Because…

James 4:4-10

 

Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says,

 

“God opposes the proud,

    but gives grace to the humble.”

 

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
 
 

That is probably not how you wanted to be addressed the first thing this morning, or whenever you are reading this. “Adulterers!” But I imagine it got your attention.

 

In a congregation very similar to ours, that happened to be in the midst of a major building campaign, two nasty brothers were church members. Ben and Jerry were their names. They owned half of the town, and they had their eyes set on getting the rest in any evil, nasty way possible. They had cheated people out of homes and businesses, and no one seemed to care much for them.

 

News came to the pastor that Ben died unexpectedly, and Jerry was shaken by his brother’s passing. Jerry was soon in the pastor’s office, demanding a funeral service fit for royalty. Jerry said to the pastor, “Pastor, I am willing to give you $1 million to the building fund if you will, from the pulpit, state that my brother was a saint.”

 

Now that is a large sum of money. The pastor was torn – what was he to do? He didn’t sleep for days. Finally, at the funeral, the pastor made his way to the pulpit, and began the eulogy, “Brothers and sisters, you all knew Ben. He was a cheat, a scoundrel, a liar, an evil, evil man in every way.” The pastor looked down in the front pew at Jerry, winked at him, nodded, and said, “but compared to his brother, Jerry, Ben was a saint!”

 

I love that story!

 

When we read passages like this from James, we might get a bit defensive, and say, “At least I am not as bad as…” and you can fill in the blank. We do it all the time. We justify our shortcomings by comparing ourselves to others.

 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we offer a time of confession at the beginning of worship NOT to take time to enumerate the sins of others. No. It is a time for the mirror of the law be held up, close enough for the breath of our nostrils to steam up the glass, and it is focused only on me.

 

Where have I fallen short? What have I done and left undone that has caused division in my relationship with God and with those whom God has given to me in relationships?

 

Harsh words in today’s lesson. What do you see in this mirror?

 

Ah, but let us remember the promises of God.

 

I have said it many times – our relationship with God is not an “IF – THEN” relationship. IF you clean up your act, THEN God will love you.

 

NO!

 

Our relationship is a “BECAUSE – THEREFORE” relationship.

 

Because God loves you…

 

Because Jesus died for your sins…

 

Because you are God’s beloved…

 

THEREFORE – we strive to live as God created us.

 

Where have I failed? What can I do better?

 

Know you are loved. Know you are forgiven.

 

Know your brother and sister are as well.

 

Let us pray:

Dear God, forgive me for the things I have done, and the times I have tried to justify them by comparing my actions or lack thereof with my neighbor. In sure and certain hope of your love and forgiveness, I confess my sins to you. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
 

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