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|"The Family of God"
1 John 5:1-6
I can remember, when I was very
young, but old enough to begin to figure out the calendar, the
months, the holidays, and the special days, that I began to notice
that Mother's Day occurred on a Sunday in May and that Father's day
came on a Sunday in June.
And not knowing any better, I naively asked why there was no Sunday designated as Children's Day? My parents kindly responded, as I believe they should have, that EVERY day is children's day.
And I think that there is a parallel in the family of God. We have to be reminded to pay attention to God, to worship God; but God doesn't need to be reminded of us--God is always giving us full attention.
Yet, the family of God is both very simple and very complicated. It depends on how we want to define it. For me, we are all part of the family of God; all of God's creation is God's family. On the other hand, in the first letter of John, the first verse of the fifth chapter, we read, "Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God."
Now, does that mean that those who do not believe are NOT part of the family? Does it mean that those who believe in another Christ, another Messiah, are not part of the family? Does it mean that those who have no Christ in their lives are not part of the family?
I don't believe that God gives up on any of these folks as part of the family. But on the other hand, I also do not believe that they can experience the same participation in the family that I experience in my believing that Jesus is the Christ, that Jesus is the answer for my life. No answer that I know can bring me as close to God as does the answer found in Jesus of Nazareth.
And John goes on to tell us that "every one who loves the parent loves the child."
But to fully understand this, we must look to the Gospel according to John, the forty-second verse of the eighth chapter: "Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here.
“I did not come on my own, but he sent me."
Now, some of this may sound a bit strange to us in our contemporary world, but I think that is because we make a couple of mistakes. First of all, we may wonder whether it is logical to believe that we should love the child just because we love the parent.
I've heard people say things like, "I really like those folks, but I can't stand their kids." And I think that this is a superficial response. We are responding to what is convenient or inconvenient for us.
Certainly, we can disagree with the way people lead their lives; and we can disagree with the manner in which children are reared; but is that reason to deny love? If we truly love people, we should also be caring and concerned for their families.
Love does not stop with surface impressions; it moves deeply into a true caring for people's lives.
A second mistake we make, if we can call it a mistake, is that parents carry too much guilt within themselves for what they see as failures in the rearing of their children. And somehow, we feel that we didn't love enough, or we didn't love correctly. We take too much responsibility, expecting everything to be perfect, and feeling awful when everything is not. But God doesn't operate with short-term plans; God operates with long-term visions.
And we should not doubt our love for our children, but put our trust in God to help us toward the long-term vision.
To love the parent IS to love the child; but we must seek an understanding of that relationship as God would look upon it.
"By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments." And that verse is really written backwards, because we have the conclusion first.
I hear it telling me that if I love God, and if I obey the commandments of God, then it follows that I love the children of God.
"For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome."
And we are reminded of the closing verses of the eleventh chapter of the gospel according to Matthew:
"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
And if we have doubts that the commandments are not burdensome, we should look to the thirty-ninth verse of the twenty-second chapter of the gospel according the Matthew, when Jesus tells us of the second of the two great commandments: "And a second is like it, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
That's simple enough, isn't it? But then, maybe it's too simple. Maybe it's so simple that we just acknowledge it and forget it. Would we be better off if God had made it more complicated?
Would there be fewer bombs and bullets, less violence and destruction in the world if the instructions were more complicated? I doubt it. Rather, it is my belief that the simplest truths are the eternal truths.
Truly loving our neighbors has always been and always will be the answer in God's world.
Last week was Mother's Day; and I think it is especially important to remember that every human on this earth was brought to life by a mother's love; and just as that person deserved that mother's love, so that person also deserves, in spite of politics, economics, race, color, or religious beliefs, that person also deserves the love of humanity.
But do we think of humanity as being the family of God? Do we even think of the rest of humanity as being a network of families? Perhaps we should.
In some wars there have been hideous untruths circulated sending the message that the enemy was really less than human, that it had no sense of family, no sense of love. But for me, to believe such a message is to deny God.
And John goes on to tell us, "For whatever is born of God conquers the world; and this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith." In the thirty-third verse of the sixteenth chapter of the gospel according to John, Jesus tells us, "I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world." But is the person of Jesus ALL that has conquered the world? I don't believe so. If that were the case, our hope is futile.
Rather, I believe that Jesus as the Son of God represents that truth which conquers the world.
And when we are told that whatever is born of God conquers the world, I believe that we are being told that to be born of God is to be born in God's truth as made manifest in Christ.
All who are born into the world are born into the family of God and become part of God's body in the world; but to CONQUER the world, we must find the truth of God in God's promise fulfilled: and that fulfillment is found in Jesus Christ.
As I see the world today, and as I think about what the word "conquer" means, I see an amazing irony.
For those who seem most intent on conquering the world, those most intent on building empire, are those who are the most power-hungry, the most greedy, the most violent. And they make all the headlines.
But what has always happened throughout history has been that these power-hungry persons and groups have ultimately been conquered BY the world. And if they have left anything with us, it has been history of horrible examples.
On the other hand, those who have not sought personal gain, but have sought the truth of God, have succeeded in leaving positive examples of truth behind them. Consider Jesus of Nazareth. Consider Martin Luther. For that matter, consider ALL those persons throughout history who have sought to love their neighbors. THEY have conquered the world.
Contrast the poor, itinerant preacher from Nazareth with the massive, wealthy Roman Empire, that played a role in bringing about his death. I'm sure that the Romans believed that they had conquered the earth, and that their empire would last forever.
They considered Jesus a minor annoyance. Pontius Pilate was insulted that he had to be stationed in Jerusalem, which he considered a dumpy place in a dusty outpost of the empire.
When he washed his hands of Jesus, he probably thought he was just wasting his time.
But John gives us the conclusion in the question: "Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?"
One of the most popular, if not THE most popular, songs of movements of social liberation, and best know in the African-American liberation movement, is "We Shall Overcome." But much as I like that song, I have a slight disagreement with its message.
It tells me that sometime, out there in the future, overcoming will take place. But for me, the overcoming which happens for the Christian is already taking place. It is in the process of happening as we believe.
It is not something that we wait for, or look forward to, but an event that is happening right now, that we can celebrate right now. For in the believing in Jesus as the Christ, as the Son of God, we have moved beyond the earthly; we have joined a journey toward a oneness WITH God that grants us the experience OF God in the here and now.
But I need to qualify this. When I speak of overcoming, I don't mean a subduing, a conquering, an overwhelming, or even a radical, dramatic changing of the world as we know it. I mean a moving beyond, within the mind of God.
God's time is not our time, and the changes we might desire on this earth may be slow to come; but that does not prevent us from joining the mind and truth of God in the present.
"This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood."
But why is John making a big deal of this? Why the emphasis? I think he's calling us to the symbols of Christ's life and Christ's death. But more than that: in the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, John the Baptist balked, saying, in the fourteenth verse of the third chapter of the gospel according to Matthew, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"
But he baptizes him, and in the seventeenth verse we learn that a voice from heaven speaks, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." And we have a specific sign that Jesus is the Christ. In the crucifixion, we did not have such a sign.
But it was to follow, in the resurrection on the third day, and in the appearances of Jesus afterward. And Jesus did not overcome merely the world, but death as well.
In the months of May and June, when we celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Days, I believe that it is well for us to give thought to our place in our families and in the family of God. How do we fit into our families? How do we fit into the family of God?
How do we fit into the MIND of God?
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