Written Sermons & Bible Studies

What is Church? The Sons and Daughter of God: A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Junior

This coming Monday, we celebrate Martin Luther King Junior Day. The vision of Martin Luther King Junior that saw the end of segregation and the day when we could all live in the “Beloved Community,” a community where we could all live in peace with equal rights and opportunities. For Pastor King, he formed his beliefs and his vision in the heart of God and the teachings of Jesus Christ. He believed that the vision of God as shared in the words of the Prophet Jeremiah, were the will of God for the United States and for the end of segregation.  That the United States could become a “just state” ruled by just leaders of government and industry , In that “just state” the vulnerable, dispossessed and marginalized people would be protected and given the opportunity to become part of the society. The “just state” would remove barriers and the elements of society that excluded the disadvantaged from full participation in the advantages of the society.

(Jeremiah 23:5-6) “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’”

In Martin Luther King Junior’s Day, the most unjust affliction was segregation.

 Today, many think that we now live in a society that is mostly free from segregation and the implications of racism. At times, I could be put in this category. I am sort of a pull on your own boots and get to work guy. But, when I feel like that, I am wrong.

Segregation is still a blight on the United States. It is not a legal segregation like Pastor King fought, but it is a systemic and societal segregation brought about by poverty and unequal access to the resources of our society.

Let me use an illustration. A friend shared the illustration with me and he heard it from an African American speaker. How many of you are right-handed? Do we have any left-handed people in the room? We live in a right-handed world. Us right handers do not even realize the advantages we have because we are right-handed and live in a world constructed by right-handers. You left-handers know the difference. Left-handers know the frustrations of living in a right-hand world.

  • Can’t use normal pens
  • Your writing ends up on your hand
  • Ring binders are hell
  • Scissors do not work
  • Prefer Arabic or Hebrew to English
  • Playing cards is awkward
  • May not be able to rent golf clubs
  • In Arabic countries, no one shakes your hand—you do not want to know why.

As an insensitive right-hander all these frustrations and others suffered by left-handers lead to great hilarity.

Now, imagine that rather than being right or left-handed, it is skin color and the societal privilege that comes with it. Now, it is not funny. It is serious and it places demands on us as Christian brothers and sisters. I see it in the body language of people I love. I see it when the bias and unawareness of my privilege leads me to say something insensitive or hurtful. I see the subtle shift in body language, a sudden sadness in the eyes. A look of “once again.” People who do not share my privilege bounce back quickly, forgive my ignorance and move on with grace. In a just world, their grace would not be necessary. In our world, thank you for the grace people without white privilege share every day.

Today, I hope to share some practical ways to make progress and to demonstrate the love of Christ across difficult boundaries, societal biases and social constructs that make diverse relationships particularly difficult. These practical tips also work across a broad range of people and relationships. The practical tips begin in the respect and honor that Christ and God have for each and everyone of us.

In the book of Romans, for seven chapters, Paul talks about the sinful nature of humanity. He begins in chapter one by referring to us as “slaves of Christ.” We are all at the same lowly level of having no standing or status. We all have the same Lord, and we are all slaves. Thus, we have no right to judge other people or believers. We lack any standing and cannot place ourselves above each other. We need the grace of Christ because we are lost without it. We need a savior because our condition is so wretched. Our wretchedness is so complete, that any racial, economic, or societal distinctions that would give one of us more standing or status over another one of us is completely without merit before our savior Jesus Christ. In other words, privilege is denied to those who follow Jesus Christ. In fact, it is required of our obedience to deny ourselves any societal privilege.

Then in chapter 8 of Romans, Paul shifts his focus completely. Now Paul talks about how each one of us are exalted and honored by Christ. Let’s hear what Paul says:

Romans 8:12-17 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

In our society, inheritance is common. In first-century Roman society, only the very few who owned land or Caesar would have heirs. Most people had kids and the kids had to make it on their own. There were no heirs. Only Caesar had heirs and they we called the sons and daughters of god. When Paul tells the Roman congregations that they are heirs with Christ, he is calling them the sons and daughters of God. What a change, they go from slaves of Christ to sons and daughters of God. Paul places Christians at the bottom and at the very highest position in all of existence. What Paul has not done is create any space in the middle. At the bottom and at the top, people cannot struggle for social status. As followers of Christ, we are the lowest and the most exalted. What we are not is a group of people with different social positions. We are equal on all levels. We are treated by Christ with amazing positive regard—even equal regard.

We cannot ever hope to rise to a higher title than son or daughter of God. God sees each of us holding that exalted title. Now it is our responsibility to see each other with the same standing as God sees us. So, what happens if we see each other with positive regard or equal regard or exalted regard. There are a few requirements of seeing each other through the eyes of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Normally when we encounter another person and hear their story or their description of events, we hear it through our experience, our biases, and our prejudices. That natural and all too human inclination is to judge another’s story through our set of criteria. Unfortunately, the diversity of human experience makes our judgement completely unjust and unfair. Our judgment of another’s story is particularly unjust when we speak to someone with a completely different life experience than us.

Now we are back to race and diversity. In diverse encounters, we cannot with any understanding judge another’s life experience. We have no ability to understand or evaluate their experience through our understanding of the world. Our worlds are just too different.

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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