Sermon 7/3/16 Pentecost 7

Pastor Walther / Pentecost 7 / July 3, 2016 / Galatians 6:1-10,14-16/ The Law of Love in Christian Family

    We have officially come to the close of the letter to the Galatians.  If you didn’t realize, we have been walking through this book of the bible for the last several weeks.  We have been emphasizing this with a common service theme: No other gospel. What an appropriate weekend to end this series on the Galatians because we will be celebrating our nation’s independence, when we did away with the old system of kings and government and brought in the freedom that we celebrate today.  America prides itself on freedom.  Just like in the letter to the Galatians, Paul has reminded the people of that old stench of the past and being burdened by the law.  However, he reminded us Christians of the freedom that we have from the law as we live in God’s grace. 

    Being a part of that grace and being considered children of God, the Lord now invites believers to take part in his kingdom work.  That’s kind of cool! In other words, we have a new law.  But this law is not burdensome.  It is the law of Christ, the law of love! No law is able to produce love.  I can’t force choke you like Darth Vader from the pulpit and demand that you be more loving.  It would be absurd to think that I could force you into love.  The law can’t do that.  Only the Gospel can bring us peace in our own lives and help us to reflect the love that was shown to us through Jesus.  How amazing it is to wake up every morning and think, I messed up yesterday, but Satan can’t harm me.  I am a forgiven child of God.  How else do I express that that feeling other than thanking God and showing my love to others for what he did for me.  It’s not like I have to take a mission trip to some foreign country to demonstrate that I love the gospel. But, look at these verses! These verses are so needed for our Christian congregation and for our Christian family, especially in the light of an American holiday. 

    I am part of modern America, who has grown up with and seen the values of the world around me.  Values that I see daily which are not based on anything other than how people feel, values that have no foundation of truth to them, and values that have changed over the course of only several years. I am part of the younger generation that has felt the consequence of the actions of previous generations that slipped from church.  In other words, most of my generation has not grown up in any church.  I am part of a generation that seems generally apathetic towards anything and everything.  Religion takes a backdoor because it feels like a burden.  American atheism is on the rise.  In fact, there was just a “Reason Rally” in Washington DC, a rally meant to gain support of pushing religion out of politics, and pushing religion out of America in general.  We might view that as being un-American in the fact that they don’t want us to practice freedom of religion.  They may argue that religion hinders true freedom.  This may cause some people to argue one way or the other, but in general, we see so many people just not caring.  

    In this text from Galatians, I see something entirely different, something entirely appealing and interesting and inviting to what we have. We have Christian community through God’s Word.  That’s what people want.  They want community.  Sometimes we complain that we are losing the younger generations, but younger generations are very relational and like to be part of a community.  Sadly, most people now a days don’t walk into a church because it preaches God’s Word.  The don’t necessarily see the value in that.  But they see the importance of community.  If no one talks to them at church, why would they want to be here?  They want to be able to share with each other how they are feeling.  They want to be able share how difficult it is to have hope for the future. They want to be able share experiences. They want to be able to be loved and to share that love.  A Christian community fills those needs.  It isn’t a social club.  This isn’t some “One love” kind of silliness, because would a social club call people out on their sin? No way!  That isn’t how the world views love! The world views love as tolerance.  But eventually, that just feels fake.  It feels shallow.  Christian community is more than that.  It’s deeper.  It is a Christian family based on God’s love. 

    Sadly, we don’t always feel that Christian community here in the church, and that is our fault.  It is sort of like Kennedy saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  The same applies to a Christian community.  The church can put on so many events, or host different outreach activities, or have opportunities to gather around the word.  But if no one shows up, or if no one talks to each other, if no one shares with each other the physical and spiritual burdens that they go through, then there is no Christian community.  Here the apostle Paul gives us the thoughtful encouragement to remember our Christian brothers and sisters, because so often our minds get stuck on me, myself, and I.  Here the apostle Paul shows how to create that environment that is inviting to the people around us, to the neighbors around us, and to the generations that are looking for community.  Friends talk to friends about the truth of God’s Word.  Friends talk to friends about St. Paul, whether that is Christian friends or non Christian friends.  Now is the opportunity! Now is the time! Let’s not wait till our dying day when we realize we never invited that one friend to church, or worse their dying day.  Invite them to the community of believers where they will be loved more than anywhere else in the world or any other social club.  People will see that we are not governed by laws as so many people in the world think about Christianity.  They will see that we are not fueled by hateful religious fanaticism or bigotry.  We are not the caricature that they have drawn in their minds.  It is the complete opposite of what they were expecting: we are fueled by the love of Christ.

