Summary: Christians don’t fit in the world because we are not like the world. Sermon explores our relationship with God, God’s expectations from us, and His promises to us.
I Don’t Belong
Have you ever gone someplace where you just didn’t fit in? Do you ever remember being in a group and had the feeling that you didn’t belong? These feelings are prevalent when we move to a new city, or go away on vacation to a foreign country, or try to meet new people in unfamiliar surroundings. It’s awkward when we go to our significant other’s high school reunion or to a wedding where we just know the bride or groom. Equally uncomfortable is attending a party where we are the “outsider” and everyone else shares a common bond. Let’s say a co-worker invites us to his or her New Year’s Eve party. Once we get there we realize that we are the only one from the office invited and all his or her other friends are from the country club. All night long we must endure friends reminiscing about their golf game or tennis match and how Skipper got a hole in one, how Babs hit the tennis ball over the fence and into the pool, and that Billy Bob drove his golf cart into the creek. Even though we may know someone at a function we don’t always fit in and belong to the larger group. We need things in common to share a mutual bond. Generally speaking we bond with people that share our beliefs and similar likes and dislikes. That’s why, we choose friends that share our common goals, beliefs, and tastes.
Today I want to talk about relationships. Our epistle reading comes from 2 Corinthians 6:16 – 7:1. The passage speaks about our relationship with God. Our relationship with God is built on expectations and it prospers when we give back to God. Our relationship with God and with other people can only survive and thrive when we are giving people. Relationships fail when they are one-sided. Fortunately our Lord does everything He can to nurture our relationship with Him. Unfortunately, people prematurely cut God out of their lives because they don’t want a relationship with Him. Instead they want a god that they can boss around and tell what to do. When people cut God off they forfeit their blessing and enter into dysfunctional worldly relationships. How then can we improve our relationship with God?
Our relationship with God is built on trust, expectations, and mutual contribution. God expects things from us because of whom we are. In today’s epistle He calls us the “temple of the living God” and God expects great things from us because we are “holy” people. We are “holy” because His Holy Spirit dwells in the hearts and souls of His people. We are God’s temples. We are God’s homes. We are the place where God lives. You may be asking, how did He come to live in me? Look back to your baptism. At baptism we received the Holy Spirit and God took up residence in us. By extension, God not only dwells in each Christian, but also resides in the community of believers. God dwells in the midst of His people, He is present within us and is within this blessed Church. Since we are God’s residence, we can expect that God wants an orderly home.
Just as parents have ground rules for their children, God also establishes rules so we don’t mess up His home and ruin our lives. As a parent, I’m often concerned about my children’s friends and whether they come from “good” homes. I want to make sure that they will not influence or persuade my children to do improper or unsafe things. When my children want to go over to a friend’s house I want to meet their friend’s parents and make sure that they can be trusted. I want to be sure that my children’s friends and their families are responsible and will be a good influence for my children. We all know that troublemaker kids can lead our children down the wrong path and place their lives in danger. God also understands that the world can be dangerous for all His children. Just as a parent wants to separate their children from harm, God also wants to remove us from bad influences. God warns His people about the world in a passage that St. Paul quotes from Isaiah 52:11. The passage tells ancient Israel to move away from the pagan nations, to be separate from them, and to keep themselves clean from the pagan practices and beliefs. God wanted to remove Israel from the sinfulness of the ancient world. He knew that foreign influences would ruin His children.
Today our Lord wants us to be separate from the world’s corruption and wants His people to be distinct in the world. God hopes that Christians, (like ancient Israel) will make a clean break with the world because we are special and important. We are a new, holy, and blessed creation intended to be separate from the vile and perverse. God commands us to touch nothing unclean because He is afraid that we will become contaminated by the world and alienate ourselves by our disobedience. Our calling is unique; we are called to please God rather than be manipulated by the vices of the world. God’s expectations are for our benefit. They are there so we can receive His promises and blessing.