Love You Like A Brother

Sermon Text – 11.04.2018

[Galatians 3:26-29 and 1 Corinthians 9:20-23]           Today’s sermon is not part of a series, but I thought it would be a good bridge from last month’s series to this month’s sermon series which starts next week called Religions of the World – how do we as Christians interact with different religions that are out there? But to get us started in that theme today we are talking about the family of God – what that means, who that is, and what do we do with that information in our real lives.

          So we’re going to jump right into the text for today, in Galatians, where it says, [read v.26-29]. Now, it’s a little passage, but there’s a lot of good stuff in there. So let’s break it down a bit. Verse 29, “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Through Jesus we join the family of God. If you go back to the story of Abraham and all throughout Israel’s history, we join that story, the people that God promised to protect and watch over and never leave. We become a part of a new family. God is with us. And he promises to always be there for us. Now, if you read Israel’s history – that does not mean that nothing bad will ever happen. That’s not what family is. Think about this, being part of a family doesn’t keep the world from happening to you – it just means that when stuff happens – someone will be there for you to help you pick up the pieces of life. Someone will be there to hold you when it hurts too much to breathe, when you can’t take another step – someone will be there to throw an arm around you and help you limp across that finish line. We’re not perfect, but we are present. So the first thing we see is that following Jesus means that we become part of a new family.

       But what’s even more incredible than the simple fact that we have this family that we are a part of, heirs according to the promise, even better is the realization that this family is designed to grow! I was reading the second scripture lesson this past week, and I kept noticing this word. Listen with me, [read v.20-22]. Did you hear it? Win, win, win. I do all these things to win others for God. The family of God is not a closed group. You have to leave your sin at the door, but everyone is welcome in this place. We have been brought into the family of God, according to the promise, and so we have a responsibility to bring others into the family as well. The whole point of everything Paul was doing was to win others to Jesus, by finding common ground. And Paul wanted to reach EVERYONE. Those under the law, those outside the law – Paul offered the gift of Jesus’ forgiveness to everyone. From personal experience, I have to tell you, sharing Jesus, growing the family of God – it’s an incredible feeling. To watch someone turn their life towards Jesus, to start living with purpose instead of aimlessly drifting and seeking happiness in a thousand lesser ways.

          I have some good and bad news for you this morning. The good news is that God created humanity, all of humanity. The bad news for you this morning is that God created humanity, all of humanity. Our scriptures for this morning tell us very clearly that 1.) We are all welcome in the family of God. And 2.) we need to be working to grow the family of God. But what makes that difficult for us is that there are some people we want in the Family of God, people we want in our churches, sitting next to us in the pews, and then there are others we don’t. Flushing is kind of an interesting town. We’re really small, but we’re surrounded by a lot of big. In one direction, rural farmland all over the place. And in the other direction a big city just a few miles away. If you want to stereotype a bit, rural is usually associated with more conservative groups and big cities lean more liberal. And here we are in the middle of it all – not a big city, but not farmland either. In this place we have a lot of different opinions, even inside this church we disagree with one another sometimes. And the easy thing to do is to just pick a side and throw everyone else out. Lots of churches do that. They hardline every issue, pick a side and if you’re not on our side then get out. Even outside the church, this is how it works. Right? We pick a side, and we believe that this side is the answer to every problem and question we have. Because it is easier to attack someone than it is to listen to them. It is easier to blindly agree with your group than it is to actually think. But the good news that we have to wrestle with today is that God created humanity, all of it – even the other half. Truth is the lines we draw in this world don’t mean anything. God created republicans. God created liberals. There isn’t a political organization on the planet, no social justice movement, no non-profit, no form of government that is perfect and fully satisfying with all the answers. No corporate policy that will be enough, no supreme court lawsuit that will take away all your troubles. We cannot put our hope for salvation in the efforts of the world. There is no “side” that wins. What I’m trying to tell you is that no, republicans can’t win. They don’t have all the answers. No, democrats can’t win either, they don’t have all the answers. If you put all your hope and all your dreams of a better tomorrow in one group or another – you set yourself up for disappointment. There is no us and them – there is only humanity. Constantly drawing and re-drawing these arbitrary lines to keep us separate from one another. What I want you to realize this morning is that Donald Trump is a failure. Barack Obama was a failure. I, Pastor JJ, I am a failure. Stop hoping in human institutions to have all the answers. We will all fail you at one point or another. There is only one source of good that will never let us down – and that is the love of God found in Jesus Christ.

