“Who Do You Think You Are?” Week 1: We belong to God’s Family
We being a new preaching series for the month of September, and it’s all about our identity. Our true identity is sometimes different than what we think our identity is. Our sense of identity, as we learn this weekend, really matters. It drives our actions and our decision making. It determines the health of our relationships. It decides what we value in life.
Today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 18:15-20) is taken from Jesus’ fourth great speech or discourse in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 18; and this discourse, which we will hear from the next two weeks, is about the church community. Jesus teaches his disciples, and us, that his church is going to be marked by several important characteristics, including childlike humility (18:1-5); reaching out to the lost (18:10-14); and forgiveness (18:21-35). Today’s reading is about reconciliation within the community. Jesus places such a high priority on reconciliation, that he establishes a process for it: first, speak to the person who hurt you. If that doesn’t work, then have present a few witnesses; then after that, go to the whole church. If even that doesn’t work, they are expelled from the community, but always with the hope that they will return. This hope is founded on one fact – Jesus is present in the midst of the church. He is the one who calls us together, and it’s his presence that makes all the difference. He says, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
We may feel separate from God or from the church community, because we have felt unwelcome or even hurt by others; or we’re turned off by hypocrisy; or maybe because we feel ashamed of sinfulness or past behaviors. However, it is not you or I, or any church person, who defines our belonging to the church. It is not our actions or behavior that earn us a right to belong at all. It is Jesus – he is the one who makes this determination. He is the One who has first welcomed us.
My friends, we are called by Jesus Christ, to be part of the movement that is the Church. Our belonging precedes everything else, because it’s God’s gracious gift. We belong to Jesus Christ, and it is through him, that our true identity is found – in Christ, we are members of his Body, and we are children of God the Father. This never changes, no matter what! As people who belong, we are called to become lifelong disciples – lifelong followers or students, of Christ, and to learn how he prioritizes humility, concern for the lost, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Even though we sometimes, if not often, stumble and fall on the path of discipleship, our performance does not determine our identity. It’s Christ who first called us and determined our identity in him, and this is a something to be grateful for. Questions for Small Groups:
How has your sense of identity driven your life choices in the past and in the present? Has your sense of identity changed over time, and if so, how has this affected your actions and life choices?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how healthy are your relationships right now? Do you have a sense of how your identity affects your relationships?
What do you value most in your life right now? How has that changed over time?
Have we let others, or our own guilt or shame, determine our sense of belonging to Christ and to the Church?
Is there anybody in your life that you are called to reconcile to right now?