Today’s sermon title can easily be construed to be divisive, for we live in a very polarizing time. Statements of “You’re either with me, or you’re against me,” “You hate America,” “Red state versus Blue state, Fly-over State, Liberal versus Conservative, Alternative Facts, One day the virus will just disappear.” All such statements give credence and affirm we’ll living in conflictual and divisive times.
A sermon titled “God Is For Us, Are You For God?” Further sets up a point of contention, and demarcation, are you with God, or are you against God? I fully realize Jesus himself stated in Matthew 10:34-36,
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother…a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”
Strong words to be sure, but don’t get it twisted, let’s look at it which is so vitally important always in correct context. That is both hermeneutically and in a correct exegesis manner.
Jesus was made this statement as he was commissioning them to go out and do both ministry and witness…”go to the lost, proclaim the good news, the kingdom of heaven has come near…if the house you enter is worthy, let your peace come upon it…if it is not shake the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town…See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves, so be wise…you will be dragged before rulers/authorities because of me…and you will be hated because of my name, but the ones who endures to the end will be saved…Do not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul/spirit, rather fear those who can kill both…Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven.”
Lots of embedded wording in the context of Jesus’ words; so how are we to understand words that taken by themselves are at the least contentious, and well within the realm of divisiveness. As always the Gospel, the “Good News,” is not always good news to hear, if your words are not words directed towards affirmation of life, of living and most assuredly of love.
When your words spoken, shared, or expressed are words absence of righteousness, of grace, devoid of concern, compassion, and the blessing s and well being that God created with, then blessed all that was created…but if and when words you speak or even think or words that divide, that hurt, harm, destroy and kill, and kill not just dreams, hopes and aspirations but spirit and body you’ve not understood or you’ve understood but have taken a position being over and against the word, will and nature of God, Almighty.
So as the title of this morning message asking or making the statement; God Is For Us, Are You For God? Which dependent where you are spiritually, how you understand the nature of God this statement can indeed be termed divisivesive.
So how and what are we to understand or say about v.31 of today’s text? “What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (v. 31).
When the Apostle Paul wrote this as shared earlier there were conflicts raging within the church, persons were staking out their positions. Some were traditionalist/conservatives opposing those who were new to the faith, and exalting Jesus Christ as the messiah.
There was rumblings in Rome and throughout the empire, as to who were really Roman citizens, and who was not. Those born in out-lying conquered nations were being banned from the Roman capital, being a follower of Christ Jesus only further added stress to an already stressful situation. And in the midst of all this the Apostle Paul writes and offers up his letter to those in Rome, caught-up, and living in their troubled, and challenging times, saying;
31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.[g] 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Romans 8:31-36)
There are lines of demarcation being formed, not about birth, or tribe, or social status, or racial lines, but about are you a believer and follower of Christ Jesus, if you’ve been baptized into the faith by water, you’re now being baptized by conflict, contention questioning and accusations.
Paul understood as Christ Jesus understood before his ascension when he both told and prepared his disciples to become apostles after his departure, knowing there would be fierce opposition and outright rejection, so we read in Luke 24:49 these instructive assuring words of Jesus;
“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
There are going to be differences, differences in understandings, differences in rituals what they mean, what they convey. Differences and conflicts about what is important, what we celebrate, when we celebrate it and why…but there are and ought to be some basic fundamental tenets of our faith. These tenets ought to be based on the nature of God, the purpose, teaching’s, example’s given to us the sending and sacrifice of Christ Jesus, God’s only begotten Son.
Righteousness, justice, grace and an understanding that all we see, all we know, and that which is beyond us, is not beyond God; And as God created all that we see, all that we sense, feel, think, smell, and dream about that God is the God we ought to hold in deep reverence, and offer unending praise, gratitude and thanks.
And with a grateful hear reflect such values and nature in our living, and offer witness of such to others, and for and to God’s creation which God created and blessed…
So be you conservative, libertarian, independent, or liberal, rural, or urban, red state or blue, if you are a baptized follower of Christ Jesus there are some fundamental tenets of our faith that should guide you, shape you, and be determining factors that if what and how you live your life is acceptable in both the sight and presence of God Almighty. And if they are then the closing words of chapter 8, of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Roman Christian Church ought to resonate with you when Paul writes concerning enduring conflict, and living with the love of Christ in your life and in your heart and spirit;
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.