Do the Right Thing

Pastor Diane Gordon

Mt Pleasant FUMC

June 25, 2017

 

 

Scriptures: Romans 6:1b-11 and Matthew 21:28-31a

 

Obedience is not a popular topic these days. Neither is sin. We donít want to be held accountable to someone elseís values and we donít want to be told weíre doing bad things, especially when they feel good, taste good and are just plain fun.

The easy solution is to just not associate with people and places that want us to think about such things. Donít worry about whatís right or wrong in the moment the world tells us. Just do what you want and worry about the rest later. After all, if God loves us and offers us grace to cover a multitude of sins, canít we just worry about being held accountable when weíre about to die and then repent so weíre good to go?

Short answer: no. Paulís answer: By no means! The assumption that we can live any way we want, doing whatever we want, knowing full well that we are doing things that hurt others and separate us from God is dangerous. We cannot say yes to God and then turn our backs with a flipping no.

Yes, we are saved by Godís grace through our faith, but to live a hedonistic life, totally self-centered and heedless of the consequences to the brokenness left in our wake, when we have said we belong to the One who died that we might live, just doesnít cut it.

I can hear someone thinking, well, Iím certainly not that bad. Iím better than that next guy who cheated on his wife and the one who stole from her boss. Iíve never done anything like that! To that, I reply, be careful. Be careful not to justify yourself and let pride set you apart from the rest. Pride is a sin too. At least that kind of pride. We can be lovingly proud of our kids and grandkids or glad for an accomplishment, but we need to keep the source of our children and accomplishments with God who made it all possible. Gratitude over pridefulness.

Doing the right thing is good, until it becomes a source of the kind of pride that gets used to justify and judge others, thus ranking ourselves higher and somehow safe. Staying in touch with our own sinfulness is tricky business. We donít want to admit. We donít want to be uncomfortable and deal with things we would prefer not to get into. Denial is not just a river in Egypt. Itís where a lot of us live. But deal with it, we must. As David Bartlett notes: ďWe think because our hearts belong to Jesus, our bodies, our checkbooks, our votes, and our property belong to us.Ē

We cannot compartmentalize ourselves into heaven. We are whole beings. The outside affects the inside and vice versa. Our minds can make our bodies sick. Our choices for living and how we live in relationship with others matters.

The Temple scholars to whom Jesus told the parable of the two sons were resistant to his teaching, refusing to acknowledge Jesus for who he was. They were the sons who said yes, but then didnít follow through with behaviors that matched the words. The prostitutes and tax collectors who were listening to Jesus had said an outward no to God with their professions and lifestyles, but in response to Jesus they did what God hoped they would and were transformed in heart and soul. We make the assumption that they changed professions, but thatís never clear. Jesusí audience is the Pharisees who see themselves as better than the followers of Jesus. The flaw is in thinking anyone is any better than the next. We are all in the same boat. Human being. Beloved child of God, in need of grace. If itís true that a rising tide lifts all boats, it is equally true that a flood in the community affects us all, as well.

To do the right thing, like helping a neighbor clear out their flooded basement, is to be a blessing. The parsonage was flooded with six inches of water in the basement Friday morning. Tom and I are grateful to our neighbors, Brian and George Sponseller, for their help. †

I know many of you had it much worse. Our community has a great need for lots of people to do the right thing just now. As those many hands work together, friendships can develop. Offering a helping hand in a crisis is a very good thing. Itís the next part that takes intention.

After the crisis is passed, what will we do to be in relationship with one another? To continue to relate to those we might not otherwise? How can this church Ė us, the people, not just the building, strengthen connections with our community and meet needs that we may have overlooked before? How can we continue to do the right thing Ė not for our sake, but for the sake of the other?

Jesus said to love our neighbor. Doing the right thing for the sake of that other human being is our task, not to make ourselves look good, but because thatís what it looks like to be obedient to God in Christ Jesusí command. As Christians, we have Jesusí simple instructions. Love one another as he has loved us. How we live that out in good times and bad shows the world what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus. Thereís no time like the present to step up and be obedient to Jesus. Amen.