So then, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but it isn’t an obligation to ourselves to live our lives on the basis of selfishness. 13 If you live on the basis of selfishness, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the actions of the body, you will live. 14 All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. 15 You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The same Spirit agrees with our spirit, that we are God’s children. 17 But if we are children, we are also heirs. We are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ, if we really suffer with him so that we can also be glorified with him.
“They treated us just like family.” We’ve all heard that before. It was a compliment on being received and welcomed – cared for. Family is just something special. The best of pictures of family includes things like privileges and responsibilities. Everyone is in it together. There is the love you enjoy, and the responsibilities you take on to make the family better. There is a wonderful, shared life, where adventures are had, storms are weathered, and you can’t wait to tell a family member about a new change in fortune.
As I was growing up, my Dad loved Barbershop singing. SPEBQSA – The Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America. He sang in the Mile High Chorus and, for a time, was in a quartet. They met on Monday nights. When my brother and I came of age we joined Boy Scouts. We became very active, and my father did also. It wasn’t until years later that I finally noticed that since Boy Scouts met on Monday nights as well my dad had given up his Barbershop singing. He wanted to share the experiences of Boy Scouts with us. There is also a mutual interdependence that marks a family. I bring something to the family, and you bring something to the family and together we make the family better.
In this chapter of Romans, Paul paints a picture of a family – the family of God. In verse 14 we are called God’s sons and daughters. And then, in verse 15, it says, “With that Spirit (the Holy Spirit) we cry “Abba, Father.” The family picture is complete. This picture of the family of the church is full of great imagery and potential.
Obligations. That is an interesting word. We quickly observe that obligations can either be forced or chosen. “If I have to …” Obligations sometimes are taken to fulfil a requirement, or as a kind of debt owed. Jesus talked about the social habit of inviting people to a party just so you can be repaid (Luke 14:12-14). The obligation becomes to return the favor, so to speak. This kind of obligation is somewhat forced and is therefore taken somewhat grudgingly. Then there is obligation that is chosen. This kind of obligation is taken on in order to do something for someone else or for a group of people. It is an obligation we willingly take on. Breakfast at PTL is a great example. Week after week people come in early to prepare a wonderful breakfast which sets the stage for an inspirational tie together. Pancakes or French toast, eggs, fruit, yogurts, pastries – all prepared and provided. If you are on the inside of our church’s finances, you will notice that there is never a bill for any of this. So many people volunteer for the work. All of the supplies are donated. It has become an obligation to the family of God in order to enrich that family.
We have an obligation to those who have paved the way for us.
The Town of North Platte, NE is a very interesting study in obligations taken on for the good of others. It was at the outbreak of WWII. December of 1941. The Nebraska National Guard’s Company D – 10 days after Pearl Harbor- was on the move. A rumor came to the town that this company was headed west. Since many of their own were in Company D, the town wanted to greet the troop train and give them a sendoff. Troop movements, however, were kept confidential. The whole town went in to prepare. Food, gifts, and all sorts of love were ready to be passed out on the brief stop that the train would make in North Platte. It turned out that it was Company D of Kansas National Guard. On discovering the mistake, they gave reception to those soldiers on the train anyway. Thus, was born the North Platte Canteen, and it lasted the length of the war. They met every troop train from 5 a.m. until well after midnight – every day. They provided sandwiches, cakes, pies, magazines, and a huge “welcome.” Sometimes there would be fifteen trains come through in a day. It was an obligation of love! All hours of the night and day. Communities from all around joined the effort. It was a family affair!
Paul, in Romans 8 talks about an obligation to be led by the Spirit, and in that, to be a family with God. Some context is warranted. In verses 1-11 the text is centered around selfishness versus life in the Spirit. “Now the way we live is based on the Spirit, not based on selfishness.” (v. 4) Real life is built on chosen obligations to live for another. We live for God, through the Spirit, and we live for others.
The God of community calls us to community! There are privileges and responsibilities, shared life, and mutual interdependence. We have a dependence on God for the power and will to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Likewise, God is depending on us to increase the family. That is our obligation together.
To be in the family sometimes requires great sacrifice. I am reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12:26-27 - “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” And, further he says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15) When something happens that is good in our family, we all rejoice together. Just look at the graduates and their families. What a celebration it has been! Just look at the Marr family. In their greatest hours of need there are people praying for them and offering help from all over the country. This community doesn’t even know them as yet, but the outpouring of care and love is tangible.
So, my question is, “How is God calling me to sacrifice for the good of our church or community? Nation? World?” How is God leading me to do something for someone else that will make their life better? I believe that this is a question for every day of out lives.
We have obligations – hopefully freely chosen – to Remember those who sacrificed for our nation this Memorial Day. We have an obligation to honor the contributions of so many for our freedoms. We have an obligation together to lift up and encourage others. The song, “On Eagle’s Wings,” is based on Psalm 91 – “And he will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, and hold you in the palm of His hand.” We have an obligation to encourage the weary. We have an obligation to live a life led by the Spirit of God, to be counted on by God to do our part in spreading the Gospel. In the majestic song, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” we face the trials of life with God as our leader triumphant, and we to sacrifice for God’s good. “As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free …”
In Isaiah 6, Isaiah is confronted with a call. “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” (for the family of God) And Isaiah said, “Here I am send me.” What will you say? Amen.
Pastor Paul Grossman