Too many times, we as the church forget that we were once sinners. We forget that we have not always been God’s people. We have not always benefitted from God’s adoption. We have forgotten that we were not citizens but aliens. We were not friends but strangers.
We pretend that we are holy. We pretend that we are righteous. We pretend that we are complete. We pretend that we are whole. We pretend that we are well. We pretend that we are happy. And we pretend that we are the rightful heirs to a kingdom that is not ours, to an authority that is far beyond our reach, to a future that we cannot secure. We have an entitlement complex. We have our spiritual riches, and we use them to malign and disregard those who are most vulnerable and in need of the gospel.
When we pretend that we are anything but a church full of hurting sinners, we not only deceive ourselves and others; but we also say to God that it is not enough to be adopted as God’s children and to receive God’s blessing. We want blessing, always and only blessing.
We are hiding from the fact that we are still sinners, that we still struggle, that we still fall, that we are still hurting, that we are still sick and dying people. We are hiding the fact that we are not any better than anyone else. We are hiding that when we think we need to protect ourselves from a sinful world, we really just need protection from ourselves. We ignore the truth of God’s salvation in our lives. We ignore that our holiness is rooted in God’s call. We ignore that any righteousness that we have is God’s, not our own.
Worse yet, when we do these things, we are lying to the people that are around us. We want people to see us as happy, saved, put-together people. We want them to see our joy. We want them to see the difference. We want them to notice how much better we are than they are. The truth is that we are not any better. There is no sin of the world that is not also the sin of the church.
The church is then seen as hypocritical; because of our failure to be honest about our sin. We fail to tell others that any grace that we have is through adoption, it is not our own.
So our false piety becomes an act of condemnation. We forget that with every self- righteous statement, there is an implied condemnation: “But you do.” I do not say those things, but you do. I do not behave that way, but you do. I do not get involved in situations like that, but you do. I do not go to those places, but you do. I do not associate with people like that, but you do. We say these things in a damnable forgetfulness that there is no such thing as “those people.” There are only people. There is no circumcision. There is no un-circumcision. There is no us. There is no them.
This lie of division, distinction, and difference is a cancer to the church. It rots our mind until we know longer know that it is a lie. It rots our body, until we cannot reach out. It rots our hearts, until we cannot love. It is a lie birthed in pride, raised in apathy, and propagated in fear. The sure sign that we have believed this lie of false distinction is when we have more fear of the world, than love for the world.
To forget that we have been adopted into this family is not only a sin against ourselves and others. It is also a sin against God. It shows a lack of gratitude for what God has done for us, by belittling how great our salvation in really is. We act as if we are basically good people, who were saved on into the kingdom of God. The reality is that Christ died to save sinners, of whom I am chief. By denying the greatness of our sin, we deny the greatness of God’s salvation.
Thus our lack of gratitude becomes failure in worship. Our salvation is meant to be to the praise of the glory of God. That is the ultimate goal of our salvation, that God would be glorified in it. When we diminish the salvation of God with our ingratitude, we are withholding the worship, praise, and glory we have to give, and that God is due.
For us, this presents itself in a lack of obedience to God in following the example of Christ. In our embrace of this false distinction we cripple our ability to minister in the ways that Christ did. We limit our contact with the sick, un-kept, and diseased. We alienate ourselves from the poor, the destitute, and the foreigner. We would not be caught dead doing the kind of ministry that Christ did.
The church must always remember that God is the Father of all (not some, not us, not them, not the circumcision, not the un-circumcision), but all. This truth is not some far-fetched idea. It is central to the Christian faith. There is only one Church. There is only one Spirit. We have one hope, in Christ. We have only one faith, and there is only one baptism. There is only one God, and this God is the God and Father of all. This Father is above all, through all, and in all.
It is a message that brings hope and joy. It is a message of good news. It brings hope and joy to all. It is good news for all. It is a message that must be shared. It is a message that must be proclaimed.
We are all children of God, and God has destined us to be adopted as his Children. We did not get here on our own, it is by grace alone and faith alone. We must not take credit, when credit is not due. We must never pretend that we are anything other than what we are: hurt people, broken people, sinful people, dying people, people with problems sadness and depression. However, we must also not despair of being these things; because we know that Christ did not come for the well, but for the sick. God came to find the lost, not the found. God came to heal the lame, and not the able. God came to give sight to the blind, not the seers. God came to save sinners, not saints.
Sermon Fragments from Father’s Day 2013 on select passages from Ephesians.