    Being a part of a Christian family means, though, that there are responsibilities.  While we have the time and opportunity on this earth, we look out for our Christian family.  We live in a world that is so enticing to our human nature. We often lose track of what is right and what is wrong.  That’s where our Christian family becomes so important.  You have to have someone in your life that can actually talk to you more than just about the weather or sports.  We need to surround ourselves with faithful Christian people that hold us accountable to the truth of God’s Word.  The most important thing, and I’ll be honest also the most difficult thing is that they will hold you accountable to things that you are keeping as priorities in your life above and beyond God and his Word.  Sometimes, that will involve confronting a Christian that they are sinning.

    As a Christian brother or sister, you aren’t there to make fun of a Christian who struggles with sin, or to measure yourself with them and see how you’re doing so much better than they are.  Instead, you’re there to be a helping hand.  What makes us tender and generous, meek and humble, sympathetic, and helpful toward others is the realization that we ourselves amount to so little and that we can often fall into our own pet sins just as easily.  We are to measure ourselves by God’s standard, the law of Christ, the law of love.  That takes pride right out of the equation and we put all of our pride in the forgiving nature of Christ. When you do struggle and when you do fall into sin, that friend that holds you accountable will point you to the grace of Christ.

    That is what a Christian family does. We look out for each other spiritually and hold each other accountable, but we also share with each other the love and grace of God. That’s what Paul means when he says that we “carry each other’s burdens.”  It is a genuine concern for the people in this church.  It is a genuine concern for their spiritual welfare.  And who are the people who lose out on most of those connections?  Often the children who show interest in church, but their parents don’t go. Or flip it the other way: The parents who physically can’t get to church and their adult children won’t take them. I’m not here to guilt you into taking someone to church.  But if we are deeply concerned about our Christian family, what better way to demonstrate your love than to simply come to church with them!

    The demonstration of love, fueled by the gospel, breathes life into our Christian family and into our Christian community. We don’t want a dying congregation that ends at 150 years, but a living one.  The interesting thing is that as Christ’s love breathes vitality into our ministry, something dies. In fact, its worse than just simply dying.  Something is crucified.  Crucifixion was the most disgusting, embarrassing, and shameful of deaths.  When Christ was crucified, we were crucified with him and the world was crucified to us.  Just like crucifixion was disgusting and a disgrace to the people watching, I now view the world as that disgusting disgrace that has no appeal. If you’ve ever heard someone say to you, “You're dead to me,” you know that you have no relationship anymore with that person.  All respect is now gone! The fact that I have been crucified to the world, and the world crucified to me means that there is no more respect.  I don’t find glory or value in the things of this world, or in the materials I can get, because the world doesn’t find value in me.  I look at the world as if it was on a cross, and the world looks at me as if I were on a cross, and I like that way because of what I have now in Christ. 

    All of this was brought about by THE cross of Christ. Without the cross of Christ, I wouldn’t have eternal peace. I wouldn’t have the deep Christian relationships and Christian community.  Without the cross of Christ, I would have assumed that the world was a good thing.  Without the cross of Christ in my life, I would do whatever I could to satisfy and indulge my shallow desires.  Without the cross of Christ, I wouldn’t understand true freedom. 

    But with the cross, we have life. We have freedom and forgiveness from the sin that we struggle with.  We have a Christian community that we can share with each other those spiritual burdens.  We are a new creation, created with the purpose of serving people. Like Paul said, “As we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”  We support each other with the gospel.  We look out for each other spiritually as we build that community and that family of believers, because that’s what family does.  Now is the opportunity! Now is the time! Amen.