Thursday, May 15, 2014

It is discouraging to do good on a large scale; Try it God's way


Do you know who should get credit for this picture?
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10

It is impossible to do good to all men, to fix the world, or to effect sweeping changes for the betterment of mankind.  It is impossible to effect lasting peace, enduring freedom or ongoing prosperity.  Such impossible dreams proceed from the very sin that make them unachievable.

It is impossible for us to good to all men, but with God nothing shall be impossible. (Luke 1:37)  He gives sustenance to widows and hope to orphans.  He causes His rain to fall, and His sun to shine on the just and the unjust alike.  He clothes the lilies, feeds the birds, and forgives the sins of all who seek His Kingdom and Righteousness in Christ. (Mt. 6:34)

It is impossible for us to do good to all men, but it is possible to do good to some, and today St. Paul gives us an impressive laundry list of what that well-doing looks like.

It is impossible to do good to all men, but it is possible for those who have been restored by Christ, to restore those who fall into sin.  We learn this from our Lord Himself who became incarnate to restore our lost fortunes, by the giving up of His own:  He became poor, Scripture says, that we might be made rich.  He became sin for us that we might become the Righteousness of God in Him.  He was stricken of God, smitten and afflicted, so that by His wounds we might be healed. (Is. 53)

But we should be careful here because we live in a culture that is obsessed with “saving” everything; one that thinks it can be its own Christ, and thus feels duty-bound to interfere in everyone’s life.  You are not the Christ.  There is only One who was anointed by God to save us, even Jesus the Son of God and Savior of us all.  All Christians have the command to forgive those who sin against them, and restore them if they desire forgiveness, but the chief doers of this work are parents and pastors, whose vocation it is to, “teach, reprove, correct and instruct, : (2 Tim. 3:16) but whoever engages in such work must do so gently, and acutely aware of his own sin, lest he be overtaken with pride, and in the process fall into temptation himself.

We cannot do good to all men but we can bear one another’s burdens.  This too we learn from our Lord who bore the burden of our sin, a load which weighs men down and makes them miserable, hopeless, desperate and deceitful; a yoke which left untreated by the blood of Christ, eventually presses us down to the depths of hell, but Isaiah assures us that Jesus “bore our griefs and carried our sorrows” to the cross and there put a definitive end to them. Now He calls every Christian not only to bear his own cross, but to be “Simons of Cyrene” (Mt. 27:32) to one another.

We cannot do good to all men, but with the Spirit’s enlightenment we can honestly assess our own record.  If we do so we will be more tolerant of the weaknesses and failures of others, less critical, more sympathetic and more helpful.  You are not the standard by which every other person must organize his life.  There was only one perfect Man, the Man Christ Jesus, whose sinless life is accounted as Righteousness for all who believe.  You are not the Standard, so please do not think in your heart: I would never do this or I would never do that.  You don’t know what you might do, nor does self-righteousness get us anywhere with God.

We cannot do good to all men, but we can do good to those who preach the Gospel.  Paul admonishes those who learn the Word to share every good thing with those who teach it.  There is “one thing needful” (Luke 10:42) as Jesus told Martha, and contrary to current theory it is not something that we can administer to ourselves.  Instead, God has established the Office of the Holy Ministry for that purpose.  You can have a church without a building, but cannot have a church without a pastor, so God commands that those who learn the Word should support those who teach it so that they can dedicate themselves to it wholly.

We cannot do good to all men, but we are reminded in today’s epistle not to be deceived.  Why the warning?  Because we love lies.  We love to tell them and we love to hear them.  We prefer to live in a fantasy world, far away from the harsh demands of reality, where we can believe anything we want, but God calls us to be “sober and vigilant” at all times.  He warns us that if we sow to the flesh we will reap corruption.  Does that mean Christ’s holy people are going to be condemned because they still sin?  That is what the Law says to the flesh using the only language that flesh understands and we must not ignore it.  Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ who suffered the penalty of our sins, puts them into remission, and renders them harmless.  Thanks be to God that we are dressed in the righteousness of Christ who covers our wrongs with His blood, and pleads for us without ceasing at the right hand of the Father.  Thanks be to God that where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more,  (Rom. 5:20) and thanks be to God that though with the flesh we serve the law of sin, with our minds we fulfill the Law of Christ. (Rom. 7:25) So let us always hope for mercy rather than justice, and also for the power to conquer sin, sow to the Spirit, and reap the harvest of eternal life which God gives to all who believe and are baptized. (Mark 16:15)

St. Paul adds one last admonition, that we do not become weary in well-doing.  It is not easy to swim up stream, to keep going with all the traps the devil sets to bring about our ruin, but this word which Paul speaks does not only inform us, it also imparts new power to us to live lives of faith active in love.

It is impossible for us to do good to all men, but with God all things are possible, so we make it our aim to do good to all men, but especially to those of our own household, and to those who are of the household of faith.  Amen.

~ Rev. Dean Kavouras

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