Scripture: 1 John 3:11-20
Sermon prepared by Rev. Christopher Fluit, Brooks, AB
I would like to tell you the stories of three people. The first person’s name is Shane. Shane was a farmer and he specialized in grain. Shane happened to have a brother by the name of Bill. Bill was also a farmer although Bill happened to be a cattle farmer. He raised his cattle for beef.
When Shane and Bill had been young boys, they had not gotten along. Part of that had to do with Shane himself. Shane had a temper. Shane had a lot of anger in him. At the slightest provocation, he would erupt. So all the time they were growing up Shane and Bill would get into fights. They were constantly at each other and since Shane was the older brother, he was constantly beating up on his younger brother. His parents tried to do the best they could to keep the boys separate, to keep the peace. But it never really worked.
Now Shane and Bill were all grown up. Each had a family of their own. Each had a farm of their own, and each was fairly successful in his own right. But partly because of this temper he had, Shane wasn’t well liked in the community. He didn’t have a lot of friends. People didn’t like to deal with him if they could avoid it. But Bill on the other hand was well-known and well-liked. He was invited to participate in all kinds of things, and he was generally well-regarded. There came a time when Bill was honored by the community. He won an Outstanding Achievement Award. Shane was jealous of his brother. He was just as hard a worker as his brother, his farm was just as profitable, just as good. And Shane said to himself, "They recognized Bill! My worthless little brother." Then one day Bill came over and Shane asked him about the award, and Bill started gloating. Gloating a little bit about how people liked him better than they liked Shane. Shane had been fuming on this for weeks and finally his temper came over him. And like he did when they were little kids, Shane hit his brother. It felt so good, he did it again. And then he pushed him and Bill fell and hit his head and cracked it open and he died. And Shane because of his temper and his anger killed his brother.
We are going to leave Shane there for a second and I am going to tell you another story. This story is about a woman named Joan. Joan was a doctor, a very good doctor, well regarded in her profession. Joan was also very committed to the church and to community involvement. She wanted to make a difference. That is partly why she became a doctor in the first place.
Joan had an opportunity to go to Africa -- to Zimbabwe, and do medical work in some rural villages. She could improve the lot in life of these people. Joan had a good friend, another doctor by the name of Terri. Terri and Joan decided they were both going to take advantage of this opportunity and go to Africa. So Joan and Terri both took a leave of absence from the hospital and went to Zimbabwe and they began to help people. They set broken bones, they gave out medicine. They began to have a positive affect on people’s lives and they started to feel good about this . . . but while they were there, there came a horrible storm, a hail storm that ruined the crops of many of the people they were working with. There had been a religious leader in the area, someone that we would call a witch doctor. People came to him for herbs and healing. He said this hail storm was the punishment that God had brought to these people because of Joan and Terri. So the people that Joan and Terri had been helping turned on them. They stole the medical equipment and they threw it away. They knocked down the house and Joan and Terri were afraid for their lives. They didn’t know what they would do and they were even a little unsure of whether they would be able to get back home. They wondered to themselves, "Why would people do this? We were only trying to help them. We were only trying to make their lives better. We were only trying to do some good."
And just as we left Shane in his kitchen looking over the body of his brother we are going to leave Joan and Terri for a moment there in Africa. I am going to tell you the story of a third person, a man by the name of Jesse.
Jesse, like Shane, had a brother, although Jesse really got along with his brother. His brother was named Evan. They had grown up and Evan had developed kidney disease. It was quite possible that Evan would die from his bad kidneys. The doctors told him, "It is possible that we can save you, but we will need to remove your kidneys and we need a donor, so we can give you a new kidney, because without a new kidney you will die." Jesse loved his brother Evan, so he volunteered to be the donor. They went in to do the test and found out that Jesse was a perfect match. Jesse said to Evan, "Let’s do this. I am going to give you my kidney."
Now this is Canada, our doctors have done these operations thousands of times and they are fairly routine. But any time you are cut open, any time you are under anesthesia there is always a little bit of danger. Things went very well for Evan. They removed the bad kidneys and they brought over one kidney from Jesse and put it in. His body accepted it. It began working. It cleaned out his system and Evan was going to live; he had been healed. But things didn’t go quite so well with Jesse. There were complications after they took the kidney out. Jesse ended up dying during the process of giving his kidney to his brother. Those are three stories. You are invited to go back with me to that first story: the story of Shane and his temper and his anger and how it finally erupted and led him to kill his brother Bill. When we started, maybe we were a little sympathetic to Shane, but when we ended we were reviled and we recoiled from Shane and we wanted nothing to do with this person, with this Shane. We don’t want to be him, we don’t want to be like him, and we don’t even want to hear his story. And yet there is a part of us that resembles Shane.
It’s a part of us that occasionally lets the whole of us be consumed by sin. For Shane it was anger, but maybe for us, it is envy, or pride . . . but we find we do things we wouldn’t want to do. We do things that we know are wrong and sinful and yet we can’t stop ourselves. As much as we hate to admit it, we can see ourselves in Shane. We can see how we might have lost control. All of us know that we have a little bit of Shane in us. A Bible passage addresses this in Titus 3. There, the Apostle Paul writes: "We too were foolish and disobedient, enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures, and we lived in malice and envy, hating and being hated by one another." We are all like Shane.