    Galatians tells us, [read v.26-28]. No matter who you are, how you identify yourself – there is only one identity that matters, our identity is found in Jesus Christ, nothing else. The bible talks in Romans 13 about how we need to clothe ourselves with Christ. So let go of all the other stuff that you think makes you who you are. Most importantly, let go of the fear. There is so much fear in our world. Those who don’t have power are terrified of those who do. Those who do have power are terrified of losing it. When we let fear control our lives, we stop loving each other. We stop reaching out, and start putting up walls – literally, sometimes. But when we clothe ourselves in Christ, when we wear Jesus in the world – we take on a new identity. Let me show you how it works. JJ might be afraid of other people – Christ is not. JJ might be cold and unloving and unsympathetic – but Christ is not. You might be afraid, or cynical, bitter or angry – but Jesus is not those things. As Christians, we put on Jesus every single morning before your feet his the floor. It’s the only identity that matters. Before you put on your republican hat, or your democrat hat or even you U of M jersey – clothe yourself in Jesus.


    Alright, so really that’s the application – live into your identity as a Christian. We are followers of Jesus first and foremost, so follow Jesus first and foremost. Make Jesus a priority in your life. Don’t be afraid. Put on Jesus. Actually, can we do a little back and forth? I’ll say “don’t be afraid’ and you say, “put on Jesus.” Don’t be afraid – Put on Jesus. Good, alright. But what if people think I’m weird, one of those religious people. Don’t be afraid, put on Jesus. But Pastor JJ, you don’t understand, the world is becoming more hostile to Christians. The culture hates us and makes fun of us, because we love God. Don’t be afraid – Put on Jesus. But what about the people from other cultures who hate us and want to hurt us? Don’t be afraid – put on Jesus. No matter what the world presents you with – don’t be afraid – put on Jesus. Our identity in Christ doesn’t change the way the world is – it changes who we are. There’s a lot to be afraid of, but when we clothe ourselves in Jesus, the rest falls away. I understand the desire to protect ourselves and our country, but we cannot make decisions and policies motivated by fear. We will not be cowards when we put on Jesus, even in the face of a dangerous world. One more time – Don’t be afraid – put on Jesus.
   So first we live into our identity as Christians, but the second part is to spread that love to others. Stop attacking one another, stop complaining about one another and actually DO something to help someone. Here’s why this is so great, and here’s why I don’t get up here and talk politics very much. You will never hear me endorse a political party or candidate from this pulpit. The church’s role is to praise what is good and condemn what is evil no matter what. And here’s why – the instructions are the same, no matter what other labels you use in your life. Follow me on this, there are so many different issues to take sides on. So many different opportunities to hate one another – and it’s so tempting to hate. Can we admit that? And yet not matter what other opinions you hold in life – our instructions are clear. Trump supporters, I know there are some in this congregation – your job as a Christian is to be as loving and caring as you possibly can be by reaching out and loving those around you. Trump haters, I know we got some of those too, your job as a Christian is to be as loving and caring as you possibly can be by reaching out and loving those around you. Do you hear an echo in here? Jesus is not interested in your labels or your politics. The invisible lines we draw and redraw to feel superior over the people around us. Live into your identity in the family of God, and then spread that love to others.

I love being a part of this church. This is a good place with good people. We’re not perfect, but we’re present. Broken people working together to know and love God. And this thing we do – church, seeking after Jesus – it’s worth sharing with the people around us. So that maybe, just maybe, when we reach out they might come to know Jesus too. I usually end my sermons with the same phrase – may you do this, may you do that. But you already know what to do – so please, go and do it. Amen.

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