Summary: Our Lord wants to enter into a heavenly contract with his people. Sermon explores three reqirements of God’s contract along with His reward.
Heavenly Contract - Matthew 10:32-33; 37-38; 19:27-30
We all need and use contracts. In the workforce, we use business contracts to make sure that parties are legally bound to perform their end of the bargain. When we purchase a home we take out a contract whereby the seller agrees to sell a home for a given price. Often the contract will contain certain provisions that detail some specifics of the sale. For example, the contract can contain a warranty provision whereby the seller pays for necessary repairs up to a certain amount, let say one thousand dollars. Repairs over that limit are the buyer’s responsibility. Sports contracts are extremely complex and often contain language that includes a base salary, a signing bonus, and incentive bonuses based on the athlete’s performance. Although sports contracts are legally enforceable, it seems that professional athletes often go to arbitration and argue the terms so they can get more money. Generally speaking, franchise athletes usually get their way. Oral contracts are harder to enforce in a court of law because it’s difficult to determine what promises were actually made. For example, parents make oral contracts all the time when they offer to pay their children to perform household chores. Oral contracts with your kids are like sports contracts because they almost always go to arbitration because children don’t understand what constitutes a clean house, a clean car, or a clean house. Nevertheless, this brings us to another point; contracts are often broken leaving parties to seek remedies that protect their interests.
Secular contracts are not perfect. Parties incur damages when contracts are broken. It’s part of human nature: people lie, cheat, and do not live up to their end of the bargain. We see this also with the “marriage contract” when marriages break down and spouses must settle disagreements in Divorce Court. Certainly there are prenuptial agreements, to ease the dissolution of assets, but in my opinion, a marriage is doomed if couples need a contract to plan their lives together, or should I say apart from each other. Broken contracts, broken promises, and broken relationships affect us all. They undermine our trust in others, force us to seek remedy, and simply waste valuable time. We are all affected by broken promises including empty words from elected officials. Our lack of faith in elected leaders is due to their broken promises and political pandering to gather votes rather than govern effectively. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that some promises can always be kept?
Today’s gospel reading taken from the Book of Matthew (verses 10:32-33; 37-38; 19:27-30) is about a heavenly contract with God. These chosen verses spell out our Lord’s expectations from His people in certain, specific terms. Basically, our Lord requires three basic things from us: (1) that we acknowledge Him, (2) that we love Him above anything else, and (3) we are willing to take up our Cross and follow Him. Just like any other agreement or contract our Lord also promises to reward His people for their faithfulness. Most important about God’s contract is that He can be trusted to fulfill His promises.
The first requirement of our contract with God requires that we acknowledge Him before all men. It’s interesting to point out that St. Matthew uses legal terminology to describe this requirement. The Greek word “emprosthen” (before men) emphasizes that the believer proclaim or make their confession regarding Christ in a public forum. Acknowledging Christ means publicly confessing that He is our Lord and Savior. Our acknowledgement of Christ is a deep-seated, heartfelt confession of what He has done and will continue to do on our behalf. Christian confessions of faith include elements found in the Nicene Creed such as that we believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and He was raised from the dead so that we can have eternal life with Him in the Kingdom. Acknowledging Christ is not only something that we do at present, but we are also called to repeatedly do in the future. Our lifestyle also should reflect our faith in God. This lifestyle should be rooted in an active, virtuous, and trusting faith in the Almighty God where we agree to answer His call for our lives at a moment’s notice.
Today’s passage also contains a warning to those who deny Christ. Denying Christ is renouncing Him and deliberately disowning Him. This happens when people make a conscious, deliberate decision to reject God out of fear for other men. For example, early Christians found themselves under attack by Roman authorities and were threatened by their lives to deny Christ. These faithful refused to deny Christ because their fear of God was greater than their fear of other men. Persecuted Christians understood that by proclaiming their faith they would only forfeit their earthly lives, however, their sacrifice would almost guarantee their inheritance in God’s Kingdom. Is our faith this strong or does peer pressure force us to compromise our faith?