3rd Sunday of Easter – B LSB #’s 912, 553, 490
Text – 1 John 3:1b
The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.
THE REASON WHY
“It’s time to brush your teeth.”
“Because we brush our teeth after we eat.”
“Because we want to have healthy teeth.”
“So, we can keep on eating.”
“Because eating is necessary to live.”
Have you heard conversations like that? Maybe you were one of those children. Maybe you still are one of those children. Today, a lot of adults are asking “Why?” Why are so many people in our nation so angry? Why has the national conversation turned so nasty & so loud? Why has violence become so expected & so accepted as the norm?
Plenty of people are blaming Donald Trump. There are plenty of people trying to blame white supremacists. Others are blaming the radical left, who seem to hate everything that was good about America. Our politicians have become elitist members of society who hide behind their protective walls & no longer rub shoulders, on a daily basis, with the average citizen.
After many years in the driver’s seat, the Christian Church got lazy here in this country. We seem to have lost the ability to connect with a broken & hurting world in order to draw them to the love of Jesus Christ. Churches & parents have failed to form their children in the Christian faith. The younger generations of our society have been shaped far more by the culture than by Christianity. And the culture we live in is certainly no longer shaped & molded by the teachings of Jesus Christ. Our culture is drawing the broken & hurting away from the love of Jesus.
All of which has left us wondering, “Why do so many people in our country despise the teachings of Jesus? Why do our people insist upon inventing their own truth? Why don’t they long for the life that comes only from their Creator?” The apostle John gives the answer in the Epistle reading: “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.”
In recent years, people have tried making the case that unbelievers like Jesus, they just don’t like the people who follow Him. The sermon text today speaks very strongly against that lie. If you truly love Jesus, you understand why His followers sin in so many ways. Those sins have been true throughout history, yet the church has often thrived in spite of them.
To truly love Jesus means to understand how fallen, corrupt & sinful all of His followers are. To truly love Jesus means you understand that He died for us because of how fallen, corrupt & sinful we are. Christians don’t love Jesus because He’s such a nice guy. We love Him because He took the punishment that you & I deserve.
People who say they love Jesus, but not His followers, apparently think they are better than us. To truly love Jesus means you understand yourself as the apostle Paul did, when he wrote, “The saying is trustworthy & deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1 Timothy 1:15 ESV)
The “cancel culture” in the U.S. wants to cancel anything they define as unacceptable behavior. It they truly loved Jesus they would realize that they need to begin with cancelling themselves, instead of others. That’s what submitting to the will of God is all about, it’s about surrendering our own will. It’s about cancelling our own will in order to accept the will of God. Cancelling my own will can also be seen as a form of repentance, because my will, apart from Christ, is always headed in the wrong direction – the direction away from the heavenly Father. To repent is to turn back to the Creator & to His will for our lives, whatever that will may be.
Jesus taught much about the will of His Father in the sermon on the mount. Hopefully, you recall these words, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, & then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5 ESV) It’s pretty clear there why the cancel culture has no use for the teachings of Jesus. He calls us to cancel ourselves first.
The apostle John explains why the cancel culture does not know, understand or love Christians, & it actually has nothing to do with our sins. The cancel culture does not know Jesus so it cannot know those who trust in & follow Jesus.
However, before we wash our hands of the cancel culture, we should remember that in the sermon on the mount, Jesus also teaches, “Love your enemies & pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44 ESV) Like St. Paul, we are the foremost of sinners, yet our calling is to love sinners as Jesus loved us.
That was demonstrated well back in the days of Martin Luther King Jr. The movement he led faced brutal opposition, yet Rev. King insisted upon non-violent protests. His followers paid a heavy price, as did Rev. King when he was murdered. In spite of that, they held to their principles & eventually won the sympathies of many across our nation.
Fighting fire with fire does nothing positive. Instead, it burns everything down, including the souls of those who practice it. That is the work of Satan. Anarchy is his goal. Might makes right is his motto. Cancelling good wherever it exists is the devil’s battle plan, & his work has become very apparent, in our day, all over this land.
The civil rights movement of the 1960s followed in the footsteps of Jesus. Christ led a non-violent movement against the false religious teachings, not just of the Jewish leaders in His day, but against the false teachings & against the false hearts of all mankind throughout history. His followers have often paid a heavy price, as did Jesus when He was executed.
It was Jesus’ mission to die for this world. It is our mission to die to this world, so that we may live in the next. To this day, Jesus longs to gather us together under His wings. He was born to peasants & spent His first night on earth in a manger. This arrival, in absolute humility, was designed to draw us to Himself in love.
Almighty God could have simply cancelled the entire human race, yet He became one of us in order to lead us back home. Now, He calls us to gather around His Word. It’s a Word that teaches – marriage is a relationship between one man & one woman for life.
