Summary: What Makes for A Good Christian? 1) One who is watchful and forgiving; 2) One who knows that faith is more portal than power;3) One who realizes that doing God’s will is simply our duty.
The Major League playoffs are in full swing. Contenders for the World Series title have been narrowed down to four teams. Which of the four teams will win the World Series? The team with the best pitching will win. If you have good pitching, your opponents’ bats will be silenced so that even if you only score a run or two, you’ll still win games.
Now you may not care that good pitching makes for a good baseball team but you should be interested in what makes for a good Christian. A good Christian, Jesus tells us, is one who is watchful and forgiving; who knows that faith is more portal than power; and who realizes that doing God’s will is simply our duty.
Jesus begins our devotion with some plain talk about sin. He said: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. 2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. 3 So watch yourselves” (Luke 17:1b-3a). As long as we live in this world, temptation to sin will bombard us. While we can’t stop these temptations from coming this is no excuse to rush headlong into sin. Jesus especially warns against doing anything that would lead others to sin. He says it would be better to have a millstone (a round stone as big as a boulder) hung around our neck and be thrown to the fish than to promote sin.
That’s a strong warning for us parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and older brothers and sisters isn’t it? When those younger than us watch and hear us what do they learn? Do they learn how to be patient and calm even when SuperStore has run out of yogurt and only has three cashier lanes open? Do they learn how to respect and honor teachers, or to make fun of them? Do they learn to tell the truth, or do we ask them to lie for us and say that we’re not home when someone calls that we don’t want to talk to? “Watch yourselves!” Jesus says. Don’t be the cause of someone else’s sin.
But don’t just watch yourselves; watch one another. “If your brother sins,” Jesus said, “rebuke him” (Luke 17:3a). We are to watch out for one another and call each other to repentance because sin damns and we don’t want anyone to suffer the eternal consequences of impenitent sin. Jesus, of course, doesn’t want us to do this rebuking in a self-righteous manner (Matthew 7:3 ff.). We should rebuke sin the way a doctor points to a tumor on her patient’s MRI. A doctor who says, “It looks like you’re getting what you deserve for your unhealthy life-style,” or “My MRI scan would never look like this” isn’t going to last very long in the profession. In the same way if we rebuke others without first humbly acknowledging our sins, we don’t show ourselves to be good Christians. Instead we show ourselves to be like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day: self-righteous and hypocritical.
Unfortunately our society has conditioned us to believe that any talk of sin is out of line. We’re told to mind our own business because the “sin” we see others committing probably isn’t hurting us anyway. But Friends, Jesus doesn’t just want us to rebuke sins committed against us, he wants us to rebuke any sin that we are aware of. Ignoring this command of Jesus is dangerous for all. Let me try to illustrate how that is. Everything was great on that flight to Hawaii until a passenger decided to cut a hole in his window. What was even stranger is how none of the other passengers said anything as the man sawed away at the Plexiglas. What could they do, the other passengers reasoned? If that man wanted to let everything not bolted down in the airplane fly past him out his open window, well, that was his problem, not theirs. Not their problem? Of course it was their problem! They should have tackled the man and taken his saw away, for the action of that one man would adversely affect all passengers aboard that flight (adapted from illustration in Concordia Pulpit Resources Volume 11, part 3, page 13).
Fellow members of St. Peter, when we think that the sin of another Christian is none of our business, in time our whole congregation will crash and burn. That’s why Jesus gives us steps to deal with sin (Matthew 18). The purpose of church discipline is to save souls. Therefore it’s worth doing the way God wants it done. Rebuking sin shows us to be good Christians because it shows that we care.