INI + AMEN.
You are not your own. Sounds simple enough. Christianity is simple. The faith and life laid out in all the Scriptures is simple. It’s truly simple. “Love Yahweh your God with your whole heart, soul, and strength”—that’s faith. “Love your neighbor as yourself”—that’s fervent love toward your neighbor.
((5. Oops!: We don’t follow the Law.))
It sounds simple enough, but in practice: not so much. We’re always looking for an angle. The Pharisees were: “What’s the great commandment in the Law?” What must we do? That’s what it comes down to. And the less we have to do the better.
The questions we so often ask, and the answers we’re looking for all revolve around the same thing: me! Usually our favorite subject. Me, myself, and I. What do you want to be when you grow up? “Whatever you’ll enjoy doing.” Why marry this person? “They make me happy.” Why worship? “The feeling I get.” Why forgive? “Holding a grudge is stressful, better to just let things go.” The list could go on an on. If there’s no benefit to us, we’re reluctant to do much of anything. And usually that benefit is a good feeling.
We look at ourselves and then God and our neighbor. Me first then God. Me first then my neighbor. We set the terms for what we want from God and when we don’t get it, well, God takes copilot spot. When our neighbor’s too needy, or they keep doing whatever they do to upset us, well, then we cut them off.
((4. Ugh!: We’re hypocrites.))
Our faith toward God and our love for those around us just becomes an empty word (just good intentions) or an outward show (with no real love behind it, just obligation). We know what people would say and think about us if our outward actions always matched how we actually felt toward those around us. We’re not authentic, not genuine, always finding ways to bring others down, boost ourselves.
((3. Aha!: THE LORD JESUS CLAIMS US FOR HIMSELF AND FOR OUR NEIGHBOR.))
But God doesn’t abandon us to our doing, to our obedience. To focus on our doing for God, our obedience to Him is to completely miss the point. We shouldn’t look at ourselves first and then to God, not us then our neighbor. No, the Lord calls, invites, “enlightens us” to look at Him first then us, our neighbor first then us. In Him we see who we really are—in our neighbors, too.
The problem is we’re adrift, stuck, and stranded in a sea of selfishness, and “we’d be lost forever unless Christ claimed us as His own.” But that’s exactly what He did: claimed us, rescued us, enlivened us. That’s Christianity. Jesus saves the unworthy, the hypocrite, the sinner, and He makes them—makes us—worthy, authentic, and righteous.
THE LORD JESUS CLAIMS US FOR HIMSELF AND FOR OUR NEIGHBOR.
((2. Whee!: The Lord claims us as His own.))
Yes, He claims us. He is “the Lord your God,” after all. He’s your God not because of anything you’ve done. In fact, quite the opposite. If your doing were the basis of His being your God, He’d never be your God! It’s all what He’s done. He acts. He claims. He saves. His doing, not yours. He wants to be your God, and so He is.
He hangs for your offenses; that’s how He’s your God. For our not fulfilling the Law, or only fulfilling it because we get something out of it, for our disregarding His Word, He hangs, hangs on the cross, bleeding, dying, dead FOR YOU. He claims our sins as His own, and then He makes us His own.
He claims, and we are the claimed. He saves and we are the saved. He makes holy, and we are saints. It’s His action alone. His baptism alone, making us a disciple, transferring us from the kingdom of sin, death, and devil and bringing us into His and His Father’s kingdom.
Now, we see ourselves from God’s view point first and not our own. We’re His. He made us His. We’re Christian because He made us so. He’s our Father. It can’t be any other way. We look to Him for our identity because He’s already given us His Son’s identity. We’re the baptized. That means we are in Christ. That’s who you are now and forever.
((1. Yeah!: He claims us as our neighbor’s own.))
But the Lord’s claiming you for your neighbor, too. We’re turned outward. There’s no me first, then them; no care for myself first, then them.
You see,Your eternal identity—who you are eternally before God, your Heavenly Father, is only and forever wrapped up in what God has done, given, and said. The eternal Lord and God Himself died, gave His perfection to you, and said, “You are a child of My Father.” That’s Baptism.
And it works the same way with your neighbor! “Love your neighbor as yourself” means you find yourself in your neighbor. The only reason I’m a husband is because of Sarah. The only reason I’m a pastor is because of you. The only reason I’m a father is because of Eva, Aaron, and one on the way. It’s in those around us that we become “father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker.” We find our meaning in those around us. We don’t create some sort of self-purpose, and then go out and do it. NO! The Lord God has already gifted you with what you need: your neighbor! And He’s claimed you for your neighbor.
THE LORD JESUS CLAIMS YOU FOR HIMSELF AND FOR YOUR NEIGHBOR. To reject His Word, His Gifts, His Worship is to deny His claim on you. Is to go your own way. Which usually ends up with us using our good for our neighbor as our claim to being God’s child. To reject our neighbor, to not help or forgive them from a real, true, fervent, heartfelt love is to reject Jesus’ claim on you. It’s not only rejecting His claim on you for Himself but that He’s also claimed you for your neighbor.
This is why the Lord’s Supper is so important. For here at His altar these two things are put forward for us. There Jesus’ claim on you is once again given: “body and blood for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” There those next to you receive the same body and blood. Yes, the body and blood once given and shed at Calvary are really given to you. You’re claimed. The body and blood say so. Claimed freely and fully not only for the One who gave and shed that body and blood but also gave it and shed it for those eating and drinking it with you.
You’re claimed. Jesus did it. Claimed fully and completely for your neighbor in this life. But really claimed, fully and completely claimed as your Father’s own now and forever.
INI + AMEN.