"But the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared to us." Jesus Christ saved us because of his mercy -- not because we were good people, not because like Bill we were well-liked and well-respected. He saved us because of the love he had for us. Because of the salvation of Jesus Christ we are no longer Shane. We are no longer victims of our own malice, anger and jealousy. Jesus Christ came. The Son of God came down and became one of us. He became a human being like us, except that unlike us he never did anything wrong, and he never committed any sin, and he never had one of those days when he was more like Shane.
Yet despite the perfect life that he led, Jesus was killed. He was executed. God has decided that the death of this one perfect man, Jesus, pays for all our debts and all our sins, even the sins of anger and murder of a man like Shane. But more than that, Jesus sacrificed himself to take away our sin. Those who believe in him and accept his offer of forgiveness and salvation, receive the spirit of Jesus Christ. That spirit works within each person so that whatever sin we have, that sin loses its control over us and we become more and more like Jesus. So if we accept this offer of salvation and forgiveness from Jesus Christ, you and I don’t have to be like Shane. That is a good thing, because none of us want to be like Shane.
Now, I would like to tell you that once Jesus saves us and heals us of all our sin, nothing bad would ever happen to us again. I wish I could tell you that. It is true that Jesus will give us his Spirit and we are going to become better people. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that our lives are always going to get better or that we are always going to be well-liked. We have been embraced by God. We have been showered by his love and affection. But, unfortunately, that doesn’t always relate to how other people treat us in this world. This world is full of people like Shane. Do you remember the story of the two doctors, Joan and Terri? They were just trying to help the sick and underprivileged. They were just trying to make this world a better place, just trying to do some good. Why would anyone want to hurt them? Why would anyone show anger towards them and maybe even want to kill them? Wouldn’t these two doctors be honored and embraced and held in high esteem? The sad truth is it doesn’t always work that way. Those who try to help and to do good works are often treated with scorn and contempt. It happened to the author of the letter of John. John was one of the followers of this man Jesus who saved us. John along with others started to go out and spread the good news of this offer of salvation. As offer of the proof that what they were saying was true, John and the other disciples healed people. Miraculously, they healed people of diseases. In Acts chapter 4 we are told of an instance. Peter and John had healed a cripple and they were arrested. They were put on trial for doing good works. In their defense, John and Peter say, "All we did was heal someone. Now you are going to imprison us for doing good? You are going to imprison us for telling people about salvation and for healing them from their illnesses?" John and Peter were thrown into prison and it was quite likely that they too, like Jesus the man they had followed, would be killed. However, John and Peter escaped and they were able to go on healing and spreading the good news of the Lord. That’s what happened to John for doing good works: he was arrested, imprisoned and nearly killed for doing good works.
You would think that 2000 years after that, we as a society, as a world, would have progressed and would not do anything like that. But it still happens to doctors, nurses, and missionaries and people who try to do good. They are rejected and kicked out and sometimes even killed. John says, those who follow Jesus should expect that. It shouldn’t surprise us. When we try to do good, the Shanes of this world will have hatred and anger for us. Look at the way people reacted to Jesus. We can feel the love and compassion of God overwhelming us. We can share it with other people through mercy. Yet not everyone is going to welcome it, not everyone is going to like us for doing good. Like John and Peter and like Joan and Terri, doing good might get us into a lot of trouble. So sometimes we think to ourselves, "It’s just not worth it. I am just not going to bother doing good anymore. I tried to do something nice for somebody and all they do is get mad at me." But for a Christian, that’s not really an option.
Let’s go back to the third story -- the two brothers Jesse and Evan. Now imagine that you are Evan.Your brother died that you might live. Imagine how you would react. Imagine how you might feel about that.
Now imagine they present to you your brother Jesse’s will and it says, "I want my brother Evan to raise my children for me." Are you going to say no? Are you going to turn him down? This person that was willing to die for you. When he asks you to do something, aren’t you going to fulfill every obligation? We are Evan. We are the ones who saw a brother die that we might live. I have already told you about Jesus and how he died. God said, "I accept that death as payment for the sins and debts of the whole world." He died that you and I might live. That we might be forgiven and have eternal life. We are Evan. In the Gospel of John we read, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lays down his life for his friends." In today’s passage, in the letter of John, we read, "Jesus laid down his life for us." We are Evan. And Jesus has asked us to do certain things for him.
Before he died and after he rose again, Jesus asked us to do something for him. "This is the message you have heard from the beginning, you should love one another." The one who was willing to die for us has asked us to love one another. He has asked us to do good.
John says, he has already shown us, how to love one another . . . first you lay down your life for somebody. And if that isn’t necessary, then you give to the needy. When you love one another you don’t just do it with words, but with actions. You do it whether or not the world gets mad, whether or not they blame you for the hail storm. Whatever the reactions of the Shane’s of this world to the good that we do, we don’t want to be Shane. For we know that we are the ones who have been given life by Jesus Christ. We are going to do the good he has asked us to do. Love one another, that is all he asks. Amen.
*Silent Prayer (followed by RB 53 "Open our Eyes")
*Call to Worship
*Opening Song: PH #239 "Amid the Thronging Worshipers" God’s Will For Our Lives: Matthew 19:16-19 and 22:34-40 Hymn of Obedience: PH #287 "Have Thine Own Way, Lord"
*Hymn of Preparation: PH #286 "Lord of Creation, to You Be All Praise" (v. 1 all, v. 2 men, v. 3 all, v. 4 women, v. 5 all)
Scripture: 1 John 3:11-20
Sermon: Love One Another
*Hymn of Response: PH #591 "Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us"
*Doxology: RB 110 "We Will Glorify" v. 1 and 4