Summary: Jesus died for the ungodly. That’s all of us. Our message as individuals and as a congregaion is to invite eveyrone to participate in the kingdom of God and wlak with Jesus.
Romans 5:6-11 “Inviting Everyone”
During the Sundays of Easter, which are the Sundays before the day of Pentecost, we will be focusing on the role of the church, specifically, Desert Streams’ mission statement. I’m sure that you all know it, or at least are familiar with it, “Inviting Everyone to a new life in Christ, a deeper relationship with Christ, and spirit-filled service for Christ.” We want o discover how these words apply to us as a congregation and as individuals, and how they shape who we are.
The first phrase that we are going to look at is, “Inviting Everyone.” To help us with our study, we will reflect on a passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans.
JESUS DIED FOR ALL
Paul is pretty clear, in this passage, about for whom Jesus died. Jesus died for the weak, ungodly and sinners. These are broad categories (and they are meant to be) that include everyone. Who isn’t weak—or the true meaning of the word “helpless—when it comes to our salvation? Who hasn’t been ungodly, or a sinner in our relationship with God. In an earlier chapter Paul writes that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
John writes that God so loved the world that he sent his son. The early Christian hymn that Paul quotes in his letter to the Philippians includes the words, “That every knee should bow and every tongue confess. And, Jesus sends his disciples into all the nations commanding them to teach and baptize. Jesus died for all and the gospel message is mean for all people.
INS AND OUTS
Though Jesus died for all people, that doesn’t mean that his followers have clearly understood that fact and allow it to shape their ministry. The Jews understood themselves to be God’s chosen people—a people above all others. Gentiles were despised and association with groups of people other than Jews was forbidden.
During Jesus’ ministry he kept widening the circle of who was in. He started with the Jews, but then included the gentiles. Jesus also reached out to children, women, the sick, and the demon possessed. One could say that whenever the Jewish leaders said that a person or group was outside God’s love and grace Jesus would make a point to include them.
In the early church, though, the Jewish Christians did not readily accept the gentile Christians. Pressure was placed upon the gentiles to become Jews first and follow Jewish laws before they became Christians.
The Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic excluded each other from God’s grace. After the reformation the Protestants and Romans Catholics declared that the other was not able to experience God’s love. As time evolved it was Lutherans versus Baptists and Presbyterians versus Methodists.
We humans continually keep drawing a line to separate those who are in from those who are out and God continues to erase the line or widen it.
We at Desert Streams have taken a stand and said that everyone will be invited and everyone will be welcomed to our fellowship and worship. As we look around the room today, I think that we have begun to reflect that goal. There is, however, pressure from all around us to exclude rather than include.
Popular thought in the United States and in some religious circles would exclude:
• The Muslim. They are lumped into the category of extremists and assumed to be dangerous. It is true that some have committed dastardly deeds, many hate the United States, and some want to destroy Christianity. They are, however, people for who Jesus died.
• Alien—especially illegal aliens. These people are unwelcomed. They are seen as taking from our wealth—what is rightfully ours. They are often seen as outside the circle of God’s love and grace. Immigration issues are complex, but we can still include them as people whom God loves and seek to work with them in a just, humane and loving manner.
• Alternate lifestyles. These people are viewed as a threat to our families and as willingly living in sin—against God’s will. In all reality we are all living in sin and often do things against God’s will. We do not need to agree with them, but we can still remind ourselves that God loves them and that we are able to love them and show them respect, too.
• Silent sufferers. These are the people who are all around us and who do not make the headlines. They are those struggling with the loss of a job, loss of house, stressed, bruised and broken relationships. People tend to exclude this group by stating that “It’s not my problem.” We still face the challenge that Jesus died for these people and loves them deeply. We are God’s body on earth and we are called to demonstrate God’s love to them in word and deed.