to pray for our food. Can I pray for you today? She teared up. She said, I can't believe you're asking me this question. She said, I have a one-year-old child and a three-year-old child at home. I can't be there. I've got to work. And they don't have the COVID, but they've got a virus and they're really sick. And they've got a fever and I'm really worried about them. Well, we were at lunch several weeks ago and there was a waitress. I think her name was Donna. And so I said, "Hey, Donna, we're about to eat, Pray for our food here in a moment. Tell me how I can pray for you."
Well, when I said that, she just looked at me for maybe 30 seconds. Never said a word. And then a tear came down her cheek. And she said, "Can I get back with you"? And I said, sure. So she left. She got all of our beverages. She went back. She was getting everybody, our beverages. And then she leaned down and she said, "I'll tell you exactly how you can away from me". I said, okay. She said, "My son won't speak to me". I said, what? She said, "My son will not speak to me. He won't answer the phone. He won't return my text. He won't return my email. He won't talk to me". I said, "well, where does he live"? She said, "He just lives on the other side of the city". And when she said that she choked. She couldn't even talk. And the tears were streaming down her face.
I was crushed. I just wish I could fix it right then because the sadness in her eyes just broke me up. And you think about where we are right now as a nation. Have you never in, at least maybe, in my lifetime. Have you ever seen so much social cultural, political, racial division in our country right now? I haven't. I can't remember a time when we've ever been more divided. I mean, sometimes you're just walking down the street. You don't know whether to do duck or pucker. You don't know, somebody is gonna hit you or kiss you. You just don't know. So that raises this big question. Can't we all just get along. I mean, can't we all just get along. Well, here's the good news. We can, if we are willing to put in the work and make it happen.
Now, this is one reason why I love God's word so much. You don't really have a real important problem in your life, this book does not address. And Paul, in a book called Colossians, in the New Testament, gives us a formula about how we can all get along. What we were doing by the way, we were in a series in Colossians that we had to interrupt, because the virus. We called it, "The Guardian of the Galaxy". And the book of cloth is one of our favorite books, because the whole theme of the book of Colossians is, Jesus Christ is the center of everything. Everything.
Whether you realize it or not. Everything does not revolve around Wall Street. It doesn't revolve around the virus. It doesn't revolve around sports. It doesn't revolve around Hollywood. It doesn't revolve around money. It doesn't revolve around finance. Everything revolves around Jesus. And if He is the center of our lives, if He truly sits on the throne of our hearts, if He truly is both the Lord in our life, here's the great news. Even with all of our differences and we all are different. And even with all of our difficulties and we've got them. We can get along. So if you're watching right now online, or you're here in our building and you got a copy of God's word, I want you to look in Colossians.
The book of Colossians Chapter 3. It's in the New Testament. If you don't know where it is, just thumb though it. You'll find it. We'll show the verses on the screen. Let me share with you what a man named Paul said are three things that if you will practice these three things, you can get along with anybody. One will surprise you. Here's the first thing he says. He says, "There are the clothes we are to wear before others". I bet you never thought about that. You mean getting along with others depends upon what I wear. Well it does, but stay with me. Getting along with others begins with putting on the right spiritual clothes every day.
So here's what Paul says, in Colossians 3:12. He says, "Therefore, as God's chosen people," Who are, God's chosen people. Believers, followers of Jesus. "As God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience". You know, one of the biggest decisions we have to make every day. It's one of the biggest decisions I make every Sunday. Do you know what it is? What am I gonna wear today? Today, I had to make a decision. So I picked my clothes out on Saturday night, last night. All right. What am I going to wear today? A special day. This is like Christmas to me. It's like Easter. Man, people are coming back. So this is a brand new shirt I got for Christmas and I didn't even break it out until today. Okay. So this is a big day. Special day.
So I was thinking about, what am I going to wear? We all have to make that decision. However, here's what Paul says. It doesn't matter whether you're going to work. When you going to church, whether you're going to the grocery store, you're going to the theater. It doesn't matter. We don't have to give a second thought to what we're going to wear spiritually. Because God has done us a big favor. You know, from the military to education, there are a lot of institutions that have a dress code. Two of my grandchildren go to a Christian school. They have to wear a uniform every day. Well, you know, there's certain places you've got to dress a certain way.
Well, what Paul says is this, God has a dress code for us. God has a certain way He wants us to dress. And here's the good news. It never changes. He wants us to wear the same set of clothes every day. And you say, you mean you don't have to change clothes? No, because they never get dirty. They don't have to go to the dry cleaners. As a matter of fact, God loves us so much. You know what God does. He's already laid out our clothes for us on the bed to put on every single day. We don't have to wash them. We don't have to iron them. All we got to do is put them on.
Now, here's the beautiful thing. What makes these clothes so valuable, Is there a tailor made by God. They perfectly fit every single one of us? And here's the better news. If you put these clothes on every day, you won't just look your Sunday best. You will look better than that. You'll look just like Jesus. Because these are exactly the same clothes that Jesus put on. I'm going to go through the super quick. All right. He says, first of all, "Clothe yourselves with compassion". So I want you to imagine, in the morning, you're going to work. First thing you got to do, all right. I'm gonna put on the shirt of compassion.
Now by the way, that was a wake-up call 2000 years ago. Because back in the day, back in the Roman Empire, compassion and mercy were in short supply in the ancient world. Because if you were maimed, if you were sick, if you were old, if you were physically deformed, if you had mental illness, you are pretty much discarded, humiliated. You were left to die. What are the things that set the Christian faith apart from all other religions? And what are the things that made people sit up and take notice about people who said they loved Jesus was, the way they brought compassion. These people care for old people. They care for sick people. They care for the lepers. They care for the outcast. They care for people that nobody else cared about. They care for children. They care for women. They even care for animals. They had such great compassion.
And Jesus, what Paul is saying is, if you want to be just like Jesus, the first thing you need to put on, put on the shirt of compassion. Look with compassion at other people. Then he says, "Would you be clothed with kindness"? Put on the pants of kindness. That word kindness was used to describe wine that had grown mellow with age and has lost it's hard edge. And what Paul was saying was, just be kind every day. In the way you talk to people. In the way you treat people. I mean, listen, how different would our country be today if everybody just said, you know, for today, I'm gonna be kind to you. I don't care if you're a Democrat. I don't care if you're a Republican. I don't care if you're Liberal. I don't care if you're Conservative. I don't care if you're black. I don't care if you're white. Everybody I see, I'm going to be kind. And then he says, we're to clothe ourselves with humility.
Now again, 2000 years ago, that would have raised a lot of eyebrows because back in the ancient world, humility was not used positively. It was viewed negatively. People thought if you were humble, you were weak. You were cowardly. You were just to meek for your own good. And back in the ancient world, they said look, you don't wanna be under anybody. You wanna be over everybody. And there was nothing more humiliating than to be a slave or a servant. So in the ancient world, here's what they said. You wanna be successful, you step on the person under you. You get ahead. Don't you ever let them get in front of you. You look out for number one. Paul said, no. No. Why don't you put all the undergarments of humility?
Now let me just be honest, humility is a difficult thing for people. I mean, first of all, you can never tell anybody that you're humble. You have thought about that? I mean, at first, you know, you brag on your humility. You're no longer humble. So you can't really say you're humble and you can't really talk about it because when you make the statement, you're humble. You just invalidated the statement. On the other hand, if you try to act humble, sometimes people will call you out. They'll say you're not really being real. You're not being authentic. And here's what I've had learned about humility. God knows whether you're humble or not. And here's the key to humility. The key to humility is every day, and I try to do this everyday in my own life. You begin by just humbling yourself before God.
Now let me just say this to some of you, If you have a trouble with it, nobody is as great as they think they are. Let me just help you with that. I've told you before, I asked Teresa, I had just gotten out of seminar. I was pastoring my first church. And I thought I was kind of doing pretty good. We were driving down the road one day and I said, Hey, I wanna ask you a question. I said, how many great preachers in the world, do you think there are? She said, "One less than you think there is". So you know you, you've got to be careful about this humility. So let me just say this. Let me just get this out. Let me get this out right now. Those of you that know me, if there is anything good about me, is that Jesus lives in me. You take Jesus out of me. I'm gonna be honest with you. I'm not worth a whole lot. Clothe yourselves with humility. Then he says, "Clothe yourself with gentleness".
Now I want to make a confession. This is one piece of clothing, I sometimes forget to put on. This is not my strength. I was talking with a man. I did a Zoom call with a man yesterday. I only met him about two weeks ago. And I did a Zoom call with the man yesterday and we were talking and he said, "Can I tell you something"? I said, sure. He said, you're one of the most intense people I think, I've ever met in my life. And I had to say to him, I said, Jim, you know what? I said, that's the number one thing people say about me. I'm intense. Well, when you're intense, gentleness is not a strength. You know the word gentleness means, strength, power under control. It was used to refer to a calm wind or a healing medicine or a wild horse that had been broken.
And here's why you need to be gentle. A wind can become a storm. Too much medicine can kill you. A horse needs to be broken. But gentleness is power under control. Let me tell you what is, This is why I need it. It is the power to control your temper when somebody else is tempting you to lose it. It's the power to control your language when somebody is tempting you to say something that you know deep down, you really shouldn't say. It's the power. This is key. It's the power to let somebody do you wrong instead of you doing them wrong. And then finally he says, "We're to clothe ourselves with patience". And again, sometimes I'll leave that behind. And by the way, when he said patience, that doesn't just mean tolerating a long red light, or a delayed flight or a family fight. It means long tempered.
Now, I can going on a little bit. But let me just ask you this question. I want you to think about this with me. If everybody, listen to this, if every day we put on the clothes of compassion and kindness and humility and gentleness and patience, don't you think we'd get along? How could you not get along? They're the clothes we're to wear before others. Now some of you say, boy, this has already been tough. I'm not sure I wish I'd come back today. Well listen, he tightens the screws. 'Cause he says, there's another thing you've got to do every day if you were to get along with people. He said, "There's also the commitment we are to bear for others. There are the clothes, we're to wear before others. There's the commitment we're to bear for others".
Now, here's the question. How do you know you're putting on these clothes? How do you know when you get home at the end of any day in your life that you are wearing all the clothes that God laid out for you? Paul said, okay, here's what you will do. This is tough now. Get ready. "Bear with each other and forgive one another. If any of you has a grievance against someone forgive as the Lord forgave you". Now, let me just be honest. And nobody, I had to learn this real quick as a pastor. You learn it super fast. If you're going to get along with anybody, if you're going to make any relationship work, I promise you, there's two things you got to do with people. You're gonna have to bear with them and you're going to have to forgive them. Now that word bear with, literally means to put up with difficult people and put up with difficult problems.
Now let me just tell you something. Everybody's got to do it. Everybody's got to bear with people. Everybody got to put up with people. So how do you know? Because even had to do it. Even perfect Jesus said, there are just some people I just have to put up with. So how do you know that? I want you to do some stuff. I've never thought I'd notice this before. Jesus said this in Matthew chapter 17. Listen to this. Jesus answered, "O faithless and twisted generation. How long am I to be with you"? Now listen to what Jesus said. "How long am I to be bear with you? Bring him here to me". Even gentle, wonderful, Loving Jesus said, there are certain people I just get tired of. There are certain people I just have to put up with. But here's the truth, if you wanna be friends with somebody, work with somebody, married to somebody, you got to put up with a few things.
How many of you you're married? Hold your hand up. You're in the room. You're married. Okay. Let me ask you a question. Why do you think when I married somebody, I make them take this vow, "For better or worse". See the most people are married, they want to make it multiple choice. I'll take better, good and fine. No, it's better are worse. I'll tell you, I've been married four decades. I've learned, if you wanna enjoy the better, you got to put up with a bitter. That's just the way life works. I was reading one time. There was a Peanuts cartoon. I love Peanuts. And Lucy's talking to Snoopy. And Lucy said, you know, she said, "There are times you really bug me. But there are times I feel like giving you a big hug". And Snoopy looked at her and he said, "You know, that's the way I am. I'm huggable and I'm buggable". You know what? So am I. So are you.
We've got our huggable side. We've got our buggable side. And by the way, remember who was Paul writing to? He was writing to Christians. He was writing to people who love Jesus. He was riding to followers of Jesus. And here's what he said. He said, even the best among you, even the best of you who love Jesus the most, you know what? You're gonna disagree sometimes. You're gonna get on each other's nerves sometimes. You're going to get irritated. You're going to get frustrated. And you've got to learn to put up with people and with their faults in order to get along. Now, I hate to burst some bubbles, including my own. But let me just be honest with you, I don't care how hard you work. I don't care how much you try. I don't care how good you try to be.
Listen, people are going to find fault in you. They just are. You are going to say things that are just going to bug people. That word grievous literally means to give a cause for complaint. And I've learned even, There's a lot of times you don't even mean to do it. But you're gonna do something's gonna irritate somebody. You're gonna say something that's gonna offend somebody. Now, here's what I want you to hear. We all basically have one of two choices, 'cause there's only two kinds of people in the world. All right. You're one of them, I'm one of them. There are people who love to look over other people's faults. And there are people who love to overlook other people's faults. You find what you're looking for. You don't have to look, You wanna find a fault in me, just hang around with me for a day. You'll find plenty of them. You don't have to look hard. But you're gonna be one of two kinds of people.
Generally I wanna be the kind of person that just overlooks someone's fault or I wanna be the someone that looks over people's fault. I pastored five churches. Every church I pastored had have people in it. Their spiritual gift is finding fault. Their spiritual gift is criticism. They know how to do it. Paul said, we've got to bear with the faults of other people. But then he goes on. He said, it's not enough just to bear with one another. You've got to forgive one another.
Now there's a difference between bearing with someone and forgiving someone. You say, what's the difference? Well, when someone unintentionally or, you know, accidentally, they say something or do something that bothers you. It irritates you. Maybe they were careless with something they said. Paul said, you just need to bear with him. Just kind of overlook it and move on. But then there are times that people intentionally, on purpose. They say something, they do something to hurt you and make you angry. Paul says, now when that happens, you can't just bear up with it. You've got to forgive them. And you know what the word forgiveness means. Forgiveness is something that's freely offered. It's not necessarily deserved. And what Paul was saying was this. If you're gonna forgive other people that do you wrong, This is hard now. Get ready. You can't demand payment first.
If you ever put one word after the word forgiveness, you don't mean what you're saying. I will forgive you, if. That's not forgiveness. Paul says, no, it's gotta be freely given. Forgiveness is when you give people what they don't deserve. As a matter of fact, forgiveness is even better. When you forgive someone, you actually give people more than they deserve. So Paul tightens the screws. 'Cause he says, I know you're gonna fight back. I know you're not gonna like what I just said. So then he says this, "Forgive as the Lord forgave you". Don't, you just hate Paul sometimes? "Forgive, as the Lord forgave you". See, there are two things that are true so many times about all of us. Hurt people, hurt people. Though they shouldn't, they do. Forgiven people, forgive people. Though sometimes they don't. Hurt people, hurt people. Forgiven people, forgive people.
And by the way, if you don't understand what Paul meant, when he said to forgive as Jesus has forgiven you. Let me paint this picture. I want you to look at this picture right here. You know what that is? That's a picture of Jesus carrying a cross. Now people that day, when Jesus was walking to Calvary to die for us, they didn't pay that much attention to it. Most people said, "Well, here's another Jew getting crucified". 30,000 Jews got crucified. Wasn't a big deal. It was an everyday occurrence. But there was something different about this man that was in, from everybody else that was ever crucified. He was the son of God. And unlike everybody else, He wasn't dying for something he had done. He hadn't done anything. He died for what we had done. He died for what the people who crucified Him, had done. He was dying for everybody else. And what was so amazing was, the first words out of His mouth was to ask God to forgive those that were crucifying Him for what they had done. He said, you forgive as God has forgiven you.
Let me tell you something. This how you can know you've really experienced. God's forgiveness in your life, is when you're willing to forgive other people. If you've experienced God's forgiveness, you want to express his forgiveness to others. So they're are the clothes we're to wear before others. There's the commitment where to bear with others. But Paul wraps all this up with a Bowie. Really gets down to the nitty gritty. He says, "There is the compassion we are to share with others". Now, Paul does just kind of wraps it all up. And here's what he says. Now, watch how he ties this up. This just brilliant. "And over all these virtues," What virtues? Compassion, humility, gentleness, kindness. "And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity".
Now there's one thing I've learned as a man when you put clothes on. Particularly with pants that may be loose fitting, you better have a belt on or you can get embarrassed. Because a belt is what holds everything together. Paul says, if you don't have the belt of love, these clothes won't stay on you. He said the belt that binds all these other things together, is love. It's the glue that binds all these other virtues together. He said, love is the only thing that will keep all of these clothes from falling off of you during the day. When people try your patience and people hurt your feelings. And somebody cuts you off on the freeway. He said, the only thing that will keep your clothes on is love.
So let me put it to you this way. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with others, forgiving others. All that is, is love in action. You can have some of these clothes on and not have love. But if you have love, you'll have all of these clothes on. Let me put it to you. Think about this. I want you to imagine you got a tree in your backyard. And I want you to imagine, you go out and on that tree as this fruit and you look and you say, wow, here's the fruit of compassion. And here's the fruit of kindness. And here's the fruit of humility. And here's the fruit of gentleness. And here's the fruit of patience. And here's the fruit of forgiveness. And I come over and I'll say, man, I've never seen a tree like that before. Can I see the root? And when you look at the root, the root would be love. Love is the root. Compassion, kindness, humility, that is the fruit.
So Paul said this, what brings us together and what keeps us together and what holds us together is love. I have seen, the ugliest thing I've ever seen in my life. I've never been a part of one, come close. Ugliest thing I've ever seen in my life as a church split. Some of you probably been through it. And it's so ugly. But tell you what? I can promise you this. I don't care how many of you are Democrats? I don't care how many of you are Republicans? I don't care how many of you are gonna vote one way in the election? How many of you are gonna vote the other way? "I don't", read my lips, "I don't care". If we're to love Jesus like we ought to love Jesus and love each other like we ought to love each other. Nothing will divide this church. Nothing will divide this church. Nothing. Nothing or no one will divide this church.
There was a family Thanksgiving dinner. and this little grandson was fiddling with his grandfather's wedding ring. He was wearing it. And he was kind of fiddling with his grandfather's wedding ring. So it was grandfather thought, you know, this is a teachable moment. So he looked at his grandson and he said, "Connor". He said, "Yes". He said, "You know what that is"? He said, "No". He said, "That's my wedding ring". He said, "Really"? And he said, "Connor, I never take that ring off. You know why"? He said, "No. Why pop"? He said, because I love your nana. Connor looked back at him and he said, "Well, Nana takes hers off".
Now, what holds a marriage together is not the ring. You know what's held my marriage together for 44 plus years? It's the love behind the ring. That's what holds the marriage together. That's true of a marriage. It's true of a family. It's true of a friendship it's true of a church. So let me wrap this up. I want you to do an exercise. When you get up in the morning to go to work. I want you to imagine, when you get up. I want you to imagine on a chair, you got these clothes laid out. And I want you, you might wanna just write these down. Maybe put them in your pocket. I want you to say, okay Lord, today, I'm putting on the clothes of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. And I'm gonna wear them all day long. Here's what will happen. You know what will happen? You will do it without even thinking about it. You will bear with other people's faults. You will forgive their sins. And no matter what they do, you will love them.
So let me close. I came across this, I don't know where I found it. But I saw it was one of those God, things. That's what I wanted in my sermon. One of my favorite authors is CS Lewis. Loves CS Lewis. CS Lewis, was talking about the power of love. And I want you to listen to what he said, we'll be done. Watch this. Listen to this. "There's someone I love, even though I don't approve of what he does. There's someone I accept, even though some of his thoughts and actions revolt me. There's someone I forgive, even though he hurts the people I love the most. That person is me. There are plenty of things I do, I don't like. But if I can love myself without approving of all I do, I can also love others without approving of all they do. And as that truth has been absorbed into my life, it has changed the way I view others".
If you will love your neighbor as you love yourself. And if you love yourself and love your neighbor, the way that God loves you, you can get along with anybody. Would you pray with me? Heads bowed and eyes closed. If you're watching online right now, can I just be honest with you? Let me just say this to you. You can try to wear these clothes, can I be honest? They won't fit. They won't stay on, unless you know Jesus. Because only Jesus can tailor make these to fit you. And only the love of Jesus can keep them on you. And if you're a person right now and you're living in bitterness and anger and unforgiveness, frustration irritation. You've been putting on the devil's clothes, all of your life. If you'd like to change your wardrobe, you can do it right now.
You know what can happen to you, right this moment? You can be forgiven of everything you've ever done wrong or ever will. And it will give you the power to forgive others who have done you wrong. But it all begins with trusting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ, died on the across. He was buried. He came back from the grave, so that, we could be people of compassion and kindness and humility and patience and gentleness. And if you've never trusted in Jesus today, would you be willing to do that, if you'd say yes? Just pray this prayer with me right now. Wherever you're sitting in this room or wherever you're listening online. Right now just say this:
Lord Jesus, I wanna get along with everybody, but I can't do that until I know I'm getting along with you. And there's a barrier between us and it's called sin. I'm asking right now to tear down that wall. You died for my sins. I believe it. God raised you from the dead. In my heart, I believe it. I'm asking you right now, come into my heart. Change me. Save me. Forgive me of all of my sins. Thank you for giving me eternal life. And Lord, even right now, would you just do this, Lord for me? Just put on these clothes right now. Let me have the compassion, the patience, the kindness, the humility, and the gentleness that you wore all of your life. And thank you for changing me from the inside out.