CALL WEEKEND FOR SENIOR PASTOR CANDIDATE DR. ROBERT STEPHENS - DECEMBER 10 & 11

Who Are We Called to Be?

Pastor Eric Schneiderhan

One of the questions I have been praying about during this season is who are we called to be as followers of Christ in our current cultural context? The urgency of seeking the answer to this question always seems to be heightened for me during election years, but is one that has been on the forefront of my heart and mind throughout the past few years now. The truth is we are a divided people. Most of us can agree on that. It doesn’t take much to look around and see that we have divided ourselves into different camps defined by our political ideologies, and as a result we judge and label others through the lens of our political and cultural leanings. So, in light of this, who is God calling us to be?

There are many ways we can answer that question, but in this particular season I believe we are being called back to the basics; the answer starts with the way we love one another. In John 13:35, Jesus reminds us, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
 
The way we love each other and live in community with one another matters, so much so that it is THE thing that will help others understand who Christ is. It’s not by our words, or our understanding of theology, or by the fact that we go to church on Sundays, or which political party we align ourselves with, but by our love for one another.  The question then becomes, how?  How do we take this simple truth that is modeled and talked about throughout scripture and really hone it in, embed it into our DNA, and live it out?

I want to suggest that the foundation to loving like Christ loves is honor. It all starts with honoring one another. In fact, unless we take a posture of honor in our relationships with each other,  we cannot love like Christ loves. All other aspects of love flows from honoring one another. The apostle Paul talks about this in his letter to the Romans 12.

Before we dive into the scripture, it’s important to understand the context for Paul’s letter. At the time Paul wrote Romans, the church in Rome was divided over who was the most righteous; the Jews or  the gentile believers. On the one hand you have the Jewish Christians who are clinging to the idea that following the Old Testament law is critical in order to be a follower of Christ. Where as the gentiles have taken the complete opposite stance by asking why they even need the law at all if Christ’s death was sufficient. Therefore, there are strict divisions within the community about who is in and who is out, and it is Paul’s goal to remind them of the transformative power of the gospel and in so doing heal their division.

The first major chunk of Romans is Paul’s theological overview of the gospel and what the ramifications of the gospel are, reminding them that the result of Jesus’ death and resurrection is that there are no longer divisions between Jews and gentiles, but rather that anyone who calls on the name of the lord shall be saved.

Paul then picks up in Romans 12:1-2 by stating,
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
 
In other words Paul is saying, ‘Look, the gospel calls you to a higher view of one another than you are allowing yourself to experience. In fact, this division you have right now is not of Christ at all, but rather it is of the world. You are allowing yourselves to define your community by the world’s standards. But the gospel is transformative. The gospel takes the brokenness of the world, and the worlds standards and transforms them. You have been allowing yourselves to be defined by the world rather than by the gospel. So, I urge you, in light of God’s mercy, to be transformed so that your heart can be aligned with the heart of God.’

These issues that Paul is calling out aren’t unique to the church in Rome. And if we are being honest, we all struggle with this a little bit. The world suggests that community is exclusive, and exclusivity can be exciting and tempting. This idea that in order to be in the in crowd you need to believe certain things, act certain ways, and look the way I do is so prevalent in our current context. The world tells us that it’s all about me. And in order to be in close relationships with others, they need to agree with me, look like me, talk like me, and think like me. Or even more, the world tells us that it’s about my comfort and the way that I feel, and that bringing others into community can feel uncomfortable and awkward so we should just stay exclusive.

And it mourns me to say it, but the church is often guilty of being trapped in this mindset. Paul, however, is calling us to break free from the world’s standards and allow the gospel to transform our understanding of community. Because, remember, the world is looking towards the church and the way we model community in order to understand who Christ is.

In Romans 12:3, Paul goes on to say,
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
 
And then he goes on in verse 9-10,
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

The key to sincere love is taking a posture of honoring others above yourselves. Genuine Christlike love flows from a posture of honor. It sounds simple, but let’s not downplay how difficult this actually is. When the world is screaming at us to place ourselves on a pedestal, it feels impossible to not only bring ourselves off of the pedestal, but then place others on it above ourselves.

And yet this is exactly the type of transformation God is calling us to. We cannot love one another well until we allow ourselves to view others as greater than ourselves.
Jesus modeled this perfectly for us through his death and resurrection. Jesus could have viewed his own perfection as greater than our sinfulness and rescued himself from the cross. However, that’s not what he did. He not only honored God by being obedient to His will, but he also honored each of us by taking our sin upon himself in order that we would be saved.

So, let’s go back to the original question. Who are we called to be as followers of Jesus in our current cultural context? We are being called to be people who honor one another, and love like Jesus loves by viewing ourselves as less than. I don’t know about you, but I desire to see our divisions healed and to be a part of the solution, and I believe that this will only happen if we can allow ourselves to honor others above ourselves.

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