Rev. Dr. John J. Lolla, Jr.
October 1, 2017
Text: Philippians 2:1-2, O.T.: Exodus 17:1-17, N.T.: Philippians 2:1-18
A church is meant to be a family – the family of Jesus Christ. We gather as families. We worship as members of a family. We share common beliefs and values like a family. We’re a large extended family of Jesus.
But churches face challenges that families face. We don’t always see eye to eye about a number of things. We don’t always agree on the details of our life together.
Some of us give grace more freely than others. Others want more rules, or at least rules followed more closely. Some of us want more freedom. Others of us are concerned too much freedom isn’t a good thing.
These things can divide families. They divide parents from children. They can divide parents from each other. One parent sees raising children one way. Another parent sees raising children another way. One parent wants to give greater latitude. Another parent thinks too much latitude is being given.
Being of one mind is the challenge of any covenant that people are trying to keep. Whether it’s the covenant of marriage, the covenant of a family, or the covenant God has with people He has chosen, being of one mind is the greatest obstacle we have to overcome.
Upholding the covenant in which we live as families is not simply a parents’ responsibility either, just like in a Church it’s not just the pastor or Session responsibility.
God gave us a fifth commandment as an imperative, not a suggestion. “Honor your mother and father that you may live the day long,” is meant to uphold for younger generations the responsibility they have to continue the faith in God they have learned from older generations. When young people unite for Christ, they are honoring older generations’ confession that Jesus Christ is Lord.
A few years ago I was part of a discussion group that was studying a book by David Platt entitled, Radical – How to Recover your Christian Faith from the American Dream. David Platt is the minister of a 4,000 member congregation in Alabama who had returned from China.
While he was in China, Rev. Platt met Shan and Ling, two young people who go out each day into the streets of their city to tell the story of Jesus to others. They know they will some day be arrested for their witness. But they are willing to do this because their parents had already been arrested for telling others about Jesus Christ. They were honoring their parent’s witness by continuing Christ’s proclamation.
That’s what it means to be in a covenant. A covenant isn’t a word rarely used anymore. A covenant isn’t a term for Sunday school or preachers to preach about. A covenant is each generation having the other’s backs while we tell the world about salvation in Jesus Christ.
Parents have the backs of children. Children have the backs of parents. Parents and children have the backs of other church members. Church members have the backs for worshipping families.
A covenant protects each covenant partner from hidden threats. But a covenant also inspires the covenant partners to have the back of Jesus.
There are a lot of Christians today who aren’t concerned about having Jesus’ back. What I mean is, they lack the courage to admit that without Jesus they wouldn’t be the people they are. They lack the courage to explain how Jesus is in their life in a positive way. They lack the courage to tell others that Jesus is the only Lord they can count on, when that belief isn’t publicly supported. They lack the courage that Jesus showed which saved them.
When we have Jesus’ back, we have the courage to humbly share the Good News about how God’s love came into the world to save the world. When we have Jesus’ back, we aren’t concerned about using our courage to protect our own interests, we’re concerned about Jesus interests; we’re concerned about how Jesus’ interests bring new life to other people.
When we have Jesus’ back, our eyes aren’t stuck looking backward to what He has already done for us. Our eyes are looking forward to what Jesus is about to do to save the people who don’t know Him! We align ourselves with what Jesus is doing and help others get their lives in alignment with His work.
Congregations that have an abundance of Christ’s spirit aren’t just concerned about helping the families already in the congregation. These congregations are just as concerned about helping families outside the congregation find Jesus. They have a heart to bring new life to other people through sharing Jesus with them.
Now there are a lot of people out there who are skeptical about the Church. They’re skeptical that we don’t have Jesus’ back. Their skepticism comes from seeing how we get divided by inconsequential things. They hear us complain about this or that. They don’t hear us sharing Good News about Jesus. If the world is skeptical about joining the covenant Jesus has given us, then we need to give them greater evidence that we are living it.
They need to see us have each other’s backs. Protestants need to have the backs of Catholics. Catholics need to have the backs of Protestants. We are united in the covenant of Jesus Christ.
Presbyterians need to have the backs of Baptists, and Baptists the backs of Presbyterians. We’re united in the covenant of Christ.
Christians in America need to have the backs of Christians overseas. Christians overseas need to have the backs of Christians here. We are one in Jesus Christ’s covenant.
Christians of earlier generations gave up much to protect the back of our generation from opposition to the Church. This generation needs to have the backs of Christians from earlier generations and defend the blessing they gave us. We are one in Jesus Christ’s covenant.
We have a responsibility to defend the back of future generations. How we live and what we do together is to protect their backs from opposition to Jesus Christ. We are one in Jesus Christ’s covenant.
Most of all, when we have the back of others in Jesus’ covenant, we are covering Jesus’ back. For the powers and principalities that distract us and divert us from Jesus are determined.
They are more than skeptical of how we are living the covenant. They are skeptical of the life Christ has called us to live. He called us to be of one mind. They don’t agree with being of one mind. They foster division and confusion.
We are to be of one mind. It takes humility for each member of Christ’s family to submit to Christ’s direction. It takes sharing the same love, having the same spirit, without pride or conceit. It takes sharing praying the same prayer – the prayer our savior taught us, sitting at the same table, the table Christ blessed, serving the same Jesus with gratitude and joy!
It’s a blessing and our joy to be in covenant with our Lord Jesus and with each other! Cover each other’s back and Christ’s – live the covenant!