It’s a Word that teaches – God designed & created everything there is out of nothing. And since God created our planet & everything in it, we should value all of it & take care of it simply because it is a gift to us from God.
Yahweh calls us to gather around a Word teaching that our battles are not against flesh & blood. Donald Trump is clearly not the enemy. Neither is the radical left. Those who are attacking God’s children are those who have rejected God’s teaching & therefore the very love & life that God offers on the cross & in the resurrection.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is still reverberating through time. It is affecting our lives right now, this very moment. If Jesus did not rise from the dead there’d be no reason whatsoever for us to gather here this morning. Jesus’ suffering, death & resurrection have had a positive effect on our lives.
His resurrection is also reverberating through the hearts & minds of those who do not
trust in Jesus. Those who refuse to trust in the Creator find their identity in rebellion against Him & against His teachings. Because those who do trust in God are a constant reminder of the heavenly Father, those who refuse to trust in God also find their identity in rebellion against us & against the values & beliefs instilled in us by the Holy Spirit.
The world does not understand Christians, because it does not understand the nature & the love of the true & living God. Indeed, the world rejects its Maker in favor of itself & its own arrogant self-understanding. Rejecting God’s creation of the universe & substituting the theory of evolution is a classic example of mankind’s arrogance.
Until we are called to the glory of heaven, life in this sinful world is under the shadow of the cross. As Jesus taught in the Gospel of John:
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me.” (15:18-21 NLT)
The reality of the Cross in the Christian’s life must be taken seriously, but even under the Cross, God’s lavish love for the undeserving can still be seen. In 1900 the Boxer Rebellion erupted in China. Westerners gathered in Shanghai & other provincial capitals to seek asylum. There were daily reports of missionaries & faithful Chinese Christians brutally murdered.
Then came the blackest day of all. Up to 100 missionaries sought refuge in the courtyard of the Shansi governor, not knowing he was a leader in the uprising. All were executed. The question “Why?” trembled on the lips of more than one missionary. The need had been so great & now this waste.
In the grim stillness one missionary returned to his home 300 miles north. Soon, a stranger visited him. With his hard face & authoritarian bearing, he asked, “Do you remember the foreigners who sought protection from the governor of Shansi province?” The missionary replied, “I have heard.” The stranger sat silent a few minutes, then said, “I am captain of the bodyguard. I was in charge. To me, it was nothing. I am accustomed to killing. The governor does not like foreigners.”
“When they gathered at his door asking for protection, he replied, ‘I can protect you only by putting you in prison.’ So he put them in prison, but his hatred only grew. Then he gave me my orders. We led them out into the prison courtyard & lined them up. The governor told them they were all to be killed.” Scarcely breathing the missionary urged, “What happened next?”
The captain replied: “The strangest sight I have ever witnessed. Husbands & wives turned & kissed one another. Parents, smiling, spoke to their children of ‘Yesu,’ & pointed to heaven. There was no fear. They faced their executioners & began singing. And singing they died. When I saw how they faced death, I knew this ‘Yesu’ of whom they spoke must be God.”
“Can God forgive my so great sin? Is there nothing I might do to atone for my wrong?” The missionary thought of his close friend who’d been among those killed, & replied, “Our God, whom we serve, is a merciful God. Your sin is great, but God’s mercy is greater. This Jesus is His Son who came to earth to die for sinners like you. I too am a sinner.”
“Because Jesus died for you, God can forgive you.” The captain listened closely. Strange words these, to a mind schooled to hate, to kill: “Love… Forgive… Life.” What he understood he accepted. It was late when the captain left. The missionary sat thinking for a long time. Fresh in his mind were hundreds of new graves strewn across China.
But no more was he asking the anguished, “Why, Lord, this great waste?” The harvest had begun. God works in mysterious ways, which are often incomprehensible to us. If we truly respect Him as Lord & as God His incomprehensible ways will not be a problem for us. Yes, we may struggle. That too should be expected if we truly understand the depths of our sin. It’s not even wrong to ask, “Why?” but at some point we have to let it go & trust that God knows what He is doing & that He’s working all things together for the good of those who love Him. So John writes:
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, & what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” On the last day, once our bodies are raised or changed, sin will neither cloud our vision nor our ability to comprehend. We will most certainly recognize that day when it happens!
In this life, the unbelieving world will never understand us. The Holy Spirit has to convert them first, if they will allow Him to. And the reason why they will never understand us is that they do not know Jesus. Every day it is a blessing to thank our Lord that we do know Him & that He knows us. Amen.
O Christ, our hope, our hearts’ desire, Creation’s mighty Lord, Redeemer of the fallen world, by holy love outpoured: How vast Your mercy to accept the burden of our sin & bow Your head in cruel death to make us clean within. O let Your mighty love prevail to purge of our pride that we may stand before Your throne by mercy purified. Amen. LSB 553:1-2, 